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Report of the Secretary-General
1. The present report, which covers the period from January to December 2013, is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2068 (2012), by which the Council requested me to continue to submit annual reports on the implementation of its resolutions and presidential statements on children and armed conflict.
2. The report highlights global trends regarding the impact of armed conflict on children in 2013 and the main activities and initiatives with regard to the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and the conclusions of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. In follow-up to the previous report (A/67/845-S/2013/245), it provides an update on the cooperation among partners to the children and armed conflict agenda, including within the United Nations system.
3. In line with the resolutions of the Security Council on children and armed conflict, the present report includes in its annexes a list of parties that engage in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, recurrent attacks on schools and/or hospitals and recurrent attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel, in contravention of international law.
4. All information presented in this report has been documented, vetted, and verified for accuracy by the United Nations. In situations where the ability to obtain or independently verify information is hampered by factors such as insecurity or access restrictions, it is qualified as such. The preparation of the report involved broad consultations within the United Nations, at Headquarters and in the field, and with relevant Member States.
5. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), and in identifying situations that fall within the scope of her mandate, my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is guided by the criteria found in international humanitarian law and international jurisprudence for determining the existence of an armed conflict. In the implementation of her mandate, my Special Representative has adopted a pragmatic and cooperative approach on the issue, with an emphasis on humanitarian principles, aimed at ensuring broad and effective protection for children affected by conflict in situations of concern. Reference to a situation is not a legal determination, and reference to a non-State party does not affect its legal status.
II. The impact of armed conflict on children
Trends and developments
6. Armed conflict continued to have a disproportionate impact on children. Indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas or attacks directly targeting civilians, through explosive weapons, air strikes or the use of terror tactics, took a worrisome toll on children. In 2013, the United Nations observed a significant spike in the killing and maiming of children in several situations, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
7. The reporting period witnessed a deepening of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, where intensifying hostilities led to widespread grave violations against children and a worsening humanitarian crisis. In the Central African Republic, the recruitment and use of children became endemic throughout 2013 and increased with the surge in violence that has plagued the country since mid-September. With the resumption of conflict in South Sudan, pro-Government and opposition forces reportedly used children on a large scale and committed other grave violations.
8. The situation in northern Nigeria became of grave concern. While the humanitarian situation affecting at least half of the population living in northeastern Nigeria remained critical, the extremist group known as Boko Haram intensified attacks on schools, resulting in the killing and maiming of children and other grave violations.
9. The recruitment and use of children in conflict remained prevalent. More than 4,000 cases were documented by the United Nations in 2013, but thousands more children are estimated to have been recruited and used. Impunity for grave violations against children, in particular sexual violence, is common to several situations and exacerbates even further the vulnerability of children. The detention of children for alleged association with armed groups or on security charges, highlighted as a concern in my previous annual report, continued in 17 of the 23 situations considered in the present report.
10. These and other worrisome trends during the reporting period call for a redoubling of efforts to better implement available tools to address the plight of children affected by armed conflict. Concrete and pragmatic measures must lead the way. The United Nations, and in particular my Special Representative, have sent a strong message in 2013 that efforts are being made to step up to the challenge.
“Children, Not Soldiers”
11. On 6 March 2014, my Special Representative and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched the United Nations global campaign entitled “Children, Not Soldiers” to end the recruitment and use of children by Government security forces in conflict by the end of 2016. On 7 March, the Security Council endorsed the campaign's objectives in its resolution 2143 (2014).
12. The campaign will be implemented in close cooperation with the eight Governments listed in the annexes to the present report for recruitment and use of children, all of which have signed or committed to an action plan and endorsed the campaign. The campaign aims at expediting the implementation of commitments to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children through the development of road maps identifying gaps and outstanding measures to be adopted by the Governments concerned, with the support of the United Nations and partners. Progress will be assessed against regular, joint reviews by the United Nations and Governments concerned.
13. Enhanced coordination between the United Nations country task forces and Governments concerned ensures that road maps identify remaining gaps and set priority activities, benchmarks and detailed deadlines. Such efforts will allow for expedited, yet context-specific and sustainable implementation of action plans. A clear sequencing of activities and measures provides the basis for step-by-step compliance assessments, reflecting the remaining challenges identified by both signatories to action plans, thus ensuring a structured path to delisting for all parties concerned. In that regard, the establishment of interministerial committees, facilitating an all-inclusive government approach, is critical. I note with satisfaction that the existing tools incorporated into this campaign, at this initial stage, have already yielded results. For example, in Chad, through the joint efforts of the Government and the United Nations system, 2013 marked a year of positive progress. Since May 2013, based on a mutually agreed set of priority measures, the Government and military authorities have intensified their efforts to reach compliance with the engagements undertaken in the action plan signed with the United Nations in 2011.
