On June 2, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his 15th annual report on children and armed conflict, as per the reporting mandate pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1261. The report covers grave violations perpetrated against children between January and December 2015. Per Resolution 2225, the report’s annex, popularly known as the “list of shame,” includes for the first time those parties who abduct children. Watchlist also welcomes the inclusion of several new parties to conflict listed for the first time, including the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Nigeria, Raia Mutomboki in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen. While Watchlist welcomes the new listings and increased attention on abductions in the report, it is disappointed, however, by the omission of other groups from the list of perpetrators who for years have been reported on in the body of the report, as well as the absence of information on the conflict in Ukraine, where in 2015 hundreds of children were killed and hundreds of schools attacked.
Above all, Watchlist is concerned by the removal of the listing of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces following political pressure on the Secretary-General. It is imperative to the UN’s children and armed conflict agenda that the Secretary-General applies an impartial method in the treatment of parties responsible for committing grave violations against children in Yemen and elsewhere. The temporary removal risks harming the credibility of the mechanism and creates a double standard for children. It is important to note that this was not the first time a party avoided listing due to lobbying by Member States.
In June 2015, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2225 calling on the Secretary-General to include in the annexes of his annual reports on children and armed conflict, parties to conflict that engage, in contravention of applicable international law, in patterns of abductions of children. The 2016 annual report on children and armed conflict expanded the listings for several parties to include abductions, such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Islamic State, the Taliban, and Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The expansion of the listing criteria to include abductions will enhance the international community’s ability to protect children and hold perpetrators to account for this egregious violation.
The annual report also saw the listing of several new parties, including the CJTF, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces, and Raia Mutomboki. Watchlist particularly welcomes the listing of the CJTF in Nigeria for the recruitment and use of children, a violation first documented by Watchlist in its 2014 report, “‘Who Will Care for Us?’: Grave Violations Against Children in Northeastern Nigeria.” Watchlist followed up on the issue in early 2016 and confirmed ongoing recruitment and use by the CJTF; while many children, mostly boys and young men, joined the CJTF willingly, Watchlist found that many feel pressured out of fear of being perceived as sympathetic to Boko Haram. It also found that boys are used by the CJTF to man check points, conduct patrols, act as messengers, and apprehend suspected insurgents.
The report also saw for the first time the listing of an international coalition, specifically the Saudi Arabia-led coalition for killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen. Watchlist welcomed the listing. However, following what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as “undue pressure” and alleged threats by Saudi Arabia and its allies to pull funding to the UN, a decision was made to pull the listing on June 6, 2016. There is overwhelming evidence of the devastation caused to children by Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes as documented by the UN through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and the Panel of Experts, as well as by nongovernmental organizations. The annual report attributes 60 percent of child casualties (510 deaths and 1,168 injuries) to the Saudi Arabia-led collation, as well as 48 percent of the 101 verified incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals.
The temporary removal risks harming the credibility and integrity of the mechanism and creates a double standard for children. The application of impartial treatment of parties responsible for committing grave violations against children in Yemen and elsewhere is imperative to the credibility UN’s children and armed conflict agenda. This was not the first instance a party avoided listing due to lobbying by Member States. In 2014, despite a recommendation from his Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, the Secretary-General ultimately did not list the Israeli Defense Forces for abuses during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Furthermore, several other parties to conflict continuously avoid being listed despite evidence of grave violations as documented in the body of the report.
Watchlist calls for an accurate and credible list to justly reflect the plight of children in conflict zones around the world and more effectively advocate for change and hold parties that commit violations against children accountable for their actions. To call attention to the damaging consequences of the decision for the agenda, Watchlist has started a campaign, #ChildrensRightsUpFront, calling on the Secretary-General to maintain the credibility and integrity of the list.