Six recommendations aimed at enhancing the protection of children affected by armed conflict are included in the 2015 report that Leila Zerrougui will present to the United Nations General Assembly during its upcoming 70th session.

With the recommendations, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) sets out ways Member States can help advance the goals of the CAAC mandate, which the General Assembly itself created. She also calls for galvanised efforts from States that are the focus of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, which seeks to ensure that no Government forces will be recruiting and using children in armed conflict after 2016.

“Children were disproportionately affected and were often direct targets of acts of violence intended to inflict maximum civilian casualties, terrorize entire communities and provoke worldwide outrage,” says the 34-page report, which covers the period from August 2014 to July 2015, and is requested annually by the General Assembly.

Schools were “particularly targeted” by extremist groups, while incidents of abduction also “rose significantly,” the report adds. It says that accountability for those who attack not only schools, but also hospitals, was a “key aspect to prevention.” What’s more, education was “one tool that can reduce the appeal of extremist groups and also help prevent social exclusion and promote respect for human rights, peace and diversity.”

Addressing the issue of children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict, the Special Representative expresses through the report that “children associated with parties to conflict should be treated as victims and handed over to child protection actors.” Even where children are accused of a criminal offence, any legal action should be “conducted in compliance with due process and juvenile justice standards,” the report says.

The report highlights how the Special Representative’s efforts to engage with all parties to conflict have included contact with non-State armed groups, which, in “many instances,” led to “commitments and actions to end violations.” This is important because non-State actors (NSAs) comprise most parties (49 of 57) listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. Parties appear in the annexes because they have committed one or more violations that the Security Council has identified as disproportionately affecting children during conflict, and has designated as a “trigger for listing”.

“Political dialogue as well as peace and ceasefire negotiations represent unique opportunities to reach out to parties to conflict, particularly NSAs, and advocate for the protection of children,” the report says.

The report recounts the Special Representative’s field visits to Somalia, Nigeria and Myanmar, and outlines the progress and other developments that flowed from her direct engagement with the respective governmental officials, parties to conflict and additional stakeholders. The report does the same regarding her multiple other instances of outreach, which included a trip to Cuba to engage with parties to the Colombia Peace Process, and a trip to Austria to engage with three armed groups operating in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The Special Representative’s recommendations include calls for Member States to:

  • protect children in line with international law – especially when combating extremist groups,
  • give “particular attention” to child protection concerns in ceasefire and peace negotiations, and
  • give “special attention” to the needs of girls when reintegrating children who have faced recruitment and use.

The Special Representative’s report also “notes with concern” the deteriorating situations in a “number of countries” involved in the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign – especially in South Sudan and Yemen. She asks their leaders to “uphold earlier commitments” to end recruitment and use of children – and other grave violations.

Click here for the report and the full text of all six recommendations