The Security Council today demanded that parties to armed conflict which commit grave abuses against children, including those who recruit and use children, kill and maim, commit sexual violence or attack schools and hospitals, immediately halt such practices and take special measures to protect children.
At its meeting on the issue of children and armed conflict, the Council also expressed deep concern that certain perpetrators “persist in committing violations and abuses against children in situations of armed conflict in open disregard of its resolutions on the matter,” in a resolution adopted by a vote of 11 in favour with four abstentions. The Council members which abstained were Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict, released in June, named 52 parties on its ‘list of shame’ of those who recruit and use children, kill and maim, commit sexual violence or attack schools and hospitals. It included four new parties in Sudan, Yemen and Syria.
At the same time, since last September, five new action plans to halt and prevent the recruitment and use of children were signed, between the UN and parties in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia and Myanmar. Also, Somalia’s then-transitional authorities last month became the first party to sign an action plan to prevent the killing and maiming of children by its national forces.
“There has been tremendous progress, more than we have seen in previous years,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, told the Council.
“However, violations continue to be committed against children, the number of persistent perpetrators has increased, and many new challenges have arisen,” she added.
Ms. Zerrougui, who took up her post earlier this month after serving for four years with the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said the situations in Libya, Syria and Mali pose new threats for children which the Council, along with her office and its partners, must address.
“The situation for children in Syria is dire,” she said, noting that there are documented attacks on schools, of children denied access to hospitals, and of children being subjected to torture, including sexual violence.
In Libya, the localized violence and continued presence of so-called armed brigades threaten the lives of children long after the generalized violence of 2011 has come to an end, the Special Representative said. “It remains of concern that incidents of association of children with armed groups are still being reported,” she noted.
The crisis that engulfed Mali this year has been characterized, she said, by “grave” violations against children, including recruitment and use by armed groups and sexual violence. She also highlighted the heavy toll on children of the resurgence of violence in eastern DRC, and the conflict along the border between Sudan and South Sudan.
Ms. Zerrougui stressed that accountability is an integral element both to address and prevent violations against children. “Though imperfect, the preventive aspect of accountability is real,” she said, adding that this must begin with the criminalization of under-age recruitment
Addressing the same gathering, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, noted that the UN’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are uniquely placed to contribute to the protection of children affected by conflict.
“They provide a common platform that combines political, justice, human rights, gender, child protection and other civilian expertise with military, police and corrections experts and myriad logistic and operational capabilities,” he said in his remarks to the debate, which is expected to hear from over 50 speakers.
He added that the deployment of Child Protection Advisers to peacekeeping operations has enabled the UN to harness all its capacities and to leverage its political, security and civilian assets to better protect children.
These advisers support the heads of missions in integrating the UN’s child protection concerns at all stages of the peace process, as well as work closely with civilian components of the missions to ensure a child-sensitive approach to their work. The peacekeeping chief added that military peacekeepers play an important role in protecting children from violations.