Annual Report of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the General Assembly

The Annual Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the General Assembly showcased once again the scale and severity of the grave violations committed against children from the period of August 2022 to July 2023.

Armed conflict causes human casualties and physical destruction but also massive displacement of civilian populations, including children. The need to better understand the risks to and vulnerabilities of children displaced owing to conflict is critical and highlighted in her Annual Report.

“Displacement foments commission of violations and abuses including the recruitment and use by armed groups and abduction, sexual violence, and trafficking in children. Often, where children are displaced, health and education is disrupted and humanitarian assistance is denied. Climate shocks in conflict-affected areas further exacerbate displacement, while risks of killing and maiming to displaced or returning children in areas contaminated by mines and explosive ordnance present a real danger. Given this context, data collection is critical,” said Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

The recent erosion of international protection frameworks, including the lack of compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child by Member States continue to increase the vulnerability faced by conflict-affected children.

‘Looking forward, we must remember that all persons under 18 years of age are entitled to the protections enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child including rights to education and documentation. Erosion of the international protection frameworks poses a grave threat to children’s rights, particularly for those between 13 and 18 years old, often treated as adults or subjected to counter-terrorism measures at a risk of having their own rights as children curtailed,’ emphasized the Special Representative.

Addressing grave violations against children by parties to conflict

As requested by UN Security Council Resolution 1261 (1999), the Special Representative continues her engagement with parties to conflict, but her Annual Report also highlights areas where efforts must be improved to enhance the safety of children from grave violations in armed conflict.

‘In 2022, the United Nations’ successful engagement with parties to conflict resulted in about forty new commitments and agreed measures, as well as the release of over 12, 460 children. New legislation and accountability measures were adopted in several situations because of this engagement,’ she explained.

Strengthening regional partnerships

Engagement with regional organisations continued to be a priority for the Special Representative. Among many other initiatives, in 2022, the Office of the Special Representative participated in the annual meeting of the African Union coordination group on children in situations of conflict to discuss cooperation on implementing African Union policies on mainstreaming child protection in the African peace and security architecture and on child protection in African Union peace support operations, as well as joint initiatives on children and armed conflict. The Office of the Special Representative also briefed cabinet members of several European Commissioners and of the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on children and armed conflict issues. In 2023, the Office of the Special Representative and the League of Arab States jointly organized a regional conference in Doha on the prevention of grave violations against children in armed conflict. The League of Arab States adopted an outcome document following the event.

Global awareness and building partnerships

The Special Representative continues strengthening partnerships with Member States and other stakeholders, including UN entities, civil society, and academia, reinforcing global alliances and advocacy efforts aimed at ending and preventing grave violations against children.

‘Working with partners across the UN system, as well as with regional and subregional organizations, academia, and civil society, continues to be critical to the delivery of my mandate. Among the many partnership activities, I led this year were a Memorandum of Understanding between my office and UNESCO to exchange expertise on education in the reintegration of conflict-affected children, several consultations with civil society and academia, and the issuance of joint public statements with other United Nations offices to better protect children used and abused for, in and by armed conflict. Through my visits to Colombia, Ethiopia, Israel and the State of Palestine, Mozambique, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation, I was able to follow up directly on the realities faced by children, but also to support governments and regional organizations in determining concrete ways to prevent and end violations,’ added Virginia Gamba.

In collaboration with the University of Malta, the Special representative created a virtual summer school to deepen child protection expertise of the UN, governments, regional organizations, and UN country task forces as well as NGOs and academics.

Click to read the full report


For additional information, please contact:

Ariane Lignier, 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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