Visit of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to Somalia
New York, 31 October 2019 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, commends the commitment and engagement of the Federal Government of Somalia to speed up the implementation of the action plans signed with the United Nations in 2012 to end and prevent the recruitment and use and the killing and maiming of children, including through the Roadmap that she signed together with the Minister of Defense during her recent trip. She called for increased prevention and recovery measures for all boys and girls.
“The situation of children affected by armed conflict in Somalia is ruthless. Of all situations on the children and armed conflict agenda, Somalia has the highest total number of grave violations against children, mostly committed by Al-Shabaab. The recruitment and use of children as well as abduction and sexual violence are particularly alarming. In this context, the Government’s commitment is a welcome step to ensure that all the necessary protection and prevention measures are put in place to halt and prevent these violations, including by their forces,” said the Special Representative following a three-day visit to Somalia.
She also launched together with the Minister of Defense, the Peace Building Fund project supporting the prevention of child recruitment and the identification, separation and community-based reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups across all Federal Member States.
Ms. Gamba encouraged the ongoing efforts made by the Government as she met with the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Defense, Women and Human Rights, Justice and Education, the State Minister of Internal Security and the Police Commissioner. She called upon the rapid finalization of the draft Child Rights Act that should criminalize all six grave violations; universal birth registration; and support for the passing of the Sexual Offenses Bill by Parliament. She also promoted the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) in the context of the 20th anniversary in 2020. Furthermore, she exhorted the authorities to end the detention of children for their alleged association with Al-Shabaab in line with the 2014 Standard Operating Procedures on the handover of children to child protection actors and the Paris Principles endorsed by Somalia. She stressed the importance for more community-based services for released children.
The Special Representative remains concerned about the high and rising levels of grave violations against children, including by forces of the federal government and of some of the federal member states. She stressed the utmost importance of solid screening mechanisms in the process of the integration into the Somali National Army of regional forces as well as Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, an armed group listed in the annexes of the Secretary General’s annual report on children and armed conflict for the recruitment and use of children.
Ms. Gamba also undertook a visit to Baidoa, Southwest State, to assess first-hand the harsh reality of boys and girls affected by conflict and engage with the regional authorities. She welcomed efforts of Southwest State authorities and was impressed by the work of child protection actors in a state that is -significantly affected by child recruitment and a population displacement largely caused by the threat of forced recruitment and abduction by Al-Shabaab. She also commended the partners supporting the monitoring in IDP camps and the rehabilitation of children formerly associated with Al-Shabaab.
The Special Representative hailed the support of international partners to the protection of children affected by the conflict in Somalia, including through the creation of a Group of Friends hosted by Denmark and UNICEF. She urged the donor community to continue and expand their support to child protection activities and programming in Somalia, particularly reintegration programmes as part of the necessary rehabilitation process for children victims of grave violations.
The Special Representative praised the extraordinary work of UNICEF, UNSOM, UNHCR and others who operate in Somalia to provide better protection to children, under tremendously challenging conditions.
For additional information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-212-963-5986 (office) / +1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / firstname.lastname@example.org