Working with the Security Council to Protect Children

In 1998, the UN Security Council held its first Open Debate on children and armed conflict. In his address, Special Representative Olara Otunnu proposed areas of engagement for the Council to move towards “prevention, protection and recovery.”

“Words on paper cannot save children in peril,” Otunnu declared, asking the Council to “lead the way by sending forth a clear message that the targeting, use and abuse of children are simply unacceptable.”

In 1999, the first resolution on children and armed conflict placed the issue of children affected by war on the Security Council’s agenda. The resolution identified and condemned 6 grave violations affecting children the most in times of conflict, and requested the Secretary-General to report on the issue.

Tools to strengthen child protection compliance

In the following years, with the adoption of resolutions and  presidential statements, the Security Council has developed important tools to better protect children and to bring perpetrators into compliance with international standards.

These tools include:

Establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism (MRM) on grave child rights violations

The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism was established following the adoption of Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) to gather timely and reliable information on  six grave violations committed against children in times of armed conflict:

Identifying and naming parties to conflict who commit grave violations against children

In 2001, the Security Council sent a powerful message to the world that the recruitment and use of child soldiers would no longer be tolerated. Resolution 1379 requested the Secretary-General to attach an annex to his report on children and armed conflict, in which he would list parties to conflict who recruit and use children in situations on the Security Council’s agenda. In a significant step, the resolution went further by requesting the Secretary-General to also list parties to conflict in situations that, although not on the Security Council’s agenda, in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with Article 99 of the United Nations Charter.

Subsequent resolutions added four additional triggers for listing: sexual violence, killing and maiming (Resolution 1882 in 2009), attacks on schools and hospitals (Resolution 1998 in 2011)  and abduction of children (Resolution 2225 in 2015).

Action plans
The Security Council indicated that to be removed from the Secretary-General’s annex, par¬ties to conflict named in the report had to engage in dialogue with the UN to develop and fully implement Action Plans.

Action Plans are designed to end and prevent violations against children for which parties to conflict are listed.
For example, an Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by Government security forces can include the following actions:

An action plan is a written, signed commitment between the United Nations and those parties listed as having committed grave violations against children in the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. Each action plan is designed to address a specific party’s situation, and outlines concrete, time-bound steps that lead to compliance with international law, de-listing, as well as a more protected future for children.

Creation of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

Under resolution 1612 (2005), the Security Council established a subsidiary body: the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. The group- currently chaired by Sweden – reviews reports on the situation of children in specific country situations and gives guidance to parties to conflict and the United Nations in how to better protect children.


The readiness of the Security Council to impose sanctions against perpetrators of grave violations developed over time. In resolution 1539 (2004), the Council first expressed its intention to consider imposing targeted and graduated measures against parties to conflict who violate the rights of children. This commitment was reaffirmed in resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009). In that same period, in 2006, the recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence and forced displacements of children were added as specific designation criteria for sanctions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the past few years, grave violations against children have been included as designation criteria in almost all relevant Sanctions Committees pertaining to situations where children are affected by armed conflict. Sanctions against individuals can include arms embargoes, asset freezes, travel bans, and financial or diplomatic restrictions. These Committees have thus become an important forum to pursue accountability against perpetrators of grave violations and the Special Representative is regularly invited to brief members of relevant Committees on the situation of children affected by armed conflict.