An important aspect of Sweden’s foreign and aid policy is ensuring that children’s rights and needs are met. Sweden is currently chairing the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, whose mandate includes recommending measures to promote the rights and protection of children affected by armed conflict.
War and armed conflicts have devastating consequences for individuals and entire communities. And the most defenceless victims are children. Around the world today more than 350 million children live in areas affected by armed conflict. Some 125 million children are directly affected.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and international humanitarian law serve as the basis for Sweden’s work as chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. In Security Council discussions and negotiations, Sweden – in its capacity as Chair – has also consistently highlighted the vulnerable situation of children. The work in this area is based on four priorities:
- implementation of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Agenda with the aim of protecting children from armed conflicts and holding perpetrators to account,
- children’s right to make their voices heard,
- children’s right to education, and
- children’s right to health, including mental health.
To give children an opportunity to have their voice heard by decision-makers, civil society organisations and other adults, Sweden has partnered with UNICEF, Plan International, Save the Children, Fryshuset and others to hold child consultations in a number of places around the world. How do children experience conflicts? How do conflicts affect them? What do children need during and following a conflict? In countries including Colombia, Lebanon (focusing on refugee children throughout the region), Yemen, Bangladesh (focusing on the Rohingya population) and Sweden, children have shared their experiences, needs and dreams with the hope of guiding politicians to make the right decisions.
The recommendations has been submitted to the UN Security Council and integrated into Sweden’s work in this area during Sweden’s presidency in July.
The presidency is an opportunity for Sweden to consolidate its work on children and armed conflict, and also on conflict prevention, which has been a cross-cutting priority in Sweden’s work in the Security Council. Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was therefore chairing Sweden’s only open debate during its presidency under the heading ‘Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow’. Sweden’s work in this area also resulted in the adoption of an ambitious resolution on children and armed conflict in connection with the open debate and the launch of a process to draw up practical advice on protection and rights of children in peace processes.