Engaging armed groups
14. As I emphasized in my message for the launch of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, the ultimate goal is to ensure that no child is associated with parties to conflict — ever, anywhere. In that regard, it is important to note that the campaign, while focusing on State actors, does not diminish the attention paid to non-State actors. On the contrary, as described in the present report, and despite the ongoing challenges in respect of access to and dialogue with non-State armed groups to end grave violations against children, the number of public statements and command orders issued by armed groups prohibiting the recruitment and use of children has increased. That trend was observed in nine situations described in the report and provides a basis for building momentum to address grave violations against children by armed groups.
15. Fifty-one armed groups are included in the lists annexed to the present report. Those parties are very diverse in nature and require different strategies of engagement, and the implementation of child protection commitments may vary considerably. Advocacy strategies require the identification of specific incentives based on the military structure, size, modus operandi and other characteristics of armed groups. Taking those aspects into account, concrete commitments are then identified by the United Nations and translated into activities and measures with the armed group concerned, culminating in an action plan agreed on by both signatories.
16. Entry points for initial contact are chosen strategically in close cooperation with all pertinent actors in a given situation. Peace processes, for example, have provided strategic opportunities to reach armed groups that have already showed a willingness to discuss political commitments. It is also crucial to mainstream the children and armed conflict agenda into other forms and venues of engagement with armed groups. Sensitization on the consequences of the military use of schools may lead to a dialogue on how to end the use of children and the use of schools.
17. The Arms Trade Treaty adopted by the General Assembly in April 2013 is a significant new instrument. Keeping armed groups from acquiring arms and ammunition contributes to the protection of children in conflict situations.
Protecting education and health care in conflict
18. Attacks on schools and hospitals are a common feature in the majority of situations covered in the present report. I welcome the guidance note on Security Council resolution 1998 (2011) issued jointly by my Special Representative, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. Its timeliness was further underlined by Security Council resolution 2143 (2014), in which the Council reiterated its concern regarding attacks on schools and hospitals and requested enhanced monitoring of the military use of schools. That practice, which deprives children of their basic right to access to education and puts them at risk, was documented in 15 of 23 situations.
19. The guidance note provides conceptual clarity and technical advice, including advocacy tools and an action plan template to end and prevent attacks on schools and hospitals and protected personnel, as well as an operational strategy to deter the use of schools. Therefore, it is not only a crucial tool for United Nations child protection, education and health practitioners on the ground. It may also serve Member States, regional and subregional organizations, or other pertinent actors as guidance for advocacy with third parties, or may serve to develop additional binding measures to better prevent attacks on schools and hospitals and to deter the military use of schools in accordance with international law in that regard. As for other child protection concerns, the protection of schools and hospitals should be introduced in military planning and operating procedures at all times. Creating awareness and mainstreaming at peacetime — setting in motion a cultural change — is crucial to preventing violations in times of conflict.
Mainstreaming of the children and armed conflict agenda
20. I welcome the continued support and attention of the Security Council to the children and armed conflict agenda in its thematic resolutions. I commend the Council for mainstreaming that agenda in many of its country-specific and thematic resolutions. It is also thanks to the Council's initiative that the plight of children in
conflict is better recognized today than ever before. Cooperation among United Nations entities as well as with other partners from diverse thematic backgrounds continues to be strengthened, for example, through the above-mentioned guidance note on resolution 1998 (2011), as does the expertise of actors working for the well-being and protection of children. In view of the latter, I welcome the Council's appraisal of the importance of training, in particular in view of the predeployment child protection training for peacekeepers launched on 8 April 2014 by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the strengthening of the child protection adviser capacity.
21. The present report could not have been produced without the Council's groundbreaking resolutions on children and armed conflict. In that regard, my “Rights up front” initiative, which ensures that the mandated human rights responsibilities of the Organization are fully integrated across its peace and security work, also supports strengthened action on grave violations against children.
22. The United Nations continued to work with regional and subregional organizations in the light of their increasing role in mediation, peacekeeping operations and peacebuilding missions, as well as in the development of child protection standards and best practices. On 17 September 2013, my Special Representative signed a declaration of intent with the Peace and Security Department of the African Union Commission, which is being implemented in partnership with UNICEF. Through the expert advice of a child protection specialist, the Peace and Security Department, with the support of the Office of my Special Representative and UNICEF, is working to develop guidance and mainstream child protection in the policies and activities of the African Union. I also welcome the continued role of the European Union in addressing the impact of armed conflict on children, including its outspoken support for and advocacy of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign. The Office of my Special Representative continued to work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with regard to the mainstreaming of child protection standards among the forces of its member States.
