On May 7, 2018, Watchlist’s Executive Director Bukeni Waruzi participated in the Arria-Formula meeting on “Ending and Preventing Grave Violations Against Children through Action Plans: Best Practices from African States.” The meeting was organized by Poland in partnership with Côte d’Ivoire, France, and Sweden and was set to discuss the role of action plans in ending and preventing violations against children in the context of armed conflict in Africa.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba, spoke about the role of her office’s mandate to collect reliable and accurate information through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and to negotiate action plans with parties to conflict to prevent and end grave violations against children. To date, 28 listed parties have signed 29 action plans with the UN and 11 action plans have been fully implemented, resulting in the parties being delisted. These action plans provide an operational framework to engage with parties to conflict and have led to high-level engagement on the protection of children.

The SRSG-CAAC highlighted achievements resulting from action plan negotiation and implementation, including the criminalization of recruitment and use of children in a number of countries, the creation of child protection units, and the establishment of reintegration programs to help children recover from the traumas of war. Ms. Gamba also spoke about the delisting of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines as examples of successful action plan fulfillment. Finally, Ms. Gamba addressed challenges and areas needing increased focus to ensure better engagement with parties to conflict, including awareness raising, prevention, and better use of regional and sub-regional approaches.

Speakers from African countries with experience implementing action plans, specifically Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, DRC, and Sudan, also shared their experiences. Côte d’Ivoire and Chad were delisted from the Secretary-General’s annexes in 2007 and 2014 respectively, while the DRC adopted a roadmap to accelerate the implementation of its action plan on recruitment and use of children in September 2015. The Sudanese Armed Forces were the most recent government security force on the Secretary-General’s annex to sign an action plan, doing so in 2016.

In his remarks, Mr. Waruzi shared his experience witnessing grave violations against children in the DRC and presented a study conducted by Watchlist on what makes action plans successful. The study analyzes six different country situations based on interviews with nearly 50 stakeholders, finding that sustained high-level UN advocacy, support from third-country governments, and an effective UN mission structure were crucial to achieving signed action plans. Mr. Waruzi also highlighted transparency and accountability as additional key elements for successful implementation and monitoring of action plans.

Click here to watch a full recording of the event.