posted on Tue 18 Sep 2012 4:42 PM
Children and Armed Conflict Open Debate

Tomorrow (19 September) the Security Council will hold an open debate on children and armed conflict. The new Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, in her first appearance before the Council, will present the Secretary-General’s latest report on the subject (S/2012/261). Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake are also expected to speak. The President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), David Tolbert, will brief on accountability for crimes against children as a member of civil society.

The debate is expected to focus on the issue of the accountability for persistent perpetrators of violations against children in armed conflict. (The Secretary-General’s report defines persistent perpetrators as parties that have been listed in the annexes of the annual report for more than five years.) In early September, Germany—the lead country on this issue—circulated a concept note which highlighted increasing concern over the growing number of persistent perpetrators of violations and abuses committed against children and suggested that the debate could be an opportunity to discuss ways of ensuring accountability for perpetrators.

This afternoon (18 September) a resolution on children and armed conflict was put in blue with the intention of calling a vote on it at the start of the debate tomorrow. Council members have been engaged in intense negotiations on this resolution over the last several days. A draft was first circulated by Germany on Monday 10 September and there have been negotiations at both expert- and political coordinator-level. With Council members’ positions still polarised at the end of last week, a decision was made to move to bilateral negotiations in order to try and resolve the differences.

The first draft text was relatively short. It largely focused on the issue of persistent perpetrators, as well as reinforcing the need for accountability and requesting that the Secretary-General to continue to submit reports. However, it appears that some members were keen to include language related to the mandate of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.

The draft resolution that was put in blue today largely restates agreed language from resolution 1998 (2011), the last resolution on children and armed conflict. While expressing concern about persistent perpetrators, this year’s text calls upon member states to bring to justice those responsible for such violations through national and international justice systems. It also reiterates the Council’s readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators. In terms of follow- up action it invites the Special Representative to brief the Council on the process of removal of parties to conflict from the Annexes to the Secretary-General’s annual report and reiterates its call to the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to consider a range of options for increasing pressure on persistent perpetrators.

Several Council members had been expecting difficult negotiations but the continuing polarisation of positions seems to have made it particularly difficult to agree on the substance of the resolution. Many of the positions are not new, having come up during the negotiations of resolution 1998 in July last year, but since then positions appear to have become further entrenched. Some members, notably Azerbaijan, India and Pakistan, have voiced strong views about what they see as “mandate creep” and inequality in the treatment of situations in the Secretary-General’s report, while Colombia continues to have concerns about language related to targeted sanctions.

Since the first open debate on children and armed conflict in the Security Council in 1999, resolutions on the issue have always been adopted unanimously. This year though, it seems that Council members are not discounting the prospect of some members abstaining or voting against the resolution because of their ongoing concerns about the text.

Tomorrow’s open debate, scheduled to start in the morning, is likely to resume in the afternoon session and run throughout the day. During last year’s meeting some 60 states from the membership at large made statements and a similar number is expected on Wednesday.

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