posted on Sun 16 Jun 2013 2:55 PM
Children and Armed Conflict Debate

This morning (17 June), the Security Council will have a debate on children and armed conflict to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict (S/2013/245). The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Leila Zerrougui, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Joka Bradt and Under-Secretary General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous are expected to speak. In addition Associate Vice-President, Greg Ramm, from Save the Children, Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), chair of the Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict, and the EU are expected to speak. In addition a number of member states who are in the Secretary-General’s report are expected to speak. (A debate allows only Council members plus interested parties to speak under Rule 37 of the Provisional Rules of the Security Council. This is unlike an open debate where any member of the UN can speak.The open debate format has been used in the past to discuss this issue often attracting wide participation from a range of member states. Last year, besides the 15 members of the Council, 43 other members states and the EU participated. However, this year as it was only decided in late May to have this debate and there were already other open debates scheduled, it seems some Council members argued against adding another open debate.) At press time Council members were still negotiating a presidential statement which may be adopted at the meeting.

The negotiation of the draft presidential statement drafted by Luxembourg, the chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, has been a difficult one. After several rounds of negotiations Luxembourg put out a chair’s proposal on 7 June which was followed by bilateral discussions and another expert level meeting. The draft presidential statement was put under silence on Wednesday night but silence was broken by four countries, leading to Deputy Permanent Representative level negotiations on Friday afternoon at which agreement was reached on most outstanding issues. It seems however that there is still one issue that has not been resolved related to language on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and further negotiations are ongoing.

While many of the issues that were raised during the negotiations were not new, it seems that positions have become even more entrenched for some Council members since resolution 2068 was adopted on 19 September 2012. (Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia, the four countries who appear to have had the most issues with the draft presidential statement, abstained last year on resolution 2068.) The most contentious issues revolved around language related to the mandate of the Special Representative, the Special Representative’s contact with non-state actors, action plans and the ICC. It seems members like Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia were particularly keen to ensure that the importance of state sovereignty, national ownership and territorial integrity was clearly specified.

The issue of communicating with non-state actors appears to have been a particularly sensitive one. It is possible that this issue has become even more controversial now that both the Free Syrian Army and Syrian government forces are on the Secretary-General’s list. Azerbaijan, China Pakistan and Russia apparently wanted language stressing that any contact with non-state parties needed to be made with the consent of the concerned government and at the request of these governments. For some of the other members, however, this would be a restriction that would make it difficult for the Special Representative to carry out her mandate. It seems that the final draft does not include any language on non-state actors except for a reference to the importance of engaging both armed forces and armed groups in peace talks.

The ICC has been a sensitive issue in recent months. During the negotiations on the presidential statement for the meeting on “Prevention of Conflicts in Africa” debate in April, Rwanda objected to any mention of the ICC. In the end “international criminal justice systems” was used as a compromise. It seems in the negotiations on the draft children and armed conflict presidential statement, while some countries, like Argentina and France, were keen to to have language related to the role of the ICC in prosecuting those that violate children, it has been difficult to get agreement, particularly from Rwanda, on how to express the Council’s position on this issue.

It seems there was also difficulty agreeing on language related to child protection advisers and their reporting lines in peacekeeping missions as well as child protection expertise in situations listed in the Secretary-General’s annexes but where there is no peacekeeping mission. There appears to have been some objection to suggesting that child protection expertise should be in the office of the Resident Coordinator in such a situation.

Overall there appears to have been a clear desire from a number of members not to introduce new language or concepts, and a strong preference for language from past resolutions, particularly resolution 1612 (2005) and resolution 2068 (2012). Some members believed it was important to make clear the need to stay within the framework of resolution 1612 as they felt that over the years there has been too wide an interpretation of the Special Representative’s mandate. It seems the final draft text includes language making clear that the Special Representative is carrying out her mandate in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

The draft presidential statement also highlights the Council’s concern over the high number of persistent perpetrators stressing the Council’s commitment to effectively deal with them. It does not however request either the Working Group or the Secretary-General to take any new steps towards addressing this issue.

The draft presidential statement also apparently reiterates the Council’s readiness to adopt targeted sanctions against persistent perpetrators of violations against children. (This is something that has been included in all children and armed conflict resolutions since 2004 but the Council has not shown any real inclination to actually impose sanctions.) It also encourages Sanctions Committees to continue to invite the Special Representative to brief them and for the Special Representative to share information and for an enhanced exchange of pertinent information between the Working Group and relevant Sanctions Committees and their expert groups.

The Special Representative in addressing the Council is likely to focus on some of the information in the Secretary-General’s report. The report covers emerging challenges such as the use of schools, detention of children by security forces and the impact on children of the use of drones in military operations. It also looks at ways of enhancing compliance by armed forces and armed groups and cooperation with regional organisations. Mali has been added to the Secretary-General’s list of parties committing violations against children, while Nepal and Sri Lanka have been taken off.

Nine new groups were listed for recruitment in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Syria and Yemen and six new groups listed for sexual violence in Mali, DRC and Syria. Of the 55 armed groups/ forces listed in the Annexes, nine parties are government forces and 46 are non-state actors. The report also covers action plans and highlights that in 2012, five action plans were signed with government forces. In addition she may also suggest a greater focus on getting the action plans that have been signed implemented.

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