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Children and Armed Conflict and HRC55

Updated: Mar 11

This post summarizes (and reorganizes) information from the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba [A/HRC/55/57], to be presented to the Human Rights Council's 55th session on 13 March. It organizes the SRSG's activities by thematic area or country concerned. Other child-related activities in the current HRC session are noted briefly as well.


Key topics below

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  1. Upcoming HRC dialogue on annual report of SRSG CAAC (13 March 2024).

  2. Inputs to UPRs.

  1. Attacks on schools, hospitals and related personnel.

  2. Denial of humanitarian access.

  3. Children's detention for their actual or alleged association with armed groups.

  1. Children with disabilities

  2. Climate insecurity

  3. Trafficking in children and the six grave violations

  4. Denial of humanitarian access

  5. Conflict-related sexual violence against boys

  6. Child rights mainstreaming

  7. Agenda for protection

Activities by country [1,768 words]

  1. Africa: Burkina Faso, Cameroun, CAR, Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and Mali.

  2. Asia: Afghanistan, Iraq, OPT and Israel, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen.

  3. Eastern Europe: Ukraine.

  4. Latin America: Colombia.

  1. Dialogue on reports of the Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children, including visits to the Philippines and Uruguay.

  2. Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders on report focused on children and youth human rights defenders.

  3. Dialogue with SRSG on violence against children.

  4. Panel discussion and resolution on children's rights, focusing on inclusive social protection.

  5. Panel discussion and report on child rights mainstreaming (noting information related to armed conflict).

 


Act to protect children affected by conflict
Act to protect children affected by conflict / Image from the website of the SRSG on CAAC

Geneva-based activities [97 words]

  1. On 13 March 2024, the Human Rights Council will hold a dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba, on her annual report detailing her activities [A/HRC/55/57].

  2. The SRSG provided inputs for the Universal Periodic Reviews of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Nigeria and Yemen. (as noted in the country-specific section below). The SRSG's inputs are sometimes noted in the UN compilation alongside other UN actors addressing child recruitment, such as the ILO and the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

Trends of continued concern [256 words]

  1. Attacks on schools, hospitals and related personnel in the last year were mainly perpetrated by government forces, often linked to the increasing use of air strikes and explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. In addition to the high number of such attacks, the military use of schools has increased. Girls’ education has frequently been targeted because of harmful gender norms, including attacks on girls’ schools and the abduction of girls [A/HRC/55/57, para 19].

  2. Denial of humanitarian access has continued at an alarmingly high level, with government forces as the main perpetrators [A/HRC/55/57, para 20].

  3. Children's detention for their actual or alleged association with armed groups or for national security reasons has continued in large numbers. The SRSG noted that effective reintegration of children who are allegedly associated with these armed groups must be the primary response. In circumstances where children are accused of a crime, any legal process should be conducted in compliance with due process, fair trial standards and international juvenile justice standards. Accordingly, the detention of children should always be a measure of last resort, for the shortest time possible and guided by the best interests of the child. In any circumstances, children should be treated primarily as the victims of violations of international law, in line with Security Council resolution 2427 (2018), the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (Paris Principles), the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international human rights law and international humanitarian law instruments and standards [A/HRC/55/57, para 21-23].

Activities by thematic area [682 words]

  1. In December 2023, the SRSG published a study on the impact of armed conflict on children with disabilities, following up on details in her previous annual report [A/HRC/49/58, paras 23-29]. Three companion reports will be produced to focus on Colombia, the DRC and Iraq. She provided a detailed summary of the study in her latest annual report [A/HRC/55/57, paras 24-28], concluding with recommendations to increase data collection; consult with persons with disabilities, including children; raise awareness and provide capacity-building on disability inclusion and the rights of persons with disabilities, including but not limited to military personnel and UN child protection staff. The SRSG also contributed to the report of the Special Rapporteur on persons with disabilities addressing peacebuilding and the inclusion of persons with disabilities [A/78/174, paras 37-38].

  2. In November 2023, the SRSG published a discussion paper exploring the impacts of climate insecurity on the six grave violations against children, following up on details in her previous annual report [A/HRC/49/58, paras 34-36]. She focused on specific contexts such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Myanmar, the Philippines, Somalia, and Syria, demonstrating the impact of conflict-related stressors on recruitment, reintegration, access to humanitarian aid, education and gender-based violations. She provided a detailed summary of the discussion paper in her latest annual report [A/HRC/55/57, paras 29-35], concluding with recommendations to strengthen coordination between UN workstreams on CAAC and climate, peace and security, particularly at the field level, and better integrating child-centered risk assessments across the system.

