At the heart of the achievements of the children and armed conflict mandate are the coordinated efforts that have allowed for the work of individual actors to be multiplied.
Group of Friends on children and armed conflict
Shortly after the creation of the mandate, an informal group of Member States called “Friends of the Special Representative” was created in New York to provide support to the mandate. This group is now called the Group of Friends on children and armed conflict and continues to play an important role. In the past few years, additional Groups of Friends have been established in Geneva, Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. In the field, the groups help Member States coordinate their action.
Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict
In July 2005, following the adoption of Security Council resolution 1612 . The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict was established. It is currently chaired by Sweden.
Endorses the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) proposed by the Secretary-General to collect
timely and reliable information on violations committed against children affected by armed conflict. The Security Council creates a subsidiary body, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to review information provided by the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on country situations and to make recommendations to the Council on measures to promote the protection of children affected by armed conflict.
Responsibilities of the Working Group
By establishing this subsidiary body, the Security Council reaffirmed its commitment to provide strong tools to support the mandate and to ensure continued contact with the Special Representative. The Working Group receives quarterly global updates and regular comprehensive reports on country-specific situations. After country reports are submitted by the Secretary-General, the Working Group makes recommendations to parties to conflict, Governments and donors, as well as United Nations actors, on measures to end violations and promote the protection of war-affected children.
Interview with Jean-Marc de La Sablière, former Permanent Representative of France to the UN, and first Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
“I am glad that [resolution] 1612 could provide the framework for the work being done today. When we negotiated 1612, there was a sense that achievements had to be consolidated. I was also looking for the most efficient architecture, and I am happy to have had the idea of the Working Group [of the Security Council on children and armed conflict].
“To me, there were two issues of great importance. First, the Security Council had to be regularly engaged on the issue of children and armed conflict. And second, I thought it was necessary to ensure a close link between the Special Representative and the Council to provide constant support and guidance.
“In my opinion, it was very important to begin by addressing the problem of child soldiers. By showing tangible results, we thought the issues surrounding the protection of children would become less politicized, and concerns would be addressed with impartiality.
“I think the campaign [‘Children, not Soldiers’] is allowing us to do just that and, I hope, to end the problem of recruitment by Governments. At the same time, the Campaign opens doors for something I had not been able to firmly establish from the beginning, and that is the dialogue with non-State actors. I am glad France contributed to this through the March 2015 Security Council open debate.
“The children and armed conflict mandate has been used as a model for the question of protection of civilians and has influenced the development of other mandates related to the protection of civilians. This mandate must be considered a success story for the United Nations.”
To date, the Working Group has reviewed and issued recommendations on over 50 country-specific reports, which have generated tangible advances in often challenging situations for the protection of children. The Working Group has also been proactive in its work on children and armed conflict, including through visiting countries on the agenda, organizing informal briefings from experts on issues related to child protection, and holding video-teleconferences with United Nations child protection staff in the field.
The positive impact of the efforts of the Working Group has been demonstrated over the years, notably by including the protection of children affected by war in all relevant aspects of the work and resolutions of the Security Council.
There have been six Presidents of the Working Group: France, Mexico, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia and Sweden. The mandate was strengthened under each presidency, new triggers for listing were added, support was given for the campaign “Children, Not Soldiers,” and resolutions evolved to address grave violations, the respect of international law and issues such as reintegration, impunity and the possibility of sanctions against perpetrators.
The Working Group also has a webpage available here.
Working with regional and sub-regional organizations
Working with regional organizations has been a key element of expanding the reach and effectiveness of the tools that were already in place
A partnership with the African Union came to fruition in 2013, with the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Special Representative and the Peace and Security Council. “As the African Union is taking a larger role in the continent’s mediation and peacekeeping operations, it had become essential to make our partnership stronger,” said Leila Zerrougui, in a statement announcing the agreement. “A significant number of children affected by armed conflict live on the African continent. With this agreement, my Office will work even more closely with the African Union and UNICEF to respond to their plight.”
Since then, the African Union has been fully engaged in mainstreaming the issue of children and armed conflict in its work and policies. The organization also holds annual sessions dedicated to children affected by war. Another region where a partnership was sought to reduce the impact of conflict on children is the Middle East and North Africa. In 2014, the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Office of the Special Representative signed a cooperation agreement to develop and implement a child protection policy.
Collaboration with the European Union (EU) was also strengthened. The EU has a long-standing relationship with the Office of the Special Representative, which has contributed to the elaboration and implementation of a strong EU policy on the protection of children affected by war. As a key interlocutor who engages in human rights dialogue and capacity-building with the majority of countries on the children and armed conflict agenda, the organization’s support contributes to the implementation of the mandate.
Building on existing work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was another priority because of the alliance’s leverage to improve the protection of children in areas where they have operations, notably in Afghanistan. In the past few years, in consultation with the Special Representative’s Office, NATO has developed and adopted a child protection policy and guidelines for its forces on the ground, dedicated resources to mainstream the agenda in its work generally and is embarking on a training for troops on children and armed conflict.