In her recent annual report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed conflict outlined the progress and challenges in protecting boys and girls from being used and abused by parties to conflict, while underlining the inextricable links between grave violations against children and trafficking and displacement.
“Despite notable progress, in every conflict situation – from the Central African Republic to Iraq, Somalia and Yemen – children have been victims of grave violations,” SRSG Virginia Gamba highlighted. “Boys and girls are continuously used and abused by parties to conflict – tortured, raped or forced to work; increasing joint efforts in addressing and preventing the use of children in armed conflict should be a priority,” she added.
Direct engagement with both government forces and armed groups has brought significant commitment and results to better protect conflict affected children, with more than 124,500 children released and 29 Actions Plans signed over the past two decades. Crucial work from child protection actors has further led parties to conflict to fully implement their actions plans; as a result, 11 have been delisted from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s Annual Report.
Politicization of Humanitarian Aid
The report brings attention to the recurrent politicization of the provision of humanitarian access for the delivery of aid, even when intended for children. In 2016 alone, 994 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified through the monitoring and reporting mechanism, including through deliberate bureaucratic impediments; almost half of the verified incidents took place in South Sudan. In Syria, parties to conflict have increasingly used besiegement as a tactic of war, depriving nearly 650,000 persons of access to food and other essential commodities. The Special Representative implores parties to conflict to depoliticize the delivery of humanitarian aid to children.
Links Between Trafficking, Displacement and Grave Violations
The report outlined the growing links between child trafficking, displacement and all grave violations against children, and stressed the importance of a synergic response in addressing those crimes. “Conflicts are leading affected children to leave their home country in search for safety. Unaccompanied children may be sold or trafficked as combatants or sexual slaves, while the recruitment and use of children or attacks on schools may lead to child trafficking by parties to conflict,” SRSG Gamba described.
The overlapping nature of these crimes also calls for a better cooperation in addressing such violations including through legal responses to ensure that children are considered primarily as victims of violations and provided with services, the report highlighted.
Focusing on Prevention
The priorities of the new Secretary-General have brought new opportunities for child protection actors, with an increased focus on prevention and reaching the furthest behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. With the Children and Armed Conflict mandate in the third decade of its existence, SRSG Gamba expressed the will to broaden the approach through increased public awareness and lessons learned in order to elevate efforts to end and prevent grave violations against children.
Engagement with parties to conflict continued during the reporting period with several technical missions to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and Sudan; discussions with Member States that have not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child were also constant, with the aim of achieving universal ratification.
Preventing grave violations against children requires sufficient child protection capacities, including to support the reintegration process without which re-recruitment is likely to occur. Funding reintegration programmes, including with a special focus on girls, is thus key, the report stressed.
In line with the Human Rights Council’s position on the important role played by regional arrangements in promoting and protecting human rights, the Special Representative wishes to increase collaboration with regional organizations, including the African Union, the League of Arab States and the European Union. “Collaboration is crucial to address grave violations but also to advocate with one voice for the rights of conflict affected children. The documentation of comprehensive best practices on the children and armed conflict mandate should inform our further action and reduce the impact of conflict on children; I encourage all partners to work jointly with us in that direction,” SRSG Gamba said.
Read the full report: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/37/47&Lang=E&Area=UNDOC
Stephanie Tremblay / Fabienne Vinet
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-8285 – Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
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