Statement by the Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, H.E Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, on the mission of the Working Group to the Sudan, 26-29 November 2017.
Upon the invitation of the Government of the Republic of the Sudan, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict visited Sudan from 26 to 29 November 2017. The delegation was led by the Chair of the Working Group, H.E. Olof Skoog Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations and was composed of the following nine Security Council Members: Egypt, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.
During the very constructive mission, the delegation visited Khartoum as well as El Fasher in North Darfur from where the delegation also undertook a visit to the IDP gathering site in Sortony.
The delegation met with senior government officials, including with the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Social Justice, the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW), the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (DDR Commission) and the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), as well as with the Minister of Social Welfare of North Darfur and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Commander in North Darfur. The group also had the opportunity to engage with the Co-Chairs of the United Nations Country Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) – RC/HC, UNAMID and UNICEF – as well as with the UN Country Team, NGOs working in the protection sector, and the international community, and applauds their important life-saving work on the ground.
In the meetings with women, children and community members in Sortony, the delegation had the chance to listen to the concerns of the community first-hand and understand the immense challenges displaced persons, particularly children, face in Sudan. The delegation also heard from protection partners about programmes to improve the situation.
The Chair also met with four children formerly associated with armed groups and discussed their hopes and concerns. The Chair encourages the Government and the United Nations to ensure that these children are fully reintegrated.
Established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed conflict has a mandate to review the reports of the UN Secretary-General and other pertinent information concerning grave violations against children affected by armed conflict around the world and to make recommendations to Governments and other parties to armed conflict with regard to such violations.
In line with its mandate, the Security Council Working Group undertook the visit to Sudan with the following objectives:
Advocate on the basis of the Security Council Working Group Conclusions on Children and Armed Conflict in Sudan, adopted in 2017 (S/AC.51/2017/3);Assess progress and challenges in the implementation of the Action Plans signed by the parties to conflict in Sudan, including the Action Plan signed by the Government of Sudan with the UN;Gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the CTFMR in the implementation of the UN Security Council mandate on children and armed conflict in Sudan;Gain first-hand insights, including through a field visit, of the impact of the conflict on children and the role the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict can play in addressing the situation.
The delegation was encouraged by the strong commitment of the Government to the Action Plan signed with the UN in March 2016 and the actions taken so far in cooperation with the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, including the important work carried out by the High-Level Committee chaired by the State Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Technical Committee, chaired by the Secretary General of NCCW. The delegation commended the measures taken to ensure that no children are recruited within the armed forces, and the access provided to the UN for monitoring and verification, including to military bases, training facilities and recruitment units. Furthermore, the delegation was very pleased by the commitment of the Government to continue and institutionalize the measures established under the Action Plan to prevent any recruitment of children into its forces.
The delegation stressed that SAF should continue to pave the way for all security forces to prevent recruitment and use of children among its forces, especially in supporting the establishment of Child Protection Units in all of the security forces (PDF, RSF and NISS) as well as institutionalizing command orders and trainings on Child Protection in all security forces.
The delegation encouraged the continued implementation of the Action Plan in a concerted effort by all relevant institutions to institutionalise the gains made so far, including by adopting clear standard operating procedures for the release and handover of children associated with armed groups to civilian child protection actors, strengthening age verification mechanisms, establishing a complaint mechanism and designing a national awareness campaign. The Ministry of Social Welfare and the DDR Commission have crucial roles to play in developing these initiatives, in particular the standard operating procedures.
The delegation also discussed the other grave violations against children affected by conflict, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abduction, and denial of humanitarian access. The delegation noted that reported violations had gone down due to continuous ceasefires in the conflict affected areas but raised the importance of preventative measures with regards to killing and maiming of children, as well as sexual violence against children, including by ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice and end impunity for violations against children. In this regard the delegation also noted the crucial role played by Family and Child Protection Units in conflict-affected states as part of a wider effort to hold perpetrators accountable for child rights violations and assistance to child victims. The delegation also pressed for continued efforts to ensure compliance with International Humanitarian Law and strengthen conduct and discipline to prevent future violations against children. The delegation was heartened by statements by government officials that all Sudanese should have access to humanitarian access regardless of whether the areas they live are under government control or not. The delegation was encouraged by the improved humanitarian access and urged the Government to continue to provide humanitarian access for the UN and partners to all children affected by armed conflict.
The delegation also stressed the importance of treating all children primarily as victims and further stressed the need to continue developing rehabilitation and reintegration programmes.
In addition, the delegation was also encouraged by the current engagement of the CTFMR with other armed groups listed in the Secretary General's report, in particular the progress on the Action Plans with SPLM/N, the SLA/MM, and JEM. The delegation also encouraged the non-state armed groups to end and prevent all violations against children, including the recruitment and use of children, and to allow humanitarian access.
The delegation also encouraged international financial institutions and donors to provide support to programmes and initiatives aimed at protecting children affected by armed conflict in Sudan.
The delegation welcomed the formation of a Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict in Khartoum and encouraged the Group of Friends to follow up on the delegation's visit.
The Security Council Working Group looks forward to continue its engagement with Sudan.