UNIC Pretoria supports 5th annual Francophonie festival with exhibit on child soldiers

In a call to raise awareness of the worldwide phenomenon of child soldiers, UNIC Pretoria provided support to the High Commission of Canada in Pretoria as well as the Alliance Française of Pretoria to display a photographic exhibition entitled “Children of War”: Broken Childhood”.

Produced originally by the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the exhibition will form part of the month-long Francophonie festival at the Alliance de Française in Pretoria from 20 March to 17 April 2014.

Accompanying the opening of the exhibition on 20 March was a film screening on child soldiers entitled, War Witch (French: Rebelle). With over 130 people in attendance, the film was followed by a panel discussion on the topic, moderated by journalist and broadcaster, Jean-Jaques Cornish. Giving an account of their different experiences and expertise on the topic of child soldiers, the two panel members, Patrizia Benvenuti, Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF South Africa and Jamala Safari, poet and author of “The long great agony and pure laughter of the god”, spoke passionately about the topic.

Responding to a question on the complexity of the recruitment of child soldiers, Ms. Benvenuti replied, “Ending the use of child soldiers can be extremely challenging, particularly when children are enlisted for combat by armed, non-governmental groups. Modern conflicts are characterized by governmental breakdown, making it difficult to identify and influence those recruiting and using children as soldiers.”

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of children are unlawfully recruited to participate in armed conflicts as soldiers, messengers, spies, porters, cooks or to provide sexual services.  Many are pressed into combat where they may be forced to the front lines or sent into minefields ahead of older troops.  Some children are also used as suicide bombers.  This is taking place every day, in many countries around the world, violating children’s rights, destroying their childhood and compromising their future.

Source: UNIC Pretoria/6 April 2014

Security Council Arria Meeting on Attacks on Schools

Statement by Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Arria Formula Meeting on the issue of attacks on schools.

Please check against delivery

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Permanent Mission of Italy and its partners, the Permanent Missions of France, Sweden and Uruguay, for organizing this important event. At this time, I also wish to recognize UNICEF, DPKO, DPA and the many NGOs that support us in our monitoring and reporting work, in particular I wish to acknowledge Human Rights Watch and the excellent panel they held on this issue yesterday. Without their efforts we would not have such a clear picture of what is happening on the ground. Without their advocacy, raising awareness on grave violations against children in situations of conflict simply would not be possible.

I am also honoured to be here today with Ms. Joy Bishara and Ms. Zama Neff to discuss and share information and identify ways in which we can help stop attacks against schools and protect children’s rights to education, even in the harshest of circumstances.

As you know, the Children and Armed Conflict mandates task my office to monitor and report on six grave violations.  In 2011, by adopting resolution 1998, the Security Council gave the United Nations a mandate to identify and list, in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report, armed forces and groups who attack schools or hospitals, and protected persons who work there. This resolution was deepened through Resolution 2143 of 2014 on military use of schools ,and is also an issue included in the SC sanctions committees criteria.

The resolution asked listed parties to conflict to work with the United Nations to prepare concrete, time-bound action plans to end and prevent these violations.

Monitoring, reporting, listing and negotiating actions plans are crucial to help ensure that children can enjoy their rights to education and health. It is also a vital tool to end impunity in relation to those that commit these grave violations.  Further, my office has also spearheaded efforts regarding the protection of schools through the development of a Guidance Note on Attacks against Schools and Hospitals, with an aim to strengthen our collective capacity to monitor and report incidents affecting children’s right to health and education in situations of conflict. At this time, we are also enhancing our advocacy and dialogue with perpetrators to put a stop to these violations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the most recent SG report on CAAC, attacks on schools and hospitals was one of the most disturbing trends documented in 2016, with 753 incidents verified, and occurring in almost all of the countries on the children and armed conflict agenda. It is worth noting that these numbers include only the incidents that the UN was able to verify, as access is often not granted to conflict areas or there are safety concerns for the staff, so we know that the actual numbers are much higher.

Just in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 174 attacks on schools were verified between April and June 2017. The majority of schools were destroyed, looted or burnt down by the Kamuina Nsapu militia in the Kasai region.

These attacks can be carried out by ground forces, but wreaking destruction can also come from air strikes. In 2016, in Yemen three-quarters and in the Syrian Arab Republic two-thirds of all attacks on schools and hospitals were carried out by air strikes.

Beyond this physical destruction of education and health infrastructure, armed forces and groups have been occupying and using schools for military purposes, for training or recruiting campaigns – thus violating the sanctity of schools and turning them from safe havens into targets of attacks for occupation purposes. This not only disrupts much needed education for children, but often the departing forces leave the premises unusable —which disrupts education for months, years and sometimes decades to come. In addition, in almost every situation where schools are militarized, children say that they are afraid to return to school for fear of being harmed, abducted, recruited, or raped.

