November 2017 – In late October 2017, Watchlist conducted a field visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to strengthen its local civil society partnerships. Since 2005, Watchlist has supported local civil society organizations (CSOs) working on child protection in North and South Kivu, through targeted capacity-building workshops and mentoring on monitoring, reporting, and response to grave violations of children’s rights.

Last month, the Congolese armed forces (known by their acronym in French, FARDC) were delisted for recruitment and use from the UN Secretary-General’s 2017 annual report on children and armed conflict; however, the FARDC remains listed for rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, pending full implementation its action plan, signed in 2012. Despite this progress, children in the DRC continue to be at great risk of recruitment and use by armed non-State actors (ANSAs). In his 2017 report, the UN Secretary-General lists 12 different ANSAs for recruitment and use; several of these are also listed for other violations, including killing and maiming children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals, and child abduction.

One of Watchlist’s longstanding local partners has been striving to tackle child recruitment in South Kivu. With the help of community-based protection committees, the partner has been working to identify ANSAs with children in their ranks, with a view towards these children’s release and reintegration into society.

Watchlist’s field mission coincided with ongoing discussions at the United Nations New York headquarters on the budget of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC. Additional cuts to MONUSCO’s resources could compound existing challenges to the effective protection of civilians – and specifically children – as conflict spreads to new regions of the country, and the political situation becomes increasingly unstable. Several local child protection actors expressed concerns about possible cuts to MONUSCO’s dedicated Child Protection Section, and they highlighted the essential support MONUSCO provides: facilitating transport to remote areas for the release and reintegration of children from armed groups, verifying information about grave violations, and engaging with authorities and armed groups for the protection of children.

Watchlist reiterates its calls to the UN Security Council to continue to support MONUSCO Child Protection, including by ensuring child protection advisers’ continued direct access to senior mission leadership, and the political and operational space to engage with parties to conflict, so that the section can continue to lead the mission’s work on the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). Watchlist further calls on the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, which deals with budgetary issues, to retain distinct budget lines for child protection within MONUSCO and other missions.

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