This afternoon (7 May), Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting on “Ending and Preventing Grave Violations against Children through Action Plans: Best Practices from African States”. The Arria-formula meeting has been organised by Poland in partnership with Côte d’Ivoire, France and Sweden. Poland has circulated a concept note with background on action plans and the objectives of the meeting. According to the concept note, a report will be produced following the meeting with recommendations on strengthening the efficiency of action plans as a tool to end and prevent grave violations. The meeting is open to member states, Permanent Observers and non-governmental organisations accredited to the UN.
The implementation of commitments in action plans is the main way a party to conflict can be removed from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, which lists parties that have committed violations against children. Recruitment and use of children, sexual violence, killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, and abductions are violations that could lead to a party in a conflict situation being listed in the report. Since 2004, when resolution 1539 called on parties to prepare action plans, twenty-nine action plans have been signed by 28 listed parties, including 11 governments and 17 non-state armed groups. So far, eleven parties have fully complied and been delisted.
This Arria-formula meeting will focus on the role of action plans in ending and preventing violations against children in the context of armed conflict, with a specific focus on African examples. Among the objectives are to:
- share experiences on the implementation of action plans;
- promote best practices and discuss challenges in the implementation of action plans; and
- apply lessons learned from the success of action plans on the recruitment and use of child soldiers to the development and implementation of action plans on other violations.
In her introductory remarks, Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland) is expected to provide Poland’s reasons for holding this meeting, including highlighting positive developments in the children and armed conflict agenda. Following Ambassador Wronecka’s introductory remarks, several speakers are scheduled to provide their insights on the implementation of action plans. These include Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict; four diplomats from African countries with experience of action plans [Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Sudan]; Sweden, the chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict; France, one of the co-chairs of the meeting; and representatives of UNICEF, DPKO, and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.
Gamba is expected to cover the role of her office in working with conflict parties on the implementation of action plans. She may also talk about her interest in working with subregional organisations to develop child protection policies and best practices that can be used to strengthen the protection of the children in armed conflict.
The four briefers from African countries are: Acting Permanent Representative Ambassador Alcide Djédjé (Côte d’Ivoire), Ambassador Ali Alifei Moustapha (Chad), Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta (DRC), and Ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed (Sudan). They are expected to share the experiences of their countries in implementing action plans.
Côte d’Ivoire and Chad were delisted from the Secretary-General’s annexes in 2007 and 2014, respectively, having successfully fulfilled all the commitments on their action plan for recruitment and use of children. Côte d’Ivoire’s Forces de défense et sécuritiés des forces nouvelles (FDS-FN) and all four pro-government militia groups that were listed were able to show that they had stopped recruitment and had taken measures to identify and release all remaining children and to implement the action plans. As a result, the five groups were de-listed from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s 2017 report.
Chad was galvanised to work with the UN to implement an action plan signed in 2011 due to its desire to participate in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which was established in April 2013. Chad had been serving in the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, but in order for its troops to be re-hatted for MINUSMA, it needed to comply with the 2012 UN Policy on Human Rights Screening of UN Personnel (“Human Rights Screening Policy”), designed to prevent individuals who have committed violations of international humanitarian or human rights law from serving with the UN. In less than a year, it completed all the requirements under its action plan to stop the recruitment and use of children, allowing for its removal from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s 2014 annual report.
In September 2015, the government of the DRC adopted a roadmap to accelerate the implementation of its action plan on recruitment and use of children, which was signed in 2012. In 2017, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), the armed forces of the DRC government, was delisted from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report following two years of no cases of child recruitment. It is still listed for incidents of sexual violence. Ambassador Gata Mavita wa Lufuta may share lessons learned in working with the UN in implementing the DRC’s action plan.
The Sudanese Armed Forces was the most recent government security force on the Secretary-General’s annex to sign an action plan, doing so in 2016. Among others, the action plan committed the government to strengthen the principles of the Child Act of 2010 and the Sudan Armed Forces Act of 2007, as well as to appoint a high-level focal point to coordinate implementation. Ambassador Mohamed may talk about the work plan that has been developed to implement the action plan and high-level and technical committees formed through presidential decrees.
Deputy Permanent Representative Irina Schoulgin Nyoni (Sweden) will brief as chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. The Working Group's adoption of conclusions on reports on children and armed conflict in the situations on the Secretary-General’s annexes is a key tool for asserting pressure on parties in the annexes to implement action plans. She may highlight how the Working Group was able to follow-up conclusions to the report on children and armed conflict in Sudan with a visit of the Working Group. She may also highlight the challenges to the implementation and development of action plans that Sweden has seen as chair of the Working Group since January 2016 and offer suggestions for how action plans could perhaps be used more as a prevention tool.
France has had a long history with the issue of children and armed conflict in the Security Council and served as the first chair of the Working Group during 2006-2008. Ambassador François Delattre (France) will most likely highlight France’s commitment to this issue over the years, and may focus on the 2007 Paris Principles and the Paris Commitments, which have been adopted by 105 states. These are non-binding texts which provide guidelines for protecting children against recruitment by armed groups and forces and releasing and reinserting them into their communities.
Bukeni Waruzi, the Executive Director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and a former child rights activist from Eastern DRC, will talk about the challenges of ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children in the DRC. He may also cover the shortcomings in the FARDC’s action plan, including the need for greater transparency, civil society participation, and accountability for past measures.
Other briefers include representatives from UNICEF and DPKO who are expected to cover their role in working with conflict parties and the Office of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict on action plans.