‘Era of Application’

Instituting a Compliance and Enforcement Regime for CAAC


Statement before the Security Council



Olara A. Otunnu


Special Representative of the Secretary-General

for Children and Armed Conflict


Wednesday, 23 February 2005


Mr. President, Mr. Minister, S.E.M. Rogatien BIAOU

I thank you for convening this session of the Security Council, a session devoted to taking action to ensure the protection of children exposed to armed conflict. I have had the opportunity to witness, particularly in the context of ECOWAS, here at the UN, and at the AU, the preoccupation of the Government of Benin and your personal leadership on this issue.  Your presence here today testifies to this engagement and leadership.  We are grateful. And I am very grateful to Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière and the French delegation for their continued stewardship of this issue in the Council.  Thank you for your steadfast commitment.

On this occasion, I wish to pay a special tribute to a pioneering leader who is not in our midst today.  I refer to Madam Graça Machel, whose seminal and compelling report issued in 1996, laid the foundation upon which we have been building over these years.  We have come this far in the development of this important agenda, because of the important collaboration and contribution of many stakeholders: delegations, UN partners, regional organizations and the NGO community.  I express particular appreciation to Carol Bellamy, and all our colleagues of UNICEF, represented here today by Rima Sallah.

I am pleased to report that, following the adoption of SCR 1539 last year, the heads of UN field teams (both Special Representatives and Resident Coordinators) have become fully seized of their responsibility for follow-up, monitoring of progress, and coordination of response on CAAC[1] concerns. As a result, the UN field teams have been the primary sources of the information contained in the present report.

The UN field representatives have informed us of the various constraints they have encountered in fulfilling this responsibility. These include security problems, lack of access, and non-cooperation of parties. But the most important constraint has been the absence of an organized and functioning mechanism for monitoring and reporting at the country level.

You have before you a report of great consequence. This report is about instituting a serious, formal and structured compliance and enforcement regime, to ensure the protection of children who are presently being brutalized in many situations of conflict. The report brings together all the necessary components for the establishment of such a regime. This marks a turning point in our collective campaign for the ‘era of application’ – – for transforming protective standards into compliance, and condemnation into accountability.  This is the culmination of several years of a block-by-block building process.

The stage that we have reached today

You will see that specific, concrete and practical features of the compliance and enforcement regime have been laid out in the report.  I draw your attention in particular to three features of this report, which together comprise the key components of the compliance and enforcement regime:

—          review of the conduct of parties to conflict, resulting in the systematic naming and listing of           offending parties;

—          ensuring accountability for offending parties, particularly through the imposition of concrete and     targeted measures;

—          the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism.

The efforts deployed over the last several years have yielded significant advances and created a strong momentum for the protection of conflict-affected children.  These gains include: greatly increased global awareness of  and advocacy for child protection; an impressive and comprehensive international body of protection instruments and norms; the protection of war-affected children has been firmly placed on the international peace-and-security agenda; the protection and well-being of children is increasingly reflected in the mandates, training and reports of peacekeeping missions as well as in the deployment of Child Protection Advisers; children’s concerns are being incorporated in peace negotiations, peace accords, and in post-conflict programmes for rehabilitation and rebuilding; and the mainstreaming of CAAC issues is taking hold in several institutions and mechanisms, within and outside the UN.

And I am pleased to report that the overall situation for children has improved considerably in several situations; these include Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Timor Leste.

            Review of violations and the listing of offending parties

Clearly a great deal has been achieved in the space of a few years, most of it with the Security Council at the forefront.  But much more remains to be done, because far too many children continue to be brutalized in situations of conflict. Consider the following.   Although the overall figure has decreased in the last few years, over 250,000 children continue to be exploited as “child soldiers” – used variously as combatants, porters, spies and sex slaves.  Tens of thousands of girls are being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, including as a deliberate tool of warfare.  Abductions are becoming widespread and brazen, as we have witnessed, for example, in Northern Uganda, Nepal and Burundi. Since 2003, over 11.5 million children were displaced within their own countries, and 2.4 million children have been forced to flee conflict and take refuge outside their home countries.  Approximately 800 to 1000 children are killed or maimed by landmines every month.  In the last decade, over 2 million children have been killed in conflict situations, over 6 million have been seriously injured or permanently disabled. As the horror of Beslan and other incidents have demonstrated, schools are increasingly being targeted for atrocities and abductions.