In Somalia, Al-Shabaab compelled children to attend madrassas managed by the group and reportedly attempted to train them as soldiers. In several instances, elders, imams and madrassa teachers who refused to hand over their children to the group were abducted, threatened, physically harmed and/or killed.

In recent years, a new pattern of attacks on school children, teachers and education facilities has also emerged. This happens because schools may be attacked by armed groups because of their curriculum content or because they are seen as a symbol of the state. Children, especially girls, and their parents, are threatened and killed in an effort to stop the educational, social or economic progress of girls.

As you all know—and as we have come here today to hear from Joy—the attacks perpetrated against children and schools by Boko Haram, whose ideology is constructed against what they refer to as ‘western education’—are some of the most brutal. In north-eastern Nigeria 1,500 schools were destroyed by Boko Haram since 2014, resulting in at least 1,280 casualties, mostly of students and teachers.  In Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria and elsewhere, children have been used as ‘human bombs’- dressed in school uniforms- to harm their fellow pupils, schools have been burned down and others transformed into makeshift sites for child recruitment. The terrorisation of these communities has led to school closures, the flight of teachers and the withdrawal of children from school by frightened parents.

In Afghanistan, girls’ education remains also a direct target. For instance, in one verified incident in April 2016, the Taliban forced 28 school principals and one teacher to attend a meeting where they demanded a change of the curriculum and stated that no girls over 11 years of age should attend school. This incident resulted in constant threats on students who lived in fear of being abducted or harmed while attending school. Similar threats against female teachers or girls were received in Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic.

Mali’s situation is unique in that attacks on infrastructure usually follow direct threats against education personnel. The myriad threats range from direct intimidation, orders to close and never reopen secular schools, and prohibition of mixing genders in class. Radical groups now storm villages of entire communities, threatening the population and setting fire to school buildings, premises, school books, table benches and even a few residences and houses owned by education personnel. This erodes not just education but also the fabric of communities. The short- and long-term impacts of these attacks on education and community are devastating.

Immediate effects can include death, injury and the destruction of educational facilities, together with disrupted access to education and the undermining of communal common purpose. In the longer term, these attacks weaken educational systems, lead to a loss of teachers, and contribute to other grave violations against children including recruitment and use, rape and sexual violence and abductions.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Attacking schools not only deprives children of an education; it robs them of a future. It can take decades to reinstall skilled teachers and build the physical infrastructure to provide a proper education for all. It will take time for children and their parents to consider schools a safe environment for personal and communal growth to happen.  A generation lost to education is unable to produce self- sufficient individuals or contribute to the economic, political and social development of entire communities.

Children affected by armed conflict—both in country and those displaced—cannot and must not be excluded from the right of education. Education must remain a priority during periods of conflict as much as during times of stability to ensure their best chance for a safe and peaceful future. Emergency education options also can give a sense of normalcy for traumatized children, whether they are still in their home town or in a refugee or migrant camp.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my report, I urge all parties to conflict to refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education. The Security Council has an important role in condemning and taking measure against those who don’t heed this call. Without strong backing from this body to protect education in conflict, we cannot possibly hope to realize goal 4 of the SDGs; quality education for all.

I call particularly upon Member States to make every effort to protect education in situations of armed conflict, including through the adoption of measures to deter the military use of schools and ensure that military operations do not target schools or result in school attacks. I wish to reiterate today that Member States that have not already done so, should endorse the Safe Schools Declaration. It has made an essential contribution towards promoting tangible measures to prevent attacks on education. In Afghanistan for instance, where the Government endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, the Ministry of Education promulgated two directives in 2016 instructing Government security forces to refrain from using schools.

In response to attacks on schools and the abduction of children, the Government of Nigeria also launched the Safe Schools Initiative, aimed at providing education and piloting safe education facilities in the three conflict-affected States. Nigeria endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in May 2015, by which it committed to implement the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

Additional measures can be taken in countries affected by armed conflict to guarantee children’s access to education.  Where schools have been destroyed or children are unable to attend classes due to the security situation, alternative means of education, including community based or remote solutions should be supported.

Further, whenever reparation programmes are elaborated following armed conflicts, provisions regarding the reconstruction of schools should be included. Moreover, where children have experienced substantive gaps in their education, accelerated learning programmes, as those that have been put in place in Mosul, Iraq, following the liberation of the city, can facilitate children’s re-entry into the formal education system.

All of us here know that education is an absolute necessity, not just for the children themselves but also for global peace, stability and prosperity for all. I can assure participants here today that my Office will strongly advocate, with all parties to conflict who are willing to listen, that schools should be treated as sanctuaries and that it is our common responsibility to ensure that every child has access to an education, even at times of conflict.

