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Your Excellency Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations,
Your Excellency Ambassador James Roscoe, Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the United Nations,
Distinguished members of the panel,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to present and launch the paper “The Gender Dimensions of Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflict” developed by my Office in consultation with the Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting in some of the situations on the CAAC agenda, as well as child protection and gender experts.
Since my mandate was created 25 years ago, evidence collected through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) points out that boys and girls often face different and evolving risks across the conflict situations on the agenda.
Their exposure to grave violations monitored through the MRM is shaped not only by the specific forms of victimization, but also by gender norms and other intersecting identity-based characteristics, including ethnicity, race, religion, caste, ability, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This makes it imperative for us to understand how gender and age influence risk, vulnerability, and agency in order to provide gender-responsive and age-sensitive prevention, protection, humanitarian assistance, and recovery.
While the MRM has done an increasingly good job in gathering sex-disaggregated data over time, a stronger gender analysis should be applied to its evidence in order to better inform the UN Secretary-General’s and other reports on CAAC, but also to generate appropriate responses by Members States, UN entities, and other partners attending this event today.
With this paper, we made a first collective effort to strengthen the MRM’s capacity in analyzing the plight of boys and girls through a gender lens by examining the gendered dimensions of the impact of armed conflict on children through all our existing reports and through interviews with CTFMRs in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Yemen, as well as consultations with gender and child protection experts.
One of the key questions to be asked is: Why is gender analysis important for the MRM?
Using specific tools and methodologies, gender analysis critically examines and investigates how differences in gender roles, norms, activities, needs, opportunities, access to resources, participation in decision-making, and rights and entitlements have a differentiated impact on men, women, boys, girls and LGBTQI+ persons in a given context. If applied to the MRM, gender analysis could prevent oversight of some of the aspects of the nature of violations that risk going underreported, often on the basis of gender, and equip child protection actors with prevention and response strategies and interventions that are better tailored to the differentiated needs of boys and girls and are easier to monitor for effectiveness.
A close interrogation through a gender lens of the six grave violations and detention and military use of schools reported on through the framework of the Secretary-General’s reports on CAAC showed that how boys and girls are recruited and used in conflict is different; the motivations of perpetrators behind attacks on schools are different; and how they experience denial of humanitarian access is different.
For instance, restrictions to girls’ movement challenge their access to humanitarian aid in areas where it may be distributed, while teenage boys could be perceived as associated with an opposing party and therefore denied that access by local actors facilitating the distribution of humanitarian assistance. In the case of school attacks, perpetrators use schools as recruitment grounds for boys whereas girls and female educators may be targeted based on ideology targeting their access to and continuation of education. In both these instances, gender plays a role in the shape of their victimization.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The findings of the consultations undertaken to develop this paper show that the greater the monitoring capacity of a CTFMR on the ground in country situations on our agenda, the better its ability to conduct gender analysis and integrate a gender perspective in the MRM. Since CTFMRs vary in size, so do their capacities, particularly as child protection and gender posts are often reduced in UN missions over time. Similarly, the gender responsiveness of the MRM depends on the expertise and experience of existing UN information-gathering resources at the country level. Seventy percent of the child protection staff consulted expressed the need for more capacity and resources in terms of time and staff to do the required analytical work towards improved understanding of the gender dimensions of the grave violations they report on. Linked to the area of gender expertise is the fact that while most of the staff consulted received some form of sensitization or training on gender, they identified three specific capacity gaps to address, namely the insufficient knowledge of the monitors, lack of gender expertise among CTFMR members, and lack of knowledge of the specific techniques inherent to gender-sensitive monitoring.
In this regard, having a technical expert on gender in a permanent capacity in the CTFMRs would be crucial for ensuring systematic application of a gender approach to the MRM’s evidence collection.
CTFMRs face the challenge of the lack of buy-in or political support towards integrating a gender perspective present in the UN Country Teams and the humanitarian sector overall. Systemic changes must therefore be initiated at the UN leadership level, both in the country and at the HQ, to review the MRM’s capacity and give the CTFMRs the necessary means to integrate a gender lens into their work.
As regards the data itself, the paper indicates that disaggregation by sex is most easily done in the case of killing and maiming, recruitment and use, sexual violence and abductions, whereas in the case of collective violations such attacks on schools and/or hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access, sex disaggregation is a challenge. Inherent bias in reporting that leads to underreporting of some violations against boys and girls, such as forced marriage or instances where boys join armed groups out of duty to support their family, which families may not wish to report as violations.
To overcome the challenges with data collection and analysis of incidents through a gender lens, we must seek to examine all available sources for gathering contextual data around individual violations and seek to diversify sources to tackle biased reporting or underreporting.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
A more consistent analysis of causal drivers and gender- and age-differentiated risk factors can help us expose how gender is being instrumentalized in different conflict settings. Integrating a gender perspective in the implementation of the MRM, its architecture, monitoring tools, action plans, international legal foundations and standards, guiding principles and partnerships would contribute to better scrutinizing how unseen gender norms and biases can affect the protection of children and provide the MRM with the opportunity to be more context-specific and inclusive of diverse population groups, which would in turn support and strengthen the CAAC mandate.
To conclude, I strongly encourage you to study the findings in the paper presented to you today and use its analysis to build a greater understanding of gender-related dimensions of the grave violations on children in armed conflict to help us collectively ensure that we leave no child behind. We look forward to partnering with all of you in this endeavor.