“We believe that the protection of the child is a very important agenda globally. And this is something that we decided to advance also in Sudan.”
Hans Henric Lundquist, Swedish Ambassador to Sudan and co-chair of the Group of friends of CAAC in Sudan
Following the signature of an Action Plan in March 2016 between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, Canada and Sweden, two long-time advocates of the CAAC agenda *, teamed up with UNICEF to establish the Group of Friends of CAAC in Sudan.
This informal platform allows the 23 members** of the local diplomatic community to place issues facing conflict affected children in Sudan on the agenda and to develop collective advocacy efforts to enhance the protection of children in Sudan.
Salah-Eddine Bendaoud, Charge d’Affairs of Canada to Sudan and Hans Henric Lundquist, Ambassador of Sweden to Sudan explain the importance of the Group of Friends in Sudan as part of global efforts to better protect children affected by armed conflict.
“Whenever there is a chance, a meeting with officials or people from the armed groups, we try to bring the subject of children and armed conflict and encourage people to implement the Action Plans signed by the parties in 2016***,” Canadian ambassador and co-chair of the Group of Friends, Salah-Eddine Bendaoud, explains.
“The three parties to conflict – the Government of Sudan, the Darfuri groups and the SPLM-N- all agreed that ending the recruitment and use of children was something requiring attention and action. They wanted to tackle this issue; there was an immediate interest,” he adds.
“The work that we’ve been doing is not only on children and armed conflict but on a much broader agenda, to reach out on protection of the child in general. For example: humanitarian access. The CAAC agenda has provided some leverage to improve humanitarian access in the region,” ambassador Lundquist emphasizes.
“The good collaboration with the government has also enabled dialogue on the CAAC agenda with armed groups to sign action plans so all the parties to conflict in Sudan can be removed from the SG’s report on CAAC, a vision that the Group of Friends supports. Implementation has been progressed,” he adds.
“Workshops were organized in collaboration with the UN. Members of the armed groups worked together to understand the concepts, to understand what is required from them, the responsibilities. And that’s something that worked quite well. Everyone understood the requirements and what they had to progressively accomplish to move forward,” ambassador Bendaoud completes.
“We’ve also brought in some experts from other countries to show that it is actually possible to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, to guide the implementation”, ambassador Lundquist emphasizes.
“We work globally, with different countries and try to find positive cases. I think that, for example, the agenda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has also been very helpful. We can also say that we are currently replicating the group of friends in South Sudan. I’ve also been contacted by our embassy in Afghanistan,” he adds.
Groups of Friends advocating for the children and armed conflict agenda currently exist in New York, Geneva, and other countries on the CAAC agenda including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, to the African Union and the Philippines.
* Sweden is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council (SC) and chairs the SC Working Group on children and armed conflict. Canada has been chairing the Group of Friends of CAAC in NY since its establishment in 1997-1998.
** The 23 members of the Sudan Group of Friends are: Canada, Sweden, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, EU Delegation, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, US, UK, and Qatar, as well as UNAMID and the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNICEF as the Secretariat.
*** The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) also signed an Action Plan with the United Nations in 2016.