Thank you.

Presentation of CAAC Annual Report to the UN General Assembly

Mr. Chair,

Distinguished delegates,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to be here today with my colleagues Ms. Santos-Pais and Mr. Forsyth to address the Third Committee at this interactive dialogue. I wish to take this opportunity to underline the strong collaboration I have with Ms. Santos-Pais, as well as UNICEF, on common issues related the protection of children from violence.

Turning to the matter at hand, as you are aware, this is my first report to the General Assembly. It is a pleasure to be here with you all to discuss the important topic of children affected by armed conflict.

Substantively, my report focuses on two major concerns. Namely the protection of education in situations of armed conflict and the deeply worrying trend of increasing denial of humanitarian access to boys and girls in need by parties to conflict. Unfortunately, the developments identified in the report continued unabated in 2017.

In Afghanistan, girls’ education remains a direct target. For instance, in one incident verified by our child protection colleagues in April, the Taliban forced 28 school principals and one teacher to attend a meeting where they demanded a change of the curriculum and stated that no girls over 11 years of age should attend school. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 174 attacks on schools were verified between April and June 2017. The majority of schools were destroyed, looted or burnt down by the Kamuina Nsapu militia in the Kasai region. It will take years, if not decades, before this region and its children recover from the lost educational opportunities as a result of just three short months of violence. These types of incidents mean that children living in conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be out of school as those living in countries at peace.

In my report, I call upon Member States to make every effort to protect education in situations of armed conflict, including through the adoption of measures to deter the military use of schools. I wish to reiterate today that Member States that have not already done so should endorse the Safe Schools Declaration. This body as a whole should also make efforts to promote this important instrument. It has made an essential contribution towards promoting tangible measures to prevent attacks on education. We simply cannot afford to make schools in conflict zones a military target. The price of a child losing his or her access to education for years, if not decades, is too high to pay.

This price is already paid by so many displaced children. I implore this body to do what it can to ensure that appropriate funding is available for education programmes in conflict-related emergency situations. This is particularly important when applying the comprehensive refugee response framework. Members of the Third Committee can also work to ensure that appropriate provisions on children affected by armed conflict are included in the Global Compact on Refugees, in particular related to unaccompanied minors. This is also an endeavour that I will work on with my colleagues on this stage today. As the Sustainable Development Goals clearly indicate; we owe it to future generations that children in all situations have access to education, even in the most difficult circumstances.

In many ways, the denial of humanitarian access exemplifies the vulnerability of children in conflict zones. In South Sudan, the alarming trends of 2016 continued this year and over 150 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified by the United Nations for the period April to June. Humanitarian access in Myanmar has also been very difficult throughout 2017. In Afghanistan, over 80,000 children did not receive their polio vaccinations in the second quarter of this year. This was due to direct attacks and anti-vaccination bans imposed by armed groups, as well as general insecurity in the country. We must do all we can to prevent epidemics from adding to the direct toll of conflict on children.

As has been the case for a number of years, Syria is perhaps the most concerning situation for children, particularly related to the denial of their basic needs. Bureaucratic impediments and restrictions by parties to the conflict continue to severely impact the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In this regard, only 38 per cent of persons in besieged areas and 12 per cent of the persons in hard-to-reach areas have been reached since the beginning of 2017. One hundred thousand lifesaving items have also been denied or removed from convoys since the start of 2017. ISIL controlled areas remain inaccessible, with the group impeding all deliveries of humanitarian assistance. As we are all too well aware, this situation has an acute impact on children.

International law is very clear regarding the provision of assistance to the civilian population. This body has an important role in emphasizing these norms to all its Members and ensuring that the delivery of humanitarian aid to children is not politicised. I urge you to continue including these elements in resolutions and other relevant elements of your work. From my part, I plan to work with parties to conflict that are open to doing so to support the dissemination of clear command orders among the rank and file to specify that humanitarian assistance for children should be allowed in all circumstances.

Distinguished delegates,

Since taking up the position of Special Representative in May of this year, I have invested significant time to develop my vision for the mandate. In particular, I have given much thought on how best to fulfil all the facets of the tasks given to me in the resolutions of the General Assembly. My report to this body aims to articulate that vision and outline how we can best assess progress, raise awareness, promote the collection of information, work closely with relevant entities and foster international cooperation to ensure respect for children’s rights and stop grave violations.

A key component of my proposed approach is working with regional and subregional organisations. These entities have demonstrated strong leadership in the past and have made important contributions towards the protection of children and the prevention of abuse. But we can and must do more together. We need to work with subregional entities to better integrate child protection considerations in their policies, operational planning and training of personnel. This body, and Member States in their national capacity, have an important role in encouraging and facilitating this work.

