World

Child Rights Violations in Conflict Continued Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic, as 2021 Marked 25 Years of CAAC Mandate

Almost two years into the pandemic, children living in conflict settings continued to see their vulnerability to grave violations exacerbated by political instability, security challenges, the climate emergency, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and related responses, highlights the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in her annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report covers the period between December 2020 and December 2021.

The report sheds the light on the devastating impact war has had on the mental health and wellbeing of millions of boys and girls around the world and emphasizes the importance of long-term and sustainable funding for mental health and psychosocial programming in humanitarian contexts. Supporting the mental health of children facing conflict is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children whose lives have been shattered by conflict must not be overlooked in the development of COVID-19 response programmes. There is an opportunity to place conflict-affected children at the heart of our recovery plans. I call on Member States to redouble efforts to ensure that child protection services, including mental health and psychosocial support for children, are safeguarded and enhanced in the world we are rebuilding,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. She reminded that the sustainable reintegration of children who have been used by armed groups and forces remains crucial to ensuring sustainable peace and security and to breaking cycles of violence. “I call on Member States to provide sustainable political, technical, and financial support for the reintegration of children released from parties to conflict,” Special Representative Gamba added.

The report further emphasizes the unique challenges facing children with disabilities in conflict settings when infrastructure is destroyed, and services and systems are compromised or made inaccessible because of conflict. Attacks on schools and hospitals, which provide essential services and safe spaces for these and other children, are egregious violations against children in this context. The Special Representative stressed the need to have a closer look at the issue of children with disabilities and armed conflict, in collaboration with other UN partners working on the issue.

Challenges and Progress for Children

The report underlines that the pandemic has further challenged the monitoring and verification of grave violations, as detailed in a study on the impact of the pandemic on conflict-affected children published by the Office of the Special Representative in April 2021. The Office will undertake in 2022 a follow-up study on the medium- to long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on violations against children affected by conflict.

Furthermore, the report underscores child protection concerns raised by terrorism and counterterrorism measures. The Special Representative reminds all Member States that children encountered in security operations should be treated as primarily as victims in line with the best interest of the child, and that their detention should always be a measure of last resort, for the shortest time possible and guided by international juvenile justice standards, and alternatives to detention should be actively sought.

As international and regional organizations are increasing their engagement on climate security, the report also underlines the importance of considering the specific needs of conflict-affected children in those discussions. As such, the Special Representative will encourage research on the nexus between climate change and grave violations against children in conflict-affected countries.

Despite the challenges posed by political, security, environmental, and global health issues, the Special Representative’s engagement with parties to conflict, Member States, regional organizations, human rights bodies and mechanisms, UN partners, and civil society organizations continued to deliver positive results for conflict-affected children. In Mali, new action plans were signed with the Platforme addressing child recruitment and use and other grave violations. In the Philippines, the Government adopted, in June 2021 a strategic plan focusing on the prevention of violations against children by the armed forces, the first national plan to realize the prevention aspects of Security Council resolution 2427. Worldwide, thousands of children were released from armed forces and groups following UN advocacy, including in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She further welcomes national and international efforts to achieve accountability for perpetrators and encourages Member States and donors to enhance support to national justice systems in conflict and post-conflict situations by providing sufficient resources and technical capacity for investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of grave violations against children.

25 Years of Work for Conflict-Affected Children

2021 also marked 25 years since the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 55/71, which created the mandate of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. To provide an in-depth account of the evolution of the mandate since its inception, the Office of the Special Representative recently published a study developed through a consultative process with Member States, United Nations partners and civil society organizations. Children’s voices, at the heart of the CAAC mandate, have also been included through focus group discussions and consultations. The Study on the evolution of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate 1996-2021 was published earlier this month and launched during a high-level event. It provides an in-depth view of 25 years’ of work for conflict-affected children, as well as some recommendations on the way forward.

“By suggesting some collective recommendations to inspire the next 25 years, the study offers a way forward in which we can increase our engagement for children in situations of armed conflict to ensure their better protection,” added Virginia Gamba. “As we continue to improve our efforts for conflict-children, I encourage all partners – Member States, UN entities, Civil Society Organizations, Regional and subregional Organizations – to join us and ensure we commit the necessary resources and actions to pave the way for a safer future for children affected by conflict in the years to come.”

Click to read the full report

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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) / vinet@un.org

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