Against this background, the present report has reviewed developments in 17 situations of concern, recording systematically the following five grave violations:  killing or maiming of children; recruiting or using child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; and the abduction of children. Altogether, 54 offending parties have been specifically named and listed; they are drawn from 11 situations of concern.  All 54 offending parties are responsible for the recruitment and use of child soldiers.  In addition, many of them are also responsible for committing other grave abuses, as recorded in the lists.

Compared with the lists in the last report, which was discussed by the Security Council in January 2004, 10 parties have been dropped from the lists because of change of conduct; 6 offending parties have been added to the lists this year, mainly because of improved information-gathering; and a few parties were dropped from the lists for lack of verifiable information.

            Call for action and accountability

This is the third report the Council has received, which systematically documents grave abuses and lists offending parties.  The Council has already, on previous occasions, expressed its intention to take concrete and targeted measures against these parties. It is most important that the Council make good on its promise on this occasion. On that depends the credibility of this exercise. The targeted measures should include the imposition of travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions, the imposition of arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance, and restriction on the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned.

In light of the facts, the lists and the trends toward impunity which are recorded in the three consecutive reports, I would propose and urge the Council to undertake a four-pronged response to end impunity:

—          decide to impose concrete and targeted sanctions measures against the offending parties named in             the monitoring lists. 

—          constitute a committee of the Council to review and oversee the imposition of specific sanctions    measures for the protection of children exposed to conflict.

 —         demand that the parties on the monitoring lists prepare, within six months, working in      collaboration with the UN field representatives, time-bound action plans to end the grave violations for which they have been named.

—          endorse the monitoring and reporting mechanism, with a view to put it in operation expeditiously.

The purpose of the compliance and enforcement regime is to ensure that offending parties take heed and the necessary actions to end the violations for which they have been named.  In this connection, I should report that yesterday I received a letter from Mr. S. P. Tamilselvan, Head of the Political Wing of the LTTE of Sri Lanka, a party named in this year’s report, taking note of their inclusion on the lists and expressing their readiness to enter into dialogue, using the framework of the monitoring and reporting mechanism.  While I welcome this message from the LTTE, I call on their leadership to embark immediately on tangible actions, leading to a time-bound action plan to end, once and for all, the practices of recruitment, abductions, and use of children as soldiers. And I urge all other parties named in the report to take immediate, concrete steps to demonstrate their commitment to ending their grave violations against children.

Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel

It is very sad to report that one of the most disturbing developments in the reporting period has been the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel, both civilian and military, particularly in DRC.  UN peacekeepers are warmly welcomed into war-torn communities because they are viewed as a God-sent presence to end impunity and restore protection and respect for vulnerable and long-suffering populations.  I pay tribute to the vast majority of peacekeepers who have carried out their mission with honour and dedication.  But the notion that some peacekeepers would use their position to prey on local children and women in this way is a particularly shocking and unacceptable betrayal of trust. 

I commend my colleague of DPKO, Jean Marie Guéhenno, for his swift and transparent response to developments in the DRC.  It is important that we get to the bottom of this issue through a fundamental and comprehensive review.  What is the scope of this problem?  What are the reasons for the prevalence and level of abuse?   What issues must be addressed concerning institutional capacities, enforcement of existing standards, investigation of allegations, and multiplicity of jurisdiction?  In order to mount a truly comprehensive and effective response we need to receive solid answers drawn from an across-the-board review.  This must necessarily involve the UN Secretariat working hand-in-hand with countries that contribute military and police peacekeepers.  Together, we must move, without any compromise or complacency, to punish the offenders, and to root out this practice from all UN field presence.  

            Establishing a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism

The report sets out a concrete plan of action for establishing a comprehensive from-the ground-up monitoring, reporting, and compliance mechanism to provide for the gathering of objective, specific, reliable, and timely information – “the whom, where and what” – on grave violations being committed against children in situations of armed conflict.  In turn, this information must lead to action and accountability.

The plan identifies six grave violations that should be particularly monitored. These are: killing or maiming of children; recruiting or using child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access for children.

 The action plan sets out instruments and standards that constitute the basis for monitoring – – the yardsticks for judging the conduct of parties to conflict.  It specifies the entities that should undertake the gathering, scrutiny and compilation of information at various levels.   The mechanism will rely particularly on the Task Force on CAAC at headquarters-level and the Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting at the country-level.

The plan identifies key bodies that constitute ‘destinations for action’, responsible for taking concrete measures in response to these grave violations against children. The key ‘destinations for action’ are the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, regional organizations and national governments.

            Underscoring some pertinent issues

As we move to put in place a compliance and enforcement regime, it is important to underscore a few pertinent issues.