In line with this approach, I want to invest significant human resources to work with these organisations to enhance legal protection frameworks for children affected by conflict. I believe a subregional approach to strengthening the law to protect children, through the adoption of geographically focused legal or political instruments, can make a real difference to our effectiveness and be a multiplier of our efforts. In these endeavours, it will be beneficial to work with my fellow panel members and their respective entities to utilize their different expertise and mandates.

Moreover, I firmly believe that it is essential that we compile comprehensive best practices on the work we have done in the last twenty years. This will allow us to capitalise on successes, particularly regarding signing and delivering on action plans, as well as improving the overall effectiveness of child protection efforts. As I note in the report, these best practices will be essential to guide discussions with parties to conflict, in particular on reducing the impact of the conduct of hostilities on children.

I hold an equally firm belief that this work cannot be done without strong, substantive and sustained collaboration with all child protection actors. Applying best practices and lessons learnt requires a tailored and context specific approach.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I noted earlier, much of my time is taken up ensuring that my office can fulfil the broad mandate given to it by this body. We cover 20 country situations and have over 60 listed parties to engage with, in addition to many other entities involved in conflict, not to mention a heavy reporting burden to all three main bodies of the United Nations.

My final request to all of you is to ensure that sufficient resources are provided to my Office and our partners to enable an increased focus on mandated tasks. This includes the deployment of dedicated child protection expertise in all situation of conflict. In addition to heavy report requirements and engagement with parties to conflict, we have much to gain from increasing our reach and focusing more on awareness-raising, lessons learned, best practices and proactive engagement with regional and subregional organizations. These initiatives will aid our ultimate goal: prevention. Prevention of both conflict and prevention of grave violations affecting children in situations of conflict.

Thank you.

 

 

Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

Millions of Children Caught in Conflict, Victims and Targets of Despicable Harm

New York, 5 October 2017 – Boys and girls living in countries affected by armed conflict have been victims of widespread violations in 2016, as documented in the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict (A/72/361) released today and covering the period from January to December 2016.

The alarming scale and severity of violations against children in 2016 – including shocking levels of killing and maiming, recruitment and use and denial of humanitarian access – is a serious concern for the Secretary-General.

“The tragic fate of child victims of conflict cannot and must not leave us unmoved; a child killed, recruited as a soldier, injured in an attack or prevented from going school due to a conflict is already one too many,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, said.

Children from countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suffer an unacceptable level of violations by parties to conflict, with at least 4,000 verified violations committed by Government Forces and over 11,500 by non-State armed groups in the 20 country situations covered in the report.

In Syria alone, the number of children recruited and used during the reporting period more than doubled compared to 2015, with 851 verified cases. In Somalia, this number reached 1,915 children recruited and used. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of verified child casualties since the UN started documentation of civilian casualties in 2009, with 3,512 children killed or maimed in 2016, an increase of 24% compare to the previous year.

Abhorrent tactics used by armed groups like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIL and the Taliban, have included sexual violence and the use of children as human bombs. In Nigeria, the majority of children casualties resulted from the use of children as human bombs and deaths by suicide attacks.

“The level of violations against children is completely unacceptable and merely indicative of the scale of suffering of children as access constraints limit our ability to have the full picture,” Ms. Gamba said. “Such abuses have a dramatic impact, not only on the lives of children, but also on the social fabric of society in affected countries and on global peace and security,” she added.

The denial of humanitarian access by armed groups and Government forces was a disturbing trend in the report, with devastating consequences for children. Attacks on schools and hospitals have also been widely documented in 2016, occurring in almost all countries on the children and armed conflict agenda and depriving thousands of children of their right to education.

In Yemen, a total of at least 1,340 children were killed or maimed. The same happened in Syria to at least 1,299 children.

Detention of children by government forces or armed groups has also been widespread during the reporting period including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Israel and State of Palestine, Libya, Nigeria and Somalia. The report emphasized that children should be treated primarily as victims, not as perpetrators, and that international juvenile justice standards should apply.

Abductions, included for the second year as a trigger for listing in the annexes of the Annual Report, also showed an increase in documented incidents. In Central African Republic, reported cases almost doubled compared to 2015, with 98 children abducted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a total of 193 children were abducted, leading to the listing of three new non-state armed groups.

Milestones and developments

Although new parties are listed, including in Afghanistan, DRC, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, there was also progress to report. UN engagement lead to several positive developments in 2016, including the delisting of two parties, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Philippines.

