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UK Mission to the United Nations

New York

London 20:52, 02 Jan 2013
New York 15:52, 02 Jan 2013

Children and Armed Conflict

UN Photo/P Sudhakaran

Children at the Goma Children Rehabilitation Centre

The UK is committed to protecting children affected by armed conflict. We believe that children are entitled to an education, they should feel safe within their communities and be looked after by carers who have the child’s best interests at heart. We believe that it is unacceptable for a child to live their life in fear.

The UN Security Council agrees that there are six ‘grave violations’ – regrettably common in armed conflict – from which children need to be protected:

  1. Recruitment and use of children as soldiers.
  2. Killing and maiming of children.
  3. Rape and other sexual violence committed against children.
  4. Attacks on schools or hospitals.
  5. Abduction of children.
  6. Denial of humanitarian access for children.

The UK Government will continue to work alongside the UN to create a safer environment for children across the globe.  For example, the UK is an active member of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. The Working Group provides an important platform for children's issues which may otherwise be missed from more formal Council sessions. There are many challenges facing children affected by armed conflict. The UK would like to focus on the following areas:

  • Action on the ground. We strongly urge national governments to write and implement plans to stop violations against children from occurring within their borders, and to set a deadline by which to achieve this goal. The Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict can help to write these plans. 
  • Get more information. In 2011, Resolution 1998 expanded the criteria for countries to be included in the report of the Secretary General (listed) and discussed by the Security Council’s Working Group. The ‘triggers’ now include recruitment of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. This was an important step towards the protection of children. We now need to ensure that we receive relevant, timely information and follow-up appropriately.
  • Actively engage. The Security Council Working Group should continue to produce conclusions which are robust and timely and that hold violators to account. Where systematic and persistent violations are taking place, the Working Group must make every effort to bring those violations to an end.

Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

The Security Council established a dedicated subsidiary body in 2005 through resolutions 1539 and 1612.  These founding resolutions identified the six 'grave violations' against children, and determined that it should globally monitor for evidence of those, 'in situations of armed conflict'. The Group comprises all 15 Council members of the time and is currently chaired by Germany.

The Working Group provides Security Council 'conclusions and recommendations' to the relevant groups, governments, Secretary-General and the Security Council. The Working Group also attempts to facilitate a relationship between the UN and the offending group to stop the violations. To be de-listed, an armed force or group must successfully implement an 'action plan' of measures to halt the violations or abuses for which it has been cited.

Special Representative for CAAC

Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for the Secretary-General for CAAC, gathers information on the countries where violations against children occur, and the perpetrators of such abuses.

The UK is especially grateful to Ms Coomaraswamy for her efforts. Her leadership, dedication and devotion to her work has led to much of the progress we have seen over the past four years to improve the UN’s ability to protect children.

UNICEF and Non Government Organisations (NGOs)

The UK recognises the crucial role that UNICEF plays across the globe. We also pay tribute to the valuable efforts of NGOs and civil society organisations, who contribute greatly to the effectiveness of information gathering on children and armed conflict. Such organisations often have access to detention facilities where former child soldiers may be held, and can provide support to those formerly associated with armed groups, even after their release.