New York, 11 January 2021 – Encouraging signs of progress are reflected in the third report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in South Sudan released today. Covering a period of nearly two years (July 2018 – June 2020), the report highlights the significant decrease of violations against children since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of SouthSudan (R-ARCSS) in September 2018. Nevertheless, the situation remains concerning and numerous challenges still need to be addressed for the protection of children affected by the ongoing conflict.
Grave violations against children continue to be committed by all parties to conflict in South Sudan. The United Nations verified more than 700 grave violations against children across the country, with the Central Equatoria state being the most affected region. The majority of violations were attributed to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and Government security forces, including the South SudanPeople’s Defence Forces.
“I am encouraged by the significant decrease in grave violations against children in South Sudan since the last report of the Secretary-General. I commend the parties to the Revitalized Peace Agreement for their commitment to end and prevent violations and encourage them to continue their efforts and their close cooperation with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. “Despite this progress, I remain concerned about the situation of children in South Sudan and I urge all parties to fully implement every preventive and protective measure established in the framework of the Comprehensive Action Plan signed with the United Nations in February 2020 and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law,” she added.
Recruitment and use of children remained the most prevalent violation with more than 300 children affected, of whom 48% were used in active combat, and it was often connected to other grave violations, particularly abduction. More than one-third of these children were also abducted by parties to conflict. “I call upon all parties to immediately stop the recruitment and use of children, release and hand them over to child protection actors, in accordance with established protocols, and enable the full and smooth reintegration of children into their communities”, said the Special Representative.
The report also highlighted that explosive remnants of war (ERW) were among the main causes of children being maimed and killed in the conflict. Rape, including gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence against children continued to be committed and the vast majority of incidents were attributed to Government security forces. It is important to once again note that this violation is consistently underreported due to stigmatization, fear of retaliation, lack of accountability for perpetrators, and lack of adequate services for survivors.
Attacks on schools and hospitals continued, as well as their military use by parties to conflict, which is estimated to have affected the access to education of more than 14,000 children. “It is vital that parties to conflict refrain from using schools and hospitals for military purposes,” emphasized the Special Representative. “Children should be able to access education and health services without fearing attacks and I call on all parties to undertake all the possible preventive measures during the conduct of their military operations,” she added.
In a strong step in the right direction, the aforementioned Comprehensive Action Plan included measures to end and prevent all six grave violations against children in armed conflict. It is also binding on any armed group that may integrate into the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces in the future.
In reference to the Revitalized Peace Agreement, the Special Representative echoed the Secretary-General in welcoming the inclusion of child protection provisions in the agreement and highlighted the importance of taking child protection concerns into account at the early stages of any future peace negotiations and, in this regard, called for the wide dissemination and implementation of the Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict launched in February 2020.
The United Nations’ sustained engagement with all parties to conflict led to the successful release of 475 children, including the provision of rehabilitation and reintegration services in partnership with the National Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission. “It is crucial that donors enhance their financial support to reintegration programs across the board in South Sudan,” concluded the Special Representative and cited the recent paper Financing Support for Child Reintegration Issues & Options Study issued by the Global Coalition for Reintegration of Child Soldiers in November 2020.
Grave Violations Against Children in South Sudan (July 2018 – June 2020)
Overall number of grave violations: 708 grave violations affecting 618 children (431 boys, 178 girls, 9 sex unknown)
Recruitment and use: 321 children
Killing and maiming: 142 children (71 killed, 71 maimed)
Sexual violence: 98 children
Attacks on schools and hospitals: 35 incidents (13 against schools, 9 against hospitals)
Abduction: 115 children
Denial of humanitarian access: 10 incidents
For additional information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-212-963-5986 (office) / +1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / firstname.lastname@example.org
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