Moreover, the signature of the Peace Agreement in Colombia, including a special agreement on the release and reintegration of children, resulted in a decrease of documented violations against children. The signature of two new Actions Plans, with the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) in Mali and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Sudan also confirmed the benefits of continuing dialogue with non-State armed groups.

In relation to Yemen, the United Nations was informed of measures taken by the Coalition in 2016 to reduce the impact of conflict on children including through their rules of engagement and the establishment of a joint incident assessment team mandated to review all incidents involving civilian casualties and identify corrective actions. At the time of preparation of this report, Saudi Arabia has created a child protection unit at the coalition headquarters.

In addition to documenting the grave violations committed against children in 2016, the report highlights country-specific developments and concerns, to outline both progress made and ongoing issues that need to be addressed. This approach should lead to enhanced engagement with parties in the report, aiming to sign and implement Action Plans. This will increase protection for children, accountability for perpetrators and allow for greater focus on the prevention of the six grave violations.

Among concerning trends, the report highlights the denial of humanitarian access, deprivation of liberty resulting from increased security screenings, including for displaced populations, and the use of militias and international coalitions, which demonstrates the need for accountability and the application of agreed safeguards to protect civilian populations, in particular children.

Building on best practices, child protection capacities and reintegration mechanisms should be provided with adequate resources, as a key element to peace and security in war-affected regions, the report highlights. “In some countries, like Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Somalia or Syria, young children have only experienced war and violence. It is our collective responsibility not to let these children down,” Ms. Gamba added. Partnerships with sub-regional organizations were highlighted in the report as multipliers to reduce violations affecting children and strengthening of child protection capacities on the ground.

###
For more information please contact:

Fabienne Vinet
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict,
Tel: +1 212 963-8285 – Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
vinet@un.org
Follow us:
twitter.com/childreninwar
facebook.com/childrenandarmedconflict

UN report reveals shocking levels of grave violations against children affected by conflicts

5 October 2017 – More than 15,500 children became victims of widespread violations – including shocking levels of killing and maiming, recruitment and use, and denial of humanitarian access – a latest Secretary General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict has revealed.

Children surrender their weapons during a ceremony formalizing their release from the SSDA Cobra Faction armed group, in Pibor, South Sudan (February 2015). Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0201/Rich

According to the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict, presented on 5 October 2017 to the Security Council, children from countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suffered an unacceptable level of violations by parties to conflict – both government forces as well as non-State armed groups.

“The tragic fate of child victims of conflict cannot and must not leave us unmoved; a child killed, recruited as a soldier, injured in an attack or prevented from going school due to a conflict is already one too many,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said in a news release today.

Of the 20 country situations included in the report, at least 4,000 verified violations committed by Government forces and over 11,500 by non-State armed groups. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of verified child casualties since the UN started documenting civilian casualties in 2009, with 3,512 children killed or maimed last year – an increase of 24 per cent compared to the previous year.

The report also documents 851 verified cases (more than double the number in 2015) of children recruited and used in Syria, and 1,915 in Somalia in 2016. It also notes that in Yemen, at least 1,340 children were killed or maimed. In Syria that number stood at 1,299.

UN chief ‘appalled’ at scale of violations

Expressing shock over the scale of violations documented in the report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated his call on parties to conflict to abide by their responsibility to protect children, in accordance with their obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law.

“The goal of the report is not only to raise awareness of the violations of the rights of children but also to promote measures that can diminish the tragic plight of children in conflict,” read a statement attributable to the spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

“The Secretary-General is encouraged that several governments and non-state actors are now working with the United Nations towards that objective. He hopes that more will follow,” it added.

The statement further noted that the new Developments and Concerns section included in the report reflects this enhanced UN engagement, which should lead to reducing the suffering of children victims of armed conflict and increase their protection.

The violations covered in the report include recruitment or use of children; killing or maiming children; committing rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; engaging in attacks on schools and/or hospitals; and abducting children in situations of armed conflict.

The parties which committed these violations are listed in annexes to the report. The annexes also include parties that have put in place measures to improve protection of children during the reporting period and those who have not implemented adequate measures.

Read the press release issued by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Read the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict covering the period from January to December 2016 (A/72/361)

This article was edited from a news item published by the UN News Centre

CAR: SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict Welcomes Signing of Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, congratulates the government of the Central African Republic for the ratification today of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

The signing ceremony took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where the 72nd UN General Assembly is currently ongoing.

“I commend this milestone for the Central African Republic and encourage the government to pursue its actions to protect the boys and girls of CAR, prevent any further recruitment and use by parties to conflict and adopt legislation criminalizing the recruitment and use of children,” SRSG Gamba said.

This comes a few months after the president of the CAR Parliament pledged that he would use his office to strengthen the protection of children through adopting legislation prohibiting the recruitment and use of children.