III. Information on grave violations committed against children during armed conflict and progress made by parties on dialogue, action plans and other measures to halt and prevent violations against children
A. Situations on the agenda of the Security Council
Israel and the State of Palestine
78. Palestinian and Israeli children continued to be affected by the prevailing situation of military occupation, conflict and closure. Eight Palestinian children (six boys and two girls) were killed and 1,265 were injured in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2013. In the West Bank, an upsurge was observed in the number of Palestinian children killed and injured by Israeli security forces during clashes and as a result of violence by Israeli settlers. Eight Israeli children were injured in the West Bank in incidents related to the presence of Israeli settlements, while no Israeli children were killed in 2013.
79. In the West Bank, four Palestinian boys were killed by live ammunition, including three during incursions by Israeli security forces into the Al Jalazun, Jenin and Ayda refugee camps. Incursions into camps have increased by 60 per cent compared with 2012. For example, on 7 December 2013, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by the Israel Defense Forces near Al Jalazun, allegedly while throwing stones at the soldiers. The Israeli authorities under the Military Advocate General opened investigations in all four cases, which were under review at the time of reporting. The 1,235 children injured in the West Bank constitute more than double the number injured in 2012 (552). Of the 1,235, 961 were injured during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians during demonstrations, 183 during military operations, including search and arrest operations in villages or camps, four as a result of unexploded ordnances, and 86 as a result of settler violence, which saw a significant increase during 2013. During settler-related incidents, 49 children were injured directly by Israeli settlers by physical assault and stones or glass bottles thrown against Palestinian houses or cars. Of the 1,235 children injured in the West Bank, 155 were under the age of 12. Eight Israeli children were injured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including as a result of stone throwing by Palestinians (seven) and, in one incident, live ammunition shot towards the Psagot settlement.
80. In Gaza, most cases of killing and maiming Palestinian children occurred between January and March 2013, following the November 2012 Israeli military offensive “Pillar of Defence”. Three Palestinian children were killed, including two boys in unexploded ordnance-related incidents and, on 24 December 2013, a three-year-old girl in a shelling by Israeli security forces of a building in Al Maghazi refugee camp. Ten children were injured during military operations in Gaza, including by live ammunition gun shots and tear gas canisters, and 20 others as a result of unexploded ordnance incidents.
81. In 2013, Palestinian children continued to be arrested and detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in juvenile military courts. By the end of December, 154 boys, between 14 and 17 years of age (including 14 under the age of 16) were held in Israeli military detention for alleged security violations, including in pretrial detention (106) and serving a sentence (48). The Government of Israel reported that 1,004 children were arrested by Israeli security forces in 2013; 349 were released the same day and 655 were referred to the Military Advocate General. The United Nations documented 107 cases of ill-treatment during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention, including against children below the age of 12 in five cases. All of the 107 boys reported having been subjected to cruel and degrading ill-treatment by the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli police, including painful restraint, blindfolding, strip-searching, verbal and physical abuse, solitary confinement and threats of violence. This number represents an estimated 15 per cent of the total number of Palestinian children arrested and detained in the West Bank by Israeli security forces in 2013. Fifty-one children reported being arrested at night and 45 children reported being arrested during clashes, demonstrations and at other friction points. Reported use of physical violence against children, including with sticks, increased with a majority of the cases reported in the first half of 2013. The Israeli authorities received 15 formal complaints in 2013 related to the reported abuse of Palestinian children during arrest, interrogation and detention. No cases have resulted in dismissal, indictment or arrest to date. In addition, five cases of threats of sexual violence were reported, compared with two cases in 2012. A higher percentage of children were detained in prison facilities inside Israel (76 per cent, compared with 63 in 2012) with at least three out of four children being transferred outside the occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
82. A regular bilateral dialogue between the United Nations at the field level and the Military Prosecutor for the West Bank was ongoing at the time of reporting and has produced a number of results, including an Israel Defense Forces agreement to pilot test the use of summonses in lieu of night arrests. However, incidents have occurred where children were threatened while being summoned, and other summons were presented during night raids. I remain hopeful that the pilot process will be fully implemented and provide adequate protection for children. In addition, two Military Orders were issued in relation to children arrested and detained for alleged security violations. The orders reduced the time a Palestinian child could be detained prior to appearing before a military court judge for the first time; however, the time periods provided in military law are still longer than what is provided to Israeli children under Israeli law.
