The mandate of the Special Representative
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 of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict was created by the General Assembly (Resolution A/RES/51/77) following the publication, in 1996, of a report by Graça Machel titled the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children”. Her report highlighted the disproportionate impact of war on children and identified them as the primary victims of armed conflict.
The role of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is to strengthen the protection of children affected by armed conflict, raise awareness, promote the collection of information about the plight of children affected by war and foster international cooperation to improve their protection. She reports yearly to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and raises challenges faced by children in war to political bodies, such as the UN Security Council, as well as relevant Governments to maintain a sense of urgency amongst key decision makers as well as to secure political and diplomatic engagement.
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.
The Security Council has created a strong framework and provided the Office of the Special Representative tools to respond to violations against children.
Six grave violations affecting children in times of conflict were identified:
|• recruitment and use of children, (Trigger for listing)|
|• killing and maiming of children, (Trigger for listing)|
|• sexual violence against children, (Trigger for listing)|
|• attacks on schools and hospitals, (Trigger for listing)|
|• abduction of children (Trigger for listing) and|
|• denial of humanitarian access.|
The Security Council adopted resolutions to request the UN:
- to gather and verify information detailing where and how children are affected by armed conflict;
- to use this information in the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict presented to the Security Council;
- to name parties to conflict who commit violations that are triggers for listing;
- to engage in dialogue with listed Governments and armed groups to develop Action Plans to halt and prevent violations against children.
What is an action plan?
An action plan is a written, signed commitment between the United Nations and parties to conflict listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.
Each action plan outlines concrete, time-bound measure to end violations against children, release and reunify children with their families, but also to put in place legislation, tools and mechanisms to prevent future violations and to hold perpetrators accountable.
For example, an agreement to end the recruitment and use of children by Government forces can include the following actions:
- Issue military command orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of children
- Criminalize the recruitment and use of children
- Integrate age-verification mechanisms in recruitment procedures
- Release all children identified in the ranks of security forces
- Ensure children’s reintegration into civilian life
Thematic focus and advocacy
Advocacy efforts focus on a number of key priority areas. These include the delivery of comprehensive and long-term reintegration assistance for children, as well as the rights of children confronted to justice systems, both as victims and perpetrators.
A particular advocacy initiative is the campaign “Children, Not Soldiers”, launched in March 2014 with UNICEF to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by Government forces by the end of 2016.