The Central African Republic becomes the 167th country to sign the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 May 2000, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict aims to protect children from recruitment and use in hostilities. It prohibits children from taking part in hostilities, encourages all States to set their minimum age of conscription at 18-years, and raises awareness of States’ obligation to criminalize the recruitment and use of girls and boys. It also prohibits the recruitment under the age of eighteen by armed groups, who are the main recruiters of children. It entered into force on 12 February 2002.

For more information please contact:
Fabienne Vinet
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict,
Tel: +1 212 963-8285 – Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
vinet@un.org

Follow us:
twitter.com/childreninwar
facebook.com/childrenandarmedconflict

Protecting Children in Armed Conflict: Voices from the field

Chief Child Protection Advisers (CPA) from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan were gathered in New York on 19 September to brief Member States, Officials and Partners on the crucial transversal work done by CPAs in the field to better protect children living in areas affected by conflicts.

The event Protecting Children in Armed Conflict: Voices from the field responded to ongoing preoccupations on the plight of children affected by armed conflicts, and situated the roles of Child Protection Advisers, within the broader child protection architecture, both of the United Nations and in the cooperation with multilateral organizations such as NATO and regional organizations such as the African Union. The event was organized jointly by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG-CAAC), the Government of Sweden, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and UNICEF.

Despite progress made during the past decade, children across the globe continue to be victims of grave violations in situations of armed conflict. As we speak, thousands of children, both boys and girls, continue to suffer and witness acts of violence by parties to conflict who continue to disregard international humanitarian and human rights obligations and standards.

“I was in Kananga, Kasai province, just 5 days ago. There, I witnessed the separation of 70 children, from the Kamuina Nsapu militia. A third of them were girls, the youngest was 4 years old,” recalled Dee Brillenburg-Wurth, Chief Child Protection Adviser for MONUSCO.

In total, 290 children were separated from this militia last week by MONUSCO Child Protection Advisers and handed over to UNICEF and their partners for temporary care, family tracing and psychosocial support.

The crucial cooperation between Child Protection Advisers of UN Peacekeeping Operations and Political Missions and UNICEF was highlighted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, in her opening remarks: “Having dedicated professionals working on child protection has led to impressive results. Their work, in combination with numerous other partners, has resulted in the signature of 28 action plans in the past two decades. These are written commitments by parties to conflict to end and prevent grave violations against children,” she explained.

The first Child Protection Adviser was deployed 17-years ago to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to support its leadership in mainstreaming child protection concerns in the work of the UN Mission). “Today, CPAs are deployed in five peacekeeping operations (MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, UNAMID and UNMISS), where they advise the mission leadership and ensure that child protection issues are mainstreamed throughout the mission’s work,” highlighted the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in DPKO, Mr. Alexander Zuev.

Since 2005, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) has been an effective tool for the United Nations to foster accountability and compliance with international law and child protection standards. It was established by Security Council Resolution 1612 to collect accurate, timely, objective and reliable information on six grave violations committed against children affected by armed conflict (1).

In Somalia, the detention of children for their alleged association with Al-Shabaab (AS) remains a major concern, explained Leopold Kouassi, Senior Child Protection Adviser with the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) . “But enhanced engagement by the United Nations led to the transfer of 64 children from the former Serendi rehabilitation program for ex-AS fighters to child protection actors in 2015, as well as the release of 110 children from detention centers and prisons in 2016 and 2017,” he added.

In Afghanistan, where every third civilian casualty is a child, the NATO Resolute Support Mission (RSM) has sought to integrate child protection in its work, including by establishing the position of ’Senior Child Protection Adviser’ in Kabul, explained Swen Dornig, who is currently holding the position: “Through the Children and Armed Conflict Adviser, RSM also ensures that measures taken to protect children are conducted in a concerted manner and in close cohesion with the international community and the Child Protection Section of the UN  Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA),” he added.

The event allowed panelists to discuss with participants the challenges and successes of child protection work in the field, and express their views on how to better respond to grave violations committed against children in conflicts.

Since 1999, the systematic engagement of the UN Security Council has firmly placed the situation of children affected by armed conflict as an issue affecting peace and security. “How we deal with children affected by armed conflict today has profound consequences for their futures and the futures of their countries,” underlined the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Ms. Margot Wallström.

Since its resolution 1314 (2000), the Security Council has systematically called, in all its resolutions on Children and Armed Conflict, for the deployment of Child Protection Advisors to UN Peacekeeping Operations and Political Missions. The Security Council has also included similar provisions in the mandates of those operations and missions.

(1) The six grave violations against children are: 1) Killing and maiming of children; 2) Recruitment and use of children ; 3) Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; 4) Attacks against schools or hospitals; 5) Abduction of children; 6) Denial of humanitarian access for children.

