New York – In the past year, protracted conflicts, cyclical spikes in violence and armed forces and armed groups operating across borders further accentuated children’s vulnerabilities in situations of armed conflict where widespread grave violations were documented against boys and girls. These are some of the conclusions of the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the UN General Assembly.
“Again this year, children have been confronted to unspeakable violations, but we also see new opportunities to strengthen the international community’s collaboration to end and prevent the use and abuse of children by, in and for armed conflict,” said Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
In her recommendations to the General Assembly, she stressed the importance of ensuring appropriate child protection capacity in situations on the children and armed conflict agenda, and reminded Member States that the reintegration of children is crucial to ensure the sustainability of peace and security.
The Special Representative encourages Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations to engage with the United Nations to support efforts led by her office, including the elaboration of prevention plans aimed at systematizing preventive measures as well as the collection, assessment and dissemination of best practices and lessons learned on children and armed conflict.
Among emerging challenges, the Special Representative notes that cross border violations against children were a prevalent feature of the reporting period, thus increasing the complexity of response and prevention efforts.
“Children in these contexts are faced with exclusion, and often stranded in hostile territories, which makes them particularly vulnerable to re-recruitment, sexual violence, slavery or trafficking,” said Virginia Gamba. “In contexts where Governments may be engaged in operations to counter violent extremism, it is especially important to uphold the principle that children allegedly associated with armed groups be seen primarily as victims.”
The Special Representative called upon Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations to engage closely with the United Nations to ensure a coordinated response based on international law and the best interest of the child. She also reiterated her call to use detention only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time, in accordance with international juvenile justice standards.
“Ensuring accountability for crimes committed during conflict is important, but denying children the opportunity to return to their countries or origin, rescinding their nationality, or detaining them solely for their alleged association with armed groups runs counter to the best interest of the child and international protection standards,” Ms. Gamba added.
In the coming year, preventing violations against children affected by armed conflict should be a primary concern of the international community, concluded the Special Representative.
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Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
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Read the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the UN General Assembly