“Children in Congo can’t dream the same way…Here, dreams are in danger of being lost,”
says the President of Goma’s Children’s Parliament in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). To ensure that the dreams of children are not lost, the United Nations has now adopted a new Children and Armed Conflict resolution that strengthens children’s rights in armed conflict.
One child dies as a result of violence every five minutes. More than 350 million children worldwide are forced to live with the effects of conflict and violence. More than 125 million children are directly affected by armed conflict. The number of conflicts around the world is increasing, and children are the most vulnerable. They need of our protection. Protecting children today prevents conflicts tomorrow.
Sweden has a long history of working for the rights of the child. During our two years as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, one of our focus areas is children and armed conflict (CAAC).
The aim of work in this area is the protection of children, respect for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international humanitarian law. This includes respecting the CAAC agenda and ensuring its integrity.
In the Security Council, Sweden has consistently raised the vulnerable situation of children affected by armed conflict. We have also advanced the agenda on the protection of children and their rights, including through the presidential statement drafted by Sweden and unanimously adopted by the Security Council in October 2017. To date, we have adopted 6 country-specific recommendations. We have made the work of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict more field-oriented. We have mainstreamed CAAC language into the Security Council.
Sweden’s four priorities are: implementation of the CAAC agenda, children’s right to have their voices heard, children’s right to education and children’s right to health, including mental health. Based on these four priorities, Sweden has arranged ‘child consultations’ around the world, including in Sweden. The purpose of these consultations has been to listen to children, to their views and recommendations. Their recommendations will be presented to the UN, to States, civil society organisations and the public. They were also presented at the yearly Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, chaired by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
As Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and Penholder for Children and Armed Conflict in the Council, we are very pleased that the Council unanimously adopted the first resolution in three years on Children and Armed Conflict. This resolution strengthens the children and armed conflict agenda in a number of ways:
First, it emphasises that the children and armed conflict agenda is central to conflict prevention and sustaining peace.
Second, it provides a comprehensive framework for reintegration. Successful reintegration is in the best interests of the child, but also in the best interests of society as a whole. Children should always be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Third, it recognises that access for girls and boys to education and health care – including mental health – in conflict-affected areas is ensured, and links the children and armed conflict agenda to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Fourth, it is the first-ever Council resolution that includes the central principle that children should be treated primarily as victims.
Fifth, the resolution welcomes the Secretary-General’s launch of a process to compile practical guidance on child protection in peace processes for mediators and negotiators.
Sixth, it stresses the importance of integrating the protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children in peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of accountability regarding all crimes committed against children in armed conflict.
Lastly, the resolution calls upon us to listen to children and make their voices heard. We need to hear children’s views, perspectives and recommendations to be able to protect them better.
The resolution was cosponsored by 98 member states which shows the great support of the wider membership of the UN.