Annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy (A/HRC/15/58)
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
1. The present report, covering the period May 2009 to May 2010, is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 51/77 and other subsequent resolutions of the Assembly on the rights of the child, including its most recent resolution 64/146, in which the Assembly requested the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict to continue to submit a report to the Human Rights Council on the activities undertaken in discharging her mandate, including information on her field visits and on the progress achieved, and challenges remaining on the children and armed conflict agenda.
2. Over the past 60 years, the nations of the world have developed a truly impressive body of international humanitarian and human rights instruments. This is a year of milestones for international instruments that provide for the protection of children in situations of armed conflicts - it is the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions; and last year, we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, on the 25th of May 2010, we also marked the passing of a decade since the adoption of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The two protocols, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) respectively, now benefit from a wide moral consensus among the international community, with 132 countries having ratified OPAC and 135 countries OPSC. However, the aspirations of these protocols are still being flouted with impunity, blighting the future of children, both in peace and in war.
3. Children affected by armed conflict is an issue which is of prime importance, both as a threat to international peace and security and also as a human rights concern, which never ceases to shock and horrify. Their suffering bears many faces in the midst of armed conflict and its aftermath. Appalling numbers of children are being killed and maimed, while many more are left orphans. Thousands are raped, sexually abused and left profoundly traumatized. Children are compelled to bear arms as child soldiers, act as spies, suicide bombers, human shields, or become sexual slaves by armed forces or groups. They are disproportionately affected by displacement and forced to flee their homes to ensure their survival. They are deprived of education, health care and access to justice mechanisms.
4. The international community must be seen to be responding, as a matter of priority, to mitigate the impact of conflict on children, to ensure the enforcement of international norms and standards and to end the impunity of violating parties. The Human Rights Council should consider it a primary duty to guarantee the protection of civilians, including children, during armed conflict, and the vindication of human rights. As the main United Nations body monitoring and protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, the Council should continue to make the protection, rights and well-being of children affected by armed conflict a central concern throughout its work.
5. The Special Representative welcomes the adoption by the Human Rights Council of its resolution 13/20 on the rights of the child and the fight against sexual violence against children, and its condemnation in the strongest terms of rape and other forms of sexual violence committed against children in armed conflict. The Special Representative also appreciates the call by the Human Rights Council in resolution 13/20, echoing Security Council resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009), to all parties to armed conflict who perpetrate these violations to undertake commitments, as well as to prepare and implement concrete and effective time-bound action plans, to end such abuses. The Special Representative wishes to express appreciation to the Uruguayan and Spanish delegations for their active role in this process.
6. The Special Representative welcomes the decision of the Human Rights Council to begin preparation of a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure. Given that the Convention has achieved almost universal ratification yet remains the only treaty without a communications procedure, this decision is a momentous one to further strengthen and secure the rights of children equally in all settings and circumstances. Where national systems fail to address and redress child rights violations, and all domestic remedies have been exhausted, child victims of violations should be given the opportunity to seek assistance at the international level. The Special Representative looks forward to participating in the forthcoming negotiations.
7. The Special Representative also wishes to extend her appreciation for the invitation to attend the annual meeting of special rapporteurs, representatives, independent experts and chairpersons of working groups of June 2010, and hopes to maintain a close relationship with the special procedures.