— It is crucial to engage in protection dialogue with all parties whose actions have a significant impact on children, without any implications as to their political or juridical status. The only purpose for such dialogue is to ensure protection for and access to vulnerable children.  That is why, over the last several years, I have developed a systematic practice of engaging in dialogue with all parties to conflict to obtain concrete commitments from them.

— It should be stressed that the accountability lists do not name states or countries as such. The purpose of the lists is to identify particular parties to conflict, whether governments or rebels, which are responsible for specific grave violations against children. In this respect, the names of countries are referred to only in order to indicate the locations or situations where offending parties are committing the grave violations in question.

— The monitoring lists  name all offending parties, while preserving a clear distinction between parties in situations on the agenda of the Security Council and parties in situations not on the agenda of the Council and other situations of concern. Concrete and targeted measures should aim to bring an end to all grave violations by all listed parties, while preserving the aforementioned distinction.   

— The idea of drawing up the lists of offending parties is, above all, about ensuring accountability.  For a party to be listed, therefore, it should be a specific, identifiable and identified entity; it is not sufficient to refer to a broad or non-specific category of actors.

— The mention, review or discussion of any particular situation in the monitoring reports should not be construed as a legal determination that there exists a situation of “armed conflict” within the context of the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols. Our approach has been to focus on ensuring broad and effective protection for children exposed to situations of concern.

— A monitoring and reporting mechanism is of limited value unless it leads to action – – unless the information compiled can serve as a “trigger for action”.  In this, the Security Council has to lead the way as the most important “destination for action”, because of its primary responsibility for peace and security. 

— The question is often raised as to how the international community can influence the conduct of all parties to conflict, particularly rebel groups. The imposition of carefully calibrated and targeted measures can have the desired impact on governments as well as insurgents.  Recent examples include the effective sanctions measures against UNITA in Angola and RUF in Sierra Leone. At political and practical levels there are levers of influence that can have significant sway with all parties to conflict.  In today’s world, parties in conflict do not operate as islands unto themselves. The viability and success of their political and military projects depend crucially on networks of cooperation and goodwill that link them to the outside world – – to their immediate neighbourhood as well as to the wider international community. In this context, the force of international and national public opinion; the search for acceptability and legitimacy at national and international levels; the demand for accountability as represented, for example, by the ICC and ad hoc tribunals; the  external provision of arms and financial flows; and illicit trade in natural resources;  the growing strength and vigilance of international and national civil societies, and media exposure – – all these represent powerful conditions and means to influence the conduct of parties in conflict.

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The time has come for the international community to redirect its energies from the normative task of the elaboration of standards to the compliance mission of ensuring their application on the ground.  Today, as never before, we have the necessary means – – normative, juridical, institutional, and political – – to realize the ‘era of application’ for the protection of all children exposed to armed conflict.

When the tsunami tragedy struck in Asia, we felt almost entirely helpless, in the face of a mighty fury unleashed by the force of nature. Alas, what is recorded in this report is a human-made catastrophe. This is nothing short of a process of self-destruction, consuming the very children who assure the renewal and future of all our societies. How can we allow this? Unlike the onslaught of the tsunami yesterday, we can do something today to bring an end to this man-made horror – – the horror of war being waged against children and women.    

As we deliberate today on what measures to take for the protection of children, I return to Bob Marley, whose life and music is being celebrated worldwide this month.   I return to his prophetic voice, to his spiritual rendition of the themes of suffering and redemption for those who are vulnerable and abused.

As we debate here, I can hear Bob Marley challenging us, singing:

Hear the children cryin’

Hear the children cryin’

From Beslan to Bar-Lonyo to Bunia

And so we tell them:

No, children, no cry

Don’t worry about a thing, oh no!

‘Cause everything gonna be all right.

Hear the children cryin’

From Mazar-i-Sharif to Jumla to Darfur

Won’t you help to sing

‘Cause all they ever asked:

Redemption Songs. Redemption Songs.

Rising up this mornin’,

I saw three little birds

Pitch by the doorstep of the Council

Singin’ sweet songs

Of melodies pure and true,

Sayin’, This is our message to you-ou-ou.

Hear the children cryin’

From Apartado, Malisevo and the Vanni

But I know they cry not in vain

Now the times are changin’

Love has come to bloom again.

Mr. President, distinguished representatives, the children are waiting – – they are waiting for the Redemption Songs from this Council. I know you will not let them down.  I thank you sir.

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[1] CAAC is used as shorthand to denote “children and armed conflict” and “children affected by armed conflict”.