49th session of the Human Rights Council – 16 March 2022
Item 3 Interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Delivered by: Defense for Children International (1)
This is a joint statement.
We welcome the annual report of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict and on violence against children and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Mandate on Children and Armed Conflict and the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
The number of children affected by armed conflict around the world has increased, with currently around 200 million children living in high-intensity conflict areas (2) and another 7.5 million children at risk as we closely follow the dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation of civilians in Ukraine.(3) Here, once again, we are concerned that children are caught up in the conflict, killed, injured, displaced, separated from their caregivers and traumatized as schools, hospitals and orphanages come under fire and they lack access to basic services and assistance.
For conflict-affected children, the ongoing fear and trauma are compounded by the uncertainty and daily hardship produced by the pandemic. For organizations seeking to access and support children affected by conflict, the pandemic has made tracking and verifying violations increasingly difficult. The denial of access to humanitarian aid remains an issue of great concern, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on children living in conflict-affected countries. (4)
According to the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty (GSCDL), at least 35,000 children are detained each year in more than 16 countries for their alleged involvement with armed actors.(5) Since the deprivation of freedom is directly linked to several serious violations, we welcome the continued involvement of the SRSG with the UN task force and the NGO panel in implementing the recommendations of the global study and in identifying alternatives to deprivation of liberty.(6)
Inadequate support to children who have been recruited and/or used by armed groups leaves children vulnerable to re-recruitment and secondary victimization due to the detrimental impact of stigma on children returning to communities. Early warning and prevention efforts need to be strengthened so that children do not experience such trauma in the first place, while child protection and family-focused community reintegration are needed for those who do. .
In order to rehabilitate all children and reintegrate them into society, the SRSG on CAC emphasizes: “the importance of long-term and sustainable funding for mental health and psychosocial programs in humanitarian settings”.(7) Thus affirming that mental health care and psychosocial support is essential to ensure that these children can develop to their full potential and take their place as peaceful members of society.
We will issue 3 calls to action to States and the UN to improve the protection of children in armed conflict.
The Human Rights Council must prioritize the investigation, documentation and reporting of violations and crimes affecting children in accountability mechanism mandates and resolutions and ensure that humanitarian actors have unimpeded access to children and their families, as the denial of humanitarian access is one of the six grave breaches of the CAAC.
All parties to the conflict must end the detention of children for their real or perceived association with armed actors and ensure that child victims of grave violations are promptly transferred to child protection agencies for reintegration, with access to mental health and psychosocial support (SMSPS), in line with international.
The United Nations should strengthen early warning and prevention efforts and ensure a dedicated MHPSS sub-section in all humanitarian appeals (humanitarian response plans, refugee response plans) with targets set for children and other affected people, funding and other affected people, funding and reporting.
1. The statement is co-sponsored (ECOSOC status) by Defense for Children International, Child Rights Connect, ECPAT International, Save the Children, Terre des Hommes Federation, War Child, World Vision International
2. Save the Children “Stop The War On Children: A Crisis Of Recruitment. », November 30, 2021, consulted on March 1, 2022, p 21 swoc-a-crisis-of-recruitment.pdf (savethechildren.org)
3. Save the children “Ukraine: Children and Mothers Distressed After Unsettling Journey To Romania.”, February 28, 2022, accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.savethechildren.net/news/ukraine-children-and-mothers-distressed-after-unsettling-journey-romania
4. War Child and World Vision “The silent pandemic: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of children in conflict-affected countries”. , 27 April 2021, accessed 28 February 2022, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/The%20Silent%20Pandemic_final.pdf
6 https://childrendeprivedofliberty.info/panel-discussion-on-promoting-alternative-solutions-to-deprivation-of-liberty-as-a-follow-up-to-the- global-study-on-children-deprived-of-liberty-immediate-priorities/
7. Human Rights Council, “Children and Armed Conflict. Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.’, January 4, 2022, accessed March 2, 2022, p.7 https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/49/58&Lang=E&Area=UNDOCument