Group of Friends at the Swedish residence
On July 17, Sweden and Canada co-hosted a meeting to discuss progress on the children and armed conflict agenda with the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict* at the residence of the Swedish Ambassador in Khartoum, Sudan. The meeting focused on the progress of work to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers to both the army and associated formal and informal security forces, as well as on reintegration of former child soldiers into society.
The meeting in Khartoum coincided fittingly with the encouraging fact that the Sudanese government forces have been removed from the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, which lists parties to conflict that commit grave violations against children. The meeting was also a natural follow-up to the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed conflict, led by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, and the adoption of resolution 2427.
The Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict serves as a collective advocacy platform for issues relating to the overall work to protect children in armed conflict. The Group works in tandem with a number of different government agencies, including with Sudan’s National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW).
NCCW Secretary General Suaad Abdul Aal attended the meeting to report on the work that has led to the delisting of the Sudanese government forces, and the Government’s plans to further increase its efforts. While an important milestone has been achieved, Suaad Abdul Aal emphasised that extensive efforts are still required.
At the meeting, Sweden’s Ambassador to Sudan, Hans Henric Lundquist, called on the Sudanese Government to share its good experiences with other countries undergoing the same process, and welcomed the continued and broader work on children’s rights in the country.
In March 2016, Sudan adopted a national action plan to prevent the recruitment of children to government forces. The work has been actively supported by the international community; Ambassador Lundquist and Canada’s Ambassador, Salah Bendaoud, as co-chairs of the Group of Friends, have led the work in collaboration with UNICEF Sudan. European, Gulf State and African embassies have taken part in the work, which has created a good dynamic and provided opportunities for experience sharing on the issue.
Sweden is considered to have played an important role in the process. This is largely thanks to its role in the UN Security Council, but also because it has been a key donor to UNICEF’s efforts to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers and for children’s rights more broadly.
*The 23 members of the Sudan Group of Friends are: Canada, Sweden, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, EU Delegation, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, US, UK, and Qatar, as well as UNAMID and the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNICEF as the Secretariat.