Report of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict to the Human Rights Council 

 Magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, the global effects of war in Ukraine, and the adverse impacts of climate insecurity, conflict-affected children have been increasingly vulnerable to grave violations and abuses of their rights in 2022 highlights the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in her annual report to the Human Rights Council published today The report further emphasizes the increased failure by the international community to uphold international law in conflict contexts, including the violation of the internationally agreed definition of the child. 

“We have seen a worrying trend in recent years in which children above a certain age are treated as young adults, including as part of counterterrorism measures and national security responses. This has dramatic implications for the full enjoyment of children’s rights, and I call on all Member States to recognize all persons under 18 years of age as children and provide them with special protection as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international humanitarian law,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed conflict, Virginia Gamba.  

With the recruitment and use of children by parties to conflict remaining one of the highest verified violations against children in 2022, the Special Representative further calls on all State Parties to systematically implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). She further urges those Member States that have not yet done so to swiftly ratify the OPAC.   

The report to the Human Rights Council also stresses the multidimensional nature of risks and vulnerabilities affecting children in armed conflict which calls for increased compliance with international rules and standards. This includes the obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and to address the use of explosive weapons and remnants of war.  

“Since the beginning of the CAAC mandate more than 25 years ago, an increase in killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals, resulting in part from the increased use of explosive weapons including in populated areas, has been concerning. I urge all parties to comply with obligations under international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilian areas,” added Virginia Gamba. 

The report further emphasizes the intertwined nature of all grave violations, with the denial of humanitarian access, a violation on the rise in recent years, presenting visible links to other grave violations such as recruitment and use and sexual violence. A total of 3,945 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified in the latest Secretary-General Annual Report on CAAC while at least 1,600 children were victims of multiple violations. 

Engagement for Conflict-Affected Children 

The Special Representative continued her engagement in 2022 with Member States and regional organizations, human rights bodies and mechanisms, UN partners, and civil society organizations as well as parties to conflict, leading to positive development for conflict-affected children. In Yemen, an action plan was signed with the Houthis addressing child recruitment and use and other grave violations. In the Philippines, the final agency-specific protocols to the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act were completed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Human Rights, with the support of the United Nations. In Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the authorities signed a handover protocol with the United Nations for the transfer and care of children encountered during operations to secure the territory. In the Central African Republic, a national action plan against the trafficking of children was signed with a particular focus on preventing the use of children by the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic (FACA).  

Since the creation of the CAAC mandate, more than 180,000 children have been released from armed forces and groups following engagement by the United Nations and partners. The reintegration of those children is an important aspect of both prevention and recovery and the Special Representative calls on the international community to continue its political, technical, and financial support to the sustainable reintegration of all children released from parties to conflict and provide them with gender and age-sensitive programmes, including mental health and psycho-social care. 

To mark the 25th anniversary of the mandate, the CAAC Office published in January 2022 a study on the evolution of the children and armed conflict mandate from 1996 to 2021, an opportunity to reflect and recognize the progress made for children affected by conflict over the past 25 years. It further presented an opportunity to look ahead and explore how the mandate could be reinforced, with a call to all partners to join the reflection. 

Deepening our Understanding of Cross-Cutting Issues Impacting Children Affected by Conflict 

Emanating from the recommendations included in the 25th-anniversary study were some emerging as well as existing areas of concern highlighted as requiring increased attention. In 2022, a guidance note on the abduction of conflict-affected children was thus published in cooperation with UNICEF, the Department of Peace Operations and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; the CAAC Office also published a study on the gender dimensions of grave violations against children in armed conflict. Further thematic research will take place in 2023 including on the impact of grave violations on children with disabilities, and the impact of climate insecurity on conflict-affected children; a guideline on the denial of humanitarian access should further be developed. 

The interlinkages between trafficking and the six grave violations against children will also be analyzed in collaboration with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to support accountability and prevention efforts.  

“As we look ahead at the next 25 years of the children and armed conflict mandate, it is important to build on the knowledge gained but also to deepen our understanding of how children are affected by conflict so our responses can better target the needs of every child. We call on all partners working for conflict-affected children – Member States, UN entities, civil society organizations, and regional and subregional organizations – to take part in these efforts so that all children affected by conflict can have a real opportunity to thrive in a world that listens to and delivers for and with them,” the Special Representative added. 

Full report


For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

+1-917-288-5791 (mobile) /

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