Civilian Joint Task Force in Northeast Nigeria Signs Action Plan to End Recruitment of Children


UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF welcome milestone agreement

MAIDUGURI/DAKAR/NEW YORK/GENEVA 15 September 2017 –The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and UNICEF in Nigeria welcome today’s signing by the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, of an action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.

The CJTF, a local group formed in 2013 to support the Nigerian security forces in the fight against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and to protect local communities from attacks by Boko Haram, progressively expanded over the years. The group have been engaged in security operations and more recently, involved in providing security to camps for internally displaced populations.

In 2016, the CJTF was listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of children. Following the listing, UNICEF, in its role as Co-chair of the United Nations Country Task Force for the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on grave violations against children, has been working with the group and Nigerian authorities to develop the Action Plan signed today. Through the Action Plan, the CJTF commits to put in place a number of measures to end and prevent child recruitment and use. Identifying and releasing all children within the group’s ranks and instructing its members not to recruit or use children in the future are examples of such measures.

UNICEF and partners will support the Nigerian authorities in providing reintegration services to all children released under the Action Plan.

“We have seen too many childhoods destroyed by the crisis in the northeast,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “Today’s agreement is an important milestone for child protection and paves the way for a brighter future for children caught up in the conflict.”

”I congratulate the CJTF and the UN in Nigeria for the signature of this action plan, which brings hope for boys and girls deeply affected by the conflict in northeast Nigeria,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba said. “Now that the Action Plan has been signed, I urge the CJTF to fully implement it in order to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children once and for all. The UN stands ready to support the CJTF in this process,” she added.

The action plan was co-signed by the President of the CJTF, Mr. Lawan Jaffar, and the UNICEF Country Representative Mohamed Fall on behalf of the UN Country Task Force, in the presence of the Borno State Deputy Solicitor General, Barrister Abdullahi Hussaini Izge. The SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba signed the Action Plan in New York as a witness.

Representatives from the federal Government of Nigeria and Borno State Government were also present and remain committed to the implementation of the action plan.

###

Notes to Editors:

The UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict lists parties to conflict who commit grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict, including recruitment and use of children.

UN Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2225 (2015) on Children and Armed Conflict established measures and tools to end grave violations against children, through the creation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism, and the development of Action Plans to end violations by parties listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.

An action plan is a signed commitment that allows the United Nations to support a party to conflict listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict by laying out concrete and time-bound measures it must take to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, as well as other grave violations.

Measures requested in the action plans usually include, but are not limited to, the issuance of military orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of children, criminalization of the recruitment and use of children, the release of all children in the ranks of security forces and the establishment of programmes to support their reintegration into civilian life, as well as the inclusion of age-verification mechanisms in recruitment procedures and the strengthening of birth registration systems.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict serves as the leading UN advocate for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict. The mandate was created to help enhance the protection of children affected by armed conflict, raise awareness about the plight of these children, and promote the monitoring and reporting of abuses. The Special Representative reports annually to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

For more information, visit: www.childrenandarmedconflict.un.org

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For more information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Office: +1-212-963-5986, Mobile: +1-917-288-5791, vinet@un.org

Harriet Dwyer, UNICEF Maiduguri, +234 906 222 2215, hdwyer@unicef.org

Doune Porter, UNICEF Abuja, Tel: +234 803 525 0273, dporter@unicef.org

Thierry Delvigne-Jean, UNICEF Regional Office in Dakar, +221 77 819 2300, tdelvignejean@unicef.org

Marixie Mercado, UNICEF Geneva, +41 79 559 71 72, mmercado@unicef.org
Chris Tidey, UNICEF New York, +1 917 340 3017 , ctidey@unicef.org

Democratic Republic of the Congo: UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba Welcomes the Surrender of Ntabo Ntaberi Cheka in DRC

New York – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, welcomes the surrender on 26 July of Ntabo Ntaberi Cheka, founder and leader of the Nduma Defence of Congo/Cheka, to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in Mutongo, North Kivu.

The Nduma Defence of Congo/Cheka was implicated in the rape of at least 387 civilians, including 55 girls and nine boys, during the attacks on 13 villages on the Mpofi-Kibua axis (Walikale territory) between 30 July and 2 August 2010. The United Nations also documented at least 154 children recruited by the group, with hundreds more suspected. Nearly half of the children were below the age of 15 and served in combat roles, a war crime under international law. “For years, Cheka and armed elements under his command have ravaged the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing, maiming, abducting, raping and recruiting children, as well as attacking schools and hospitals. I call on the Nduma Defence of Congo/Cheka to end and prevent all grave violations against children and release without delay those children that remain associated with the group,” said the Special Representative.

