Why policy threatens the protection of children in armed conflict – global issues


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Al-Shaimaa Girls’ Educational Complex after being hit by missiles fired by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, Hodeidah, 9 November 2015. Credit: Amnesty International
  • Opinion Written by Matthew Wells (Washington DC)
  • Interpress service
  • The writer is Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Crisis Response – Thematic Issues

Out of the public eye, there is another challenge that destroys morale and undermines the protection of children in armed conflict: the politicization of a major UN process to hold accountable those responsible for grave violations. In 2005, the United Nations Security Council established a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) to document grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict. It was a historic achievement.

The documents feed into the annual report of the UN Secretary-General with an accompanying list of perpetrators; It is intended to form the backbone of UN-led accountability efforts for militaries and armed groups alike, and to help prevent further abuses against children.

The Security Council will discuss this year’s report on 28 June.

The report comes as the devastating impact of conflict on children – and the ramifications of inaction – is once again emerging. At least 65 children were killed and 540 others were injured during the Israeli army’s bombing of Gaza in May, According to UNICEF.

The Israeli military was never among the parties included in the report, despite the years in which the killings and maimings were among the highest verified rates.

Meanwhile, Myanmar security forces have killed at least 58 children since the February 1 coup, according to Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners of Burma (AAPPB).

Last year, although the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism verified over 200 cases of Myanmar army’s recruitment or use of children, the Secretary-General removed them from the list for this violation, while continuing to list them in the list of other violations, including killing and maiming.

This year saw the military reintroduced into the conscription and use list—the correct outcome, as it should not have been removed in the first place, but it was more a reflection of the shifting geopolitical changes after the coup than of a major upsurge in such abusive practices.

To be effective, the criteria for including and delisting offenders must be consistently applied. Instead, the politics and power dynamics of the Security Council and the Office of the Secretary-General have at times replaced objectivity.

Earlier this year, a group of eminent experts published independent review of listing decisions between 2010 and 2020. It found at least eight parties that were not included despite verification of their responsibility for killing and maiming more than 100 children in a year.

Armies are less likely to be included in the list compared to non-state armed groups, even for a similar number of verified abuses, according to experts and civil society groups Noticed, with even inconsistencies in the same situation in the country. The delisting decisions violated standards set in 2010, which require a party to end such violations before removal from the list.

For example, in 2016, Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces were initially included in the list of grave violations against children during the war in Yemen, but were soon excluded by then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. in public Out-of-service Saudi Arabia and others to effectively blackmail the United Nations A threat To withdraw funding from United Nations programmes.

Then the coalition forces were included in the list of grave violations from 2017 to 2019, before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres again cross off the list in 2020. They remained off the list this year, although the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism has verified responsibility for 194 incidents of killing or maiming of children.

“No one wants to be the one who has lost an enormous amount of money,” a former UNICEF staff member said succinctly in an interview with Amnesty International.

Amnesty International recently interviewed more than 110 experts, including frontline actors reporting to the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism in eight different countries affected by the conflict. Their experiences also reveal the sobering effect of politicization, with its implications in the Secretary-General’s report.

When individuals and organizations feel that their reports are ignored or that armies and armed groups remain unlisted despite abundant documentation, it is understood that this reduces their continued willingness to inform the MRM. In Myanmar, for example, many people said they felt defeated when the military was taken off the list last year and questioned why their documentation efforts were so difficult.

In Iraq, a humanitarian worker said they, as a group, resigned due to the politics surrounding the operation, noting that survivors, witnesses and those involved in documentation would put themselves at risk to provide information, only to see a politicized outcome.

Such concerns, frequent among those we interviewed, are particularly fearful because they come from people working at great risk to respond to abuses. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism has accomplished a lot in 15 years – by documenting the impact of conflicts on children and pressure on perpetrators – precisely because of the efforts of those working on the front lines.

Increasing pressure from leaders and powerful states is undermining their work and the credibility of accountability efforts aimed at responding and preventing grave violations against children.

Of the frontline workers we spoke to across eight conflict situations, nearly half were national employees and more than two-thirds were women. This raises further questions about the power dynamics behind the disregard for the findings of their reports.

Secretary-General Guterres has just been granted another five-year term; It must become bolder and more courageous in prioritizing human rights and calling out perpetrators, including children and armed conflict.

Together with the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, he must publicly commit to applying the same standard regardless of offender or context – producing a complete list based on evidence and objective criteria, something he failed to do again this year.

Next year, it should follow the standards set in 2010; The Saudi-led coalition and the Israeli army, among others, will once again prove to be a major test.

For their part, UN member states should demand a credible list. Why did teams on the ground put themselves at risk to document abuses that go unnoticed?

Frontline workers need confidence that their work is part of a credible accountability process. To realize its potential, the Secretary-General’s report must follow evidence, not a force policy that shields certain perpetrators from scrutiny. Anything else makes a mockery of the system and undermines the protection of children.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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