Global Policy Forum

Statement to the Council


Sub-Committee on Children in Armed Conflict

July 25, 2000

We appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you today the important matter of security for children. Resolution 1261 is an important milestone for children; it confirms that security for children is an essential part of international peace, security and development, and therefore a central concern for the Security Council.

The NGOs here today are part of a larger community that is committed to the effective implementation of Resolution 1261. We see ourselves as partners with United Nations agencies and governments that share the responsibility of promoting security for all children. We will continue to work together to provide assistance for children and advocate for better protection of children's rights to peace, security and development opportunities.

We are here today to say that we cannot do our job well unless the Security Council also fulfills its mandate. The growing number of children impacted by armed conflict and the severity of their circumstances call for strong measures to turn Resolution 1261 from words on paper into action. We dare not let children down by failing to do what needs to be done; we will all pay the price in increased insecurity if we do.

The Secretary-General's report before you today will be another step forward for children -- if it is fully implemented. We encourage you to implement its recommendations and urge you to put in place more specific mechanisms and measures of progress to hold all of us accountable for its implementation.

Progress is being made. Important provisions for the protection of children are included in the following:

  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict;
  • International Labour Organization Convention No. 182;
  • Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; and
  • The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

    The Security Council should encourage Member States to ratify and implement these instruments. States ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict should be urged to do so without reservations and setting an age of at least 18 as the minimum age for all forms of recruitment.

    We urge the Council to show leadership within its own mandate by requiring that every report on specific conflict situations prepared for consideration by the Council include specific information on compliance with international standards for the protection of children by all parties to the conflict. Such reports should also be mandated to include specific information on factors that contribute to the violation of the security and rights of children. The Department of Political Affairs, which is often the focal point for preparation of such reports, should include staff with specific responsibility to provide a thorough analysis of threats to children.

    The work of Mr. Olara Otunnu as the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is also appreciated by the NGO community. He is a "Champion for Children." We recommend that the Security Council direct the Secretary-General to coordinate follow-up and ensure that agreements reached are adequately and consistently implemented.

    In addition to these general provisions, we would like to highlight some components of the report and identify additional areas that require further attention.

    Monitoring and Compliance

    NGOs are committed to working with UN agencies such as UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to improve monitoring and reporting of violations, but there must be an equal commitment by this Council for effective action in response to these reports before, during and after a conflict. In addition, NGOs support the report's recommendations that the Security Council consider independent information from the NGO community (recommendation 53). When NGO staff report on violations, often at significant risk, there must be an appropriate response to their reports. If violations have no consequences, public confidence in the rule of law is shattered, and there is less incentive for those who do promote and protect the rights of children in difficult circumstances.

    Monitoring initiatives can also be effective prevention. We recommend that the Security Council ask the Secretary-General to compile a watch list of countries where there is a pattern of violations against children, place these countries on notice, and ensure systematic monitoring and follow-up.

    Political and Economic Action is Required

    Protecting the security of children requires political and economic action, as well as humanitarian assistance. We urge the Security Council to use all the tools within its own mandate, such as targeted sanctions, arms embargoes and travel bans, to stifle the resources and arms available to all armed groups, state and non-state, that violate the security and rights of children (recommendations 8 and 9). We urge Member States to send a consistent message by making diplomatic recognition, financial assistance and military support contingent on compliance with international standards for the protection of children (recommendation 6). To be consistent, we support the report's recommendation that Member States adopt legislative measures to discourage corporate actors within their jurisdiction from engaging in commercial activities that support parties that engage in violations of the rights of children (recommendation 7).

    We recognize that these are strong actions that will require genuine statesmanship and political leadership. In the wake of the report on Rwanda, we believe the international community is looking for such leadership to protect civilians and communities, especially children, from warring parties.

    Include Children in Peacemaking and Peace-keeping

    Specific provisions for child protection, including the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, should be spelled out as a core element of all peacekeeping mandates and explicit provisions in all UN-supported peace agreements (recommendation 35). Peacekeeping forces should receive training in child protection (recommendation 36), and child protection advisors should be provided with a strong, clear mandate. NGOs put a high priority on the need for longer time commitments, adequate resources and community involvement in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process. The Beijing Plus Five meeting highlighted the continuing impact of armed conflict on girls, the need to protect their rights and ensure their needs are met in DDR and assistance programs.