The Nduma Defence of Congo/Cheka has been listed in successive annual Reports of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use and the killing and maiming of children. Cheka was added to the UN sanctions list by the Security Council in 2011, and, in recent years, the Special Representative provided information on violations he committed against children to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cheka is also subject to a 2011 national arrest warrant for crimes against humanity including for mass rape. Combatting impunity for grave violations against children and providing redress is critical so that the victims and their families can heal the wounds of conflict and destruction, and begin to rebuild their lives. The Special Representative thus calls on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to take all necessary measures to ensure that Cheka is swiftly brought to trial in accordance with due process standards and that charges against him correspond appropriately to all the crimes committed against children.


For more information please contact:
Anne Schintgen – Political Affairs Officer
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212-963-8650
schintgen@un.org

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook:
www.twitter.com/childreninwar
www.facebook.com/childrenandarmedconflict
Use the hashtag: #ChildrenNotSoldiers

Nigeria: UN report details ‘grave violations’ against children by Boko Haram

4 May 2017 – Children in north-east Nigeria continue to be brutalized as a result of Boko Haram’s insurgency in the region and the ensuing conflict, a first-of-its-kind United Nations report has concluded.

“With tactics including widespread recruitment and use, abductions, sexual violence, attacks on schools and the increasing use of children in so-called ‘suicide’ attacks, Boko Haram has inflicted unspeakable horror upon the children of Nigeria’s north-east and neighbouring countries,” said Virginia Gamba, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in a press release from her Office.

The report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Nigeria documents the impact on children of the severe deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the country between January 2013 and December 2016.

Violations committed by Boko Haram

During the reporting period, attacks by Boko Haram on communities and confrontations between the group and security forces resulted in at least 3,900 children killed and 7,300 more maimed.

Suicide attacks became the second leading cause of child casualties, accounting for over one thousand deaths and 2,100 injuries during the reporting period. The UN verified the use of 90 children for suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, the majority of whom were girls.

The UN verified the recruitment and use of 1,650 children. Testimonies from children separated from Boko Haram indicate that many were abducted, but that others joined the group due to financial incentives, peer pressure, familial ties and for ideological reasons. In some instances, parents gave up their children to obtain security guarantees or for economic gain.

The children were used in direct hostilities, for planting improvised explosive devices, to burn schools or houses and in a variety of support roles.

Schools have been targets of choice for Boko Haram and the UN estimates that 1,500 were destroyed since 2014, with at least 1,280 casualties among teachers and students.

Response to Boko Haram also raises concerns

The response to Boko Haram’s insurgency also generated protection concerns, including allegations of extra judicial killings.

The UN documented the recruitment and use of 228 children, including some as young as nine by the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), created in Borno state to assist the Nigerian Security Forces.

Children were used mainly for intelligence-related purposes, in search operations, night patrols, for crowd control and to guard posts.

She urged all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and to ensure civilians are protected during armed clashes.


Read the press release issued by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Read the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Nigeria

This article was edited from a news item published by the UN News Centre

Philippines: Report Showcases Progress Despite Ongoing Violations Against Children

2 May 2017 – The Secretary-General’s fourth report on the impact on children of armed conflict in the Philippines “describes significant progress in the protection of boys and girls, despite ongoing violations against children,” according to the UN Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

In 2009, the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed an action plan to halt and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict on Mindanao.

Since then, more than 1,850 children have been identified and formally disengaged, the UN reported.

Special Representative Gamba encouraged the MILF to “draw on the current momentum to fully implement the Action Plan and to reinforce the necessary safeguards to prevent future recruitment and association of children.”

She also commended the Government, which strengthened the national framework to address violations against children by forming an inter-agency committee to monitor, report and respond to such grave violations.

In the report, the Secretary-General calls on the Government to actively use these tools to ensure independent, prompt and thorough investigations into alleged violations committed against children and guarantee appropriate services for child victims.

Despite noted progress, the report highlighted that killing and maiming of children in the Philippines remains a concern with 116 documented cases.

“Most incidents were the result of crossfire, unexploded ordnance or shelling, but others involved the targeting of children,” according to the Ms. Gamba’s Office.

The Abu Sayyaf Group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines took responsibility for nearly half of the 116 children killed or injured.

Among other issues, the report noted a “high number” of attacks on schools and teachers, and an increase in attacks on indigenous communities.

The Special Representative responded by urging all parties to the conflict to end attacks or threats of attacks on schools, teachers and students.

“Using schools for military purposes is unacceptable. Children should be guaranteed safe access to education,” she said.


Read the press release issued by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Read the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Philippines

This article was edited from a news item published by the UN News Centre