83. Fifty-eight education-related incidents affecting 11,935 children were reported in the West Bank, resulting in damage to school facilities, interruption of classes and injury to children. Forty-one incidents involved Israeli security forces operations near or inside schools, forced entry without forewarning, the firing of tear gas canisters and sound bombs into school yards and, in some cases, structural damage to schools. In 15 of the incidents, Israeli security forces fired tear gas canisters into schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), some during class hours, without forewarning. In a majority of instances, schoolchildren and teachers were delayed or prevented from going to school owing to checkpoints, areas closed for military operations or exercises, military patrols in front of schools and preventive closures by the Israel Defense Forces. In 32 cases, teachers and children were arrested inside the school, at checkpoints or on their way to school. A further 15 incidents were related to settler violence in the areas of Nablus, Qalqiliya, Jerusalem and Hebron. This included physical assault of schoolchildren by settlers, absent or interrupted Israeli security forces escorts to schools in areas prone to settler violence, the evacuation of schools owing to the threat of settler attacks and sewage from Israeli settlements intentionally flooding school grounds. According to the Government of Israel, 63 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel during 2013, resulting in school interferences for 12,229 Israeli children. The ceasefire understanding between the Government of Israel and Hamas resulted in a marked reduction of attacks on schools in Gaza. One incident was reported on 25 December, when Israeli security forces fired rockets damaging two schools. Shortages of construction materials in September 2013 owing to Israeli restrictions halted the construction of 13 Government schools, postponed the construction of another 26 and, in November, forced UNRWA to suspend the construction of 22 schools.
84. The Israeli blockade of Gaza since June 2007 continued to take a heavy toll on the more than 80 per cent of Gazan families dependent on humanitarian assistance. In 2013, 4,059 of 4,470 medical applications for children were approved; however, 409 applications, including for 215 boys and 194 girls, were delayed, usually as a result of the denial or delay of a permit for the child's parent. In one incident, the application of a 16-year-old girl scheduled to receive cancer treatment in Israel was delayed for 73 days. The recent movement restrictions imposed by the Government of Egypt have also affected the access to medical referrals.
85. I commend the State of Palestine for acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
204. I am deeply concerned about the grave violations outlined in the present report and call upon all parties to immediately cease to commit, and take all measures to prevent, all grave violations against children, and to take all necessary measures to make violators accountable.
205. I strongly urge all parties listed in the annexes to the present report engaged in the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, sexual violence against children and/or attacks on schools and hospitals or protected personnel to immediately cease all grave violations against children and to enter into dialogue with the United Nations to develop and implement action plans.
206. I welcome the positive engagement of Member States within the scope of the campaign "Children, Not Soldiers", to end the recruitment and use of children by Government security forces in conflict by 2016 and call on them to continue with determined and tangible steps with a view to finalizing the development and implementation of action plans. In that regard, I call upon the donor community to assist in addressing funding gaps for the implementation of action plans and associated activities.
207. I welcome the progress made by some non-State armed groups in releasing children or issuing commitments to better protect children, including the prohibition of child recruitment in command orders and declarations.
208. I call upon Member States to allow independent access to the United Nations for the purposes of monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children and to facilitate contact between the United Nations and non-State armed groups for dialogue, conclusion and follow-up on action plans in order to bring an end to violations, in accordance with the resolutions of the Security Council on children and armed conflict. Such contact does not prejudge the political or legal status of those non-State armed groups.
209. I note with deep concern the continued attacks on and the military use of schools and the impact on children in that regard. In line with applicable international humanitarian law, and in accordance with Security Council resolution 2143 (2014), I encourage Member States to consider adopting, as a priority, additional concrete measures to deter the military use of schools.
211. I am also concerned about the detention of children in situations of armed conflict, in particular in the context of counter-terrorism activities, and call for urgent measures to address this growing and worrisome trend.
212. I welcome the leadership and important contribution of regional and subregional organizations to conflict prevention, mediation and peace support operations. I call on them to further mainstream child protection considerations in their guidance and policy development, mission planning, training of personnel and conduct of peace support operations.
213. I call upon the Council to continue to support the children and armed conflict agenda by strengthening provisions for the protection of children in all relevant mandates of United Nations peacekeeping, special political and peacebuilding missions, including the deployment of child protection advisers.
214. I call upon all Member States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Optional Protocols. I also call upon all States parties to these instruments to fully implement the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.