    We hope that the Security Council will strengthen the report's recommendations for the active participation of young people themselves in conflict resolution, peace-making and peace-building programs. As much as possible, crimes against children, including recruitment of child soldiers, should be excluded from amnesty agreements and youth themselves should be involved in efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation (recommendation 39).

    Child-focused Assistance during and after Conflicts

    NGOs accept the report's call for NGOs themselves to improve their focus on children in the provision of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, the Security Council, within its mandate, must do more than insist that all parties in conflict permit access for humanitarian assistance (recommendation 11); it must take pro-active measures to ensure unconditional and unhindered access, in keeping with the provisions of international law. This might include missions by the Security Council to countries where access is denied, including access to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps; stronger diplomatic initiatives by Council members; and a mandate for the Secretary-General to ensure greater coordination and cooperation among UN agencies in the protection and provision of assistance for children.

    More specifically, we urge the Security Council to support recommendations in the report to:

    1. provide education as soon as possible and make it the fourth pillar of humanitarian assistance;
    2. work to prevent recruitment by providing alternatives, especially for adolescents and other particularly susceptible groups;
    3. increase targeted support to adolescents, whose needs are distinct and too often overlooked among children;
    4. recognize the special rights of girls;
    5. include humanitarian exemptions for children in all sanctions and frequently monitor their impact;
    6. train all personnel deployed in times of crisis to respect and promote the rights of children; and
    7. cooperate with regional bodies and sub-regional organizations to protect children.

    The situation of millions of IDPs, more than half of them children, is totally unacceptable; reality demonstrates the inadequacy of leaving their protection to the goodwill of parties in conflict. The recommendations in the report to address this problem need to be strengthened. Sovereign States have primary responsibility for internally displaced persons; with sovereignty comes responsibility under international law. When parties lack the capacity or willingness to fulfill their responsibility, the international community must take action. The Security Council should provide leadership by asking the Secretary-General to bring forward specific proposals for a more effective and comprehensive system to protect IDP rights and provide assistance, especially for children and their care-givers, most of whom are women.

    Culture of Prevention

    In keeping with the Council's earlier call for a "culture of prevention," we propose adding more specific preventive measures. Early-warning systems should include reporting on the security and rights of children, including the price and availability of small arms in conflict-prone situations and lack of systematic military recruitment procedures and safeguards. Attention should also be paid to reported break-downs in services for youth, such as schools and community programs, which leave youth vulnerable to recruitment. Early intervention strategies should be pursued, in the form of diplomatic initiatives, child rights monitoring or investigative missions and visits by the Security Council.

    We recommend the early establishment of inter-agency taskforces on specific situations where conflict or violation of children's rights pose urgent threats. These taskforces would be charged with providing multi-disciplinary analysis of the factors that impact children, as well as identify points of influence and effective strategies for prevention or resolution of conflict. If conflict does break out, these taskforces would be the focal point to ensure that child protection is addressed by inter-agency collaboration. This mechanism would allow the Security Council to benefit from information and strategic advice from civil society organizations -- including NGOs -- which are familiar with the situation, and go to implementation of recommendations 53 and 54. Based on the work of such taskforces, the Security Council, UN agencies and the NGO community should then sustain a strong focus on specific situations until they are resolved.


    NGOs are significant actors in the implementation of Resolution 1261 and any future resolutions adopted by this Council. In addition to providing critical services to meet emergency and long-term needs, many NGOs are committed to advocacy for the rights of children, from the local level to the international level. While we welcome opportunities for collaboration with UN agencies and the Security Council, we also understand our role to be one of monitoring the adequacy and effectiveness of measures taken to protect the rights of children. In keeping with our role, we suggest that this consultation between the Security Council and NGOs involved in working with children in armed conflict become an annual event.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
    International Action Network on Small Arms
    International Rescue Committee
    International Save the Children Alliance
    Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World
    Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children
    World Vision International

    More Information on Special Meetings between NGOs and Security Council Members
    More Information on the Arria Formula


    FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.