Protecting children from the effects of armed conflict is a moral imperative, a legal responsibility and a question of international peace and security.
The Security Council has resolved that the protection of children from armed conflict is an important aspect of any comprehensive strategy to resolve conflict, and should be a priority for the international community.
The General Assembly and other UN bodies have repeatedly called for special protection afforded to children by all parties to conflict.
Identifying the Most Serious Violations of Children’s Rights in times of Armed Conflict
The Secretary-General identified six grave violations against during armed conflict, based on their suitability for monitoring and verification, their egregious nature and the severity of their consequences on the lives of children. The legal basis for these violations lies in relevant international law, which in turn encompasses international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international criminal law. During armed conflict, international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be respected, with special regard to children who often have no means to defend themselves against abuses. The full range of children’s rights, economic, social and cultural as well as political and civil, must be respected, protected and fulfilled.
The Security Council’s resolutions provided the UN with tools to effectively address grave violations against children during armed conflict, including: the Secretary General’s global annual report on Children and Armed Conflict; the listing of parties to conflict responsible for recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming of children, sexual violence against children, and attacks on schools, hospitals and protected persons; the establishment of country-specific Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms (MRM)6 on grave violations against children during armed conflict; the creation of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict ( SCWG-CAAC); and the requirement of dialogue with listed parties on the development of concrete and time-bound Action Plans to halt and prevent violations.
A Legal Foundation to Act Upon
The purpose of this Working Paper is to detail the legal basis for asserting that the six grave violations against children in armed conflict are grave breaches and violations of applicable international law. This paper is designed to assist child protection advocates around the world in their mission to protect children and end impunity for violations against children. The protection of children affected by armed conflict is humanity’s legal and moral commitment.