  3. In October 2023, the SRSG started work on a study on the linkages between trafficking in children and the six grave violations against children in armed conflict, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking. It may be worth to recall a study by UNODC from 2018, which focused on trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict. In addition, human rights experts noted that child trafficking is closely linked to the grave violations against children in armed conflict, including the recruitment and use of children abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals, and sexual violence. However, child victims of trafficking in conflict situations rarely receive the assistance, protection, and rehabilitative care that is their right. Denial of humanitarian assistance increases gaps in protection.

  4. Also in October 2023, the SRSG began the development of a guidance note on the denial of humanitarian access (DHA), in collaboration with the Department of Peace Operations, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and UNICEF and in consultation with OCHA and other stakeholders. The guidance note is expected to be a reference tool for Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs) and their partners that provides advice and guidance to support, improve and standardize the documentation and enhance the response to the DHA to children in armed conflict. It may be worth to recall a publication on the same topic by the organization Watchlist on CAAC from 2022.

  5. In December 2022, the SRSG released two briefing papers related to conflict-related sexual violence against boys. One focused on responding to CRSV against boys deprived of their liberty and the other on responding to CRSV against boys associated with armed forces and armed groups in reintegration programs.

  6. The SRSG participated in the development of the Secretary-General's guidance note on child rights mainstreaming, published in July 2023. For more CAAC-related information, see notes from OHCHR's report on the topic in the last paragraph in this post.

  7. The SRSG also contributed to the development of the Agenda for Protection, adopted in November 2023. The Secretary-General stated at the opening of the present Human Rights Council session on 26 February 2024:

"States have the primary responsibility to protect and promote human rights. To support states in meeting their obligations, I am launching a system-wide United Nations Agenda for Protection, together with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Under this Agenda, the United Nations, across the full spectrum of our work, will act as one to prevent human rights violations, and to identify and respond to them when they take place. That is the Protection Pledge of all United Nations bodies: to do their utmost to protect people."


Activities by country [1,768 words]

Africa

Burkina Faso

Cameroun

Central African Republic (CAR)

Chad

Ethiopia

Nigeria

Somalia

Mali

Asia-Pacific


Afghanistan

Iraq

Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel

Myanmar

Syria

Yemen


Eastern Europe

Ukraine

  • The SRSG expressed concern about attacks on schools, hospitals and related personnel in Ukraine [A/HRC/55/57, para 19].

  • The SRSG noted that the Government appointed a focal point on children and armed conflict and established an inter-ministerial working group comprising all line ministries and other government entities. During the Special Representative’s visit to Ukraine in May 2023, the Government made a commitment to develop, with the United Nations, a plan to prevent grave violations against children in armed conflict. The plan was signed on 18 August 2023 and implementation is ongoing. During the Special Representative’s visit to the Russian Federation in May 2023, the Government discussed with her practical measures to protect children as set out in paragraph 340 of the most recent annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups have been listed under section B of annex II to the same report for attacks on schools and hospitals and the killing of children [A/HRC/55/57, para 16].


Latin America and Caribbean

Colombia


Other Child-related activities in HRC55 [408 words]

  1. On 5 March 2024, the Human Rights Council will hold a dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material. She will present a report on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the entertainment industry, as well as reports on her visit to the Philippines (with reference to armed conflict in para 11) and her visit to Uruguay.

  2. On 12 March 2024, the HRC will hold a dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. She will present her report, focused on child and youth human rights defenders.

  3. On the same day, the HRC will hold a dialogue with the SRSG on violence against children. She will present her annual report.

  4. On 14 March 2024, the HRC will hold a panel discussion on inclusive social protection  (see concept note). The HRC is also expected to adopt a draft resolution on the topic on 4-5 April 2024 (led by the EU and GRULAC).

  5. Also on 14 March, the HRC will hold a panel discussion on child rights mainstreaming in the UN (see concept note). This includes the context of peace and security. OHCHR published a report on the topic (A/HRC/55/36). It notes that UN human rights and accountability mechanisms, including Commissions of Inquiry, should systematically consider children in their work [para 24]. In addition, OHCHR actively engages with UN country teams under the thematic areas of the Call to Action for Human Rights, including protecting children’s rights in times of crisis [para 28]. OHCHR also supports the UN in integrating a children’s rights-based approach into its protection interventions in situations of conflict, monitoring and reporting on violations and abuses against children, supporting access to justice for children who are victims and supporting the participation of children in peacebuilding processes [para 29]. Examples include [para 58]: > The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, in its report of March 2023 [paras. 38–41, 112 and 113], highlighted the impact of the conflict on children and formulated recommendations to address violations of children’s rights. > For the OHCHR Sri Lanka accountability project, a key priority area for further investigation is the violation of children’s rights, including the recruitment and use of children in hostilities. > The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine identified in its report of March 2023 [paras 95-102] violations of children’s rights, specifically forced transfers and deportations of children.

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