A Decade of Action Plans to Protect Children Affected by Armed Conflict

Ten years ago, on 22 April 2004, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1539, which called on all parties listed for recruitment and use of children in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict to “prepare […] concrete, time-bound action plans to halt recruitment and use of children […], in close collaboration with United Nations peacekeeping missions and United Nations country teams”.

The Council also requested the development of “a systematic and comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism […] to provide timely, objective, accurate and reliable information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers […]and on other violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict”.

Both the Monitoring and reporting mechanism and the action plans were to be crystallized a year later by the adoption of resolution 1612, but, as Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative for Children and armed conflict described it at the time, we had entered the “Era of application”.

Ten years later, 20 action plans with 23 listed parties to conflict (Governments and non-state actors) have been signed with the United Nations. Parties in Sri Lanka, Côte d’ivoire, Uganda and Nepal have completed the requirements of their action plans and were removed from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report.

Children, Not Soldiers campaign

Currently, eight government security forces are listed for the recruitment and use of children in conflict. In the past three years, six of those countries have signed action plans with the United Nations: Afghanistan and Chad in 2011, followed by South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. Both Yemen and Sudan have expressed their commitment to child-free security forces, and dialogue with the United Nations is ongoing.

The campaign Children, Not Soldiers, launched in March, aims to galvanize support from the entire UN system and the international community to help these countries sign (in the cases of Yemen and Sudan) and fully implement their action plans by 2016.

Action plans have also been an essential tool to engage with non-state actors. To date, the majority of listed parties who have fulfilled the requirements of their action plans are non-state actors.

On May 2nd, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Permanent mission of France to the United Nations organized a discussion to assess the progress and opportunities for action plans. The conversation featured Junior Nzita Nsuami, a former child soldier from DR Congo and goodwill ambassador for the implementation of the action plan in Congo.

To watch the event, click here: A Decade of Action Plan