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U.N. Enters “Era of Application” in its Campaign Against Child Soldiers

by Rhea Myerscough

Introduction

On July 26, 2005, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1612, the sixth in a series of resolutions pertaining to children and armed conflict. Resolution 1612 establishes the first comprehensive monitoring and reporting system to enforce compliance among those groups using children in situations of armed conflict.

In 2002, Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special report on children and armed conflict (S/2002/1299) listed 23 groups in five countries that were recruiting or using child soldiers. The most recent special report by the secretary general (S/2005/72), issued on Feb. 9, 2005, names 54 groups in 11 different countries that currently recruit or use child soldiers demonstrating, as is noted in the text of Resolution 1612, a “lack of overall progress on the ground,” towards eradicating the use of child soldiers.

The monitoring and reporting system outlined in the resolution is an essential first step towards taking action against groups that continue to use children in armed conflict. In his address to the Security Council regarding Resolution 1612, Olara A. Otunnu, then UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, commented that the resolution, “marks a turning point in our collective campaign for the ‘era of application’ - - for transforming protective standards into compliance, and condemnation into accountability.”

         

From 1261 to 1612: A Brief History of UN Action on Children and Armed Conflict

 

UN Security Council Resolutions:

Children and Armed Conflict

1261

Aug. 25, 1999

1314

Aug. 11, 2000

1379

Nov. 20, 2001

1460

Jan. 30, 2003

1539

April 22, 2004

1612

July 26, 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since 1999, the UN Security Council has issued six resolutions on children and armed conflict.

The first, Resolution 1261, served to clearly identify the issue of children and armed conflict as a global priority, to be addressed by the Security Council rather than by regional or national entities.

Three main recommendations, introduced in Resolution 1261, have evolved throughout the entire series of resolutions: protecting children (especially girls) from sexual abuse during armed conflict; recognizing the linkages between small arms proliferation and the continuation of armed conflict (later resolutions also link the illicit trade in natural resources to this issue); and including children in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs as well as peace processes.

Subsequent resolutions introduced additional recommendations.  For example, Resolution 1314 recommended paying special attention to the protection of refugees and displaced persons, who are overwhelmingly women and children, as well as introducing provisions for children’s protection into UN peacekeeping mandates.

Resolution 1379 recommended that the secretary general begin a “naming and shaming” list of groups accused of using child soldiers in an Annex to his special report, a practice that has continued in all subsequent special reports.

The groundwork for Resolution 1612 was ultimately laid down in the text of Resolution 1539, which expressed deep concern over the lack of progress on eradicating the use of child soldiers despite four prior resolutions, and requested the secretary general to “devise urgently” a comprehensive and systematic monitoring and reporting system.

 

Implementing Resolution 1612

 Resolution 1612 requires the groups cited by the secretary general for continued use of child soldiers to immediately create and implement concrete, time-bound action plans for ending these violations.  All UN peacekeeping missions and country teams have been immediately charged with assisting these groups in creating the action plans.

According to the Office of the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG/CAAC), the monitoring and reporting task force will be comprised of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and key non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  The task forces will employ UN country teams and peacekeeping operations, as well as international child protection NGOs, local NGOs and civil society actors, and local government authorities and institutions to document all incidences of the killing or maiming of children, recruiting or using child soldiers, attacks against schools or hospitals, rape or other sexual violence against children, abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access for children.

The first phase of task forces will cover the DRC, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire and, according to Alec Wargo OSRSG/CAAC, Sri Lanka and Nepal may also be added, due to initiatives by other UN entities to collect information in these countries.  A joint guidance note from OSRSG/CAAC, the Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Operations (USG-DPKO) Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and the UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervi? will be sent out shortly with formal instructions to the task forces.

The task forces will then report their findings to a working group, also created by Resolution 1612 and representing all 15 members of the Security Council.  The working groups will be able to recommend punitive measures against groups who the task forces deem to have made little or no progress in reducing their abuses of children during armed conflict.  These recommendations will be made to the Security Council and the UN General Assembly, national governments, regional organizations, the Commission on Human Rights, and the International Criminal Court, as well as other relevant bodies.

Sanctions may include travel restrictions on leaders, exclusion of leaders from governance structures and amnesty provisions, arms embargoes, bans on military assistance, and restrictions on financial resources.

 

Conclusion: Will They Or Won’t They?

Although the monitoring and reporting mechanism is theoretically sound, the real question is whether or not the United Nations will succeed in making good on its threats.

Some groups see the launching of the monitoring and reporting system as yet another way for the United Nations to sidestep taking direct action against offending parties.  After all, sanctions have been recommended in previous resolutions (1379, 1460 and 1539), but the United Nations has yet to issue sanctions against any group for their use of child soldiers.

Another concern, according to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, is that no extra resources had been allocated for the implementation of Resolution 1612 at the time of its passing, which was six months later than originally intended.

Only if the Security Council takes action on the information it receives from the task forces will the mechanism truly succeed in achieving compliance.  However, as the task forces are charged with documenting in great detail the most egregious abuses of children during armed conflict, and as the information is to be channeled directly to the Security Council, hopes are high for action to be forthcoming.

An independent review of the implementation of Resolution 1612 is to be completed (most likely by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, although that is not yet confirmed) and reported to the Security Council by July 31, 2006 at which time, a more informed assessment can be made as to UN progress in halting the use of child soldiers worldwide.

 

For Further Information:

For a useful flow chart of the proposed monitoring and reporting process, see page 29 of the secretary general’s special report on Children and Armed Conflict, S/2005/72

UN Press Release, Security Council Resolution 1612

Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict

The goal of the Straus Military Reform Project is to secure far more effective military forces and much more ethical and professional military and civilian leadership at significantly lower budget levels.

We would like to thank Philip A. Straus Jr. and family for their generous support.

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