New York – Mass abductions of children and other civilians have become increasingly prevalent in many of the 23 conflict situations of 2014 that are highlighted in the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, released today.

“Abductions have emerged as a rising and alarming trend that are being used in many new ways, including as a tactic to terrorize or target particular ethnic groups or religious communities,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui.

“The sharp rise in abductions highlights the need for us to elevate our focus on this violation as we seek to strengthen the tools we have that are aimed at protecting children during armed conflict.”

Throughout, the report documents unprecedented challenges regarding the protection of tens of millions of children who are growing up in countries affected by conflict.

Extreme violence rose dramatically throughout the year, and this was accompanied by a large increase in the number of grave violations against children.

Children have been killed and maimed, and faced other grave violations, as a result of the targeting of schools by extremist groups that seek to impose their ideology on the wider community.

Military responses by States to extreme violence have also resulted in an increase in grave violations against children.

An additional area of concern relates to the detention – and related denial of liberty – of children in response to their alleged association with extremist groups, the report highlights, reminding that such children should be treated primarily as victims.

Children, Not Soldiers

The month of March 2014 saw the launch of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign – by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Receiving wide support from Member States and Civil Society, the campaign aims to end by the close of 2016 the recruitment by Governments of child soldiers for use in situations of conflict.

Progress was steady throughout the campaign’s first year, the Secretary-General’s Annual Report highlights. “Six of the seven countries concerned – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – have signed… Action Plans” to end and prevent grave violations, the Secretary-General says, before calling on Sudan to sign an Action Plan with the United Nations.

For the full report, please click here.