- The General Assembly, in resolution 48/141, recognized the responsibility of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the coordination of the human rights promotion and protection activities throughout the United Nations system. In addition, the World Conference on Human Rights considered that the Centre for Human Rights should play an important role in coordinating system-wide attention to human rights. The High Commissioner for Human Rights/Centre for Human Rights are encouraged to consider children’s rights in conflict situations by institutionalizing cooperation in agreements with UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP, and UN Volunteers. The Centre must be given the necessary resources and qualified staff to carry out these functions in a way which does not compromise the mandate which it has been given to fulfil. The priority of children’s rights within human rights field operations in conflict areas should be ensured through the training of human rights officers and peacekeepers, and attention to these concerns should be given when defining relevant mandates and manuals of field operations.
International treaties and their monitoring systems
- The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee Against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should consider the situation of children affected by armed conflicts when reviewing States Parties reports and when requesting information from States Parties. The meeting of chairpersons of the monitoring treaty bodies should periodically assess the progress achieved in the protection of children in situations of armed conflict, as well as any additional measures required to improve the level of implementation of their fundamental rights. More specifically, the Committee on the Rights of the Child should:
- Continue to monitor the measures adopted by States Parties to ensure compliance with the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, giving particular consideration to steps undertaken to promote respect for children’s rights and to prevent the negative effects of conflicts on children, as well as to any violation of children’s rights committed in times of war;
- Assess, in the light of article 41 of the Convention, the measures adopted by States Parties which are even more conducive to the realization of children’s rights than those prescribed by the Convention;
- Include, in its reports to the General Assembly, specific information on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child of relevance to the protection of children’s rights in times of armed conflict;
- In the light of article 45 of the Convention, strengthen its role as a focal point for children’s rights, thus ensuring a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to the United Nations system-wide action. It should also encourage and foster international cooperation, particularly with United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and other competent bodies, including NGOs, to improve the situation of children affected by armed conflicts, to ensure the protection of their fundamental rights and to prevent their violation, whenever necessary, through the effective application of relief programmes and humanitarian assistance.
- Institutional arrangements
- In armed conflicts, everyone concerned with children must practice a consistent set of principles, standards and guidelines. All United Nations field personnel should follow principles similar to those proposed in the operational guidelines for the protection of humanitarian mandates. This should include the situation of conflict-affected children, the human rights of children, and violations of their rights. For these purposes agencies should ensure access to relevant training. Recognizing the crucial role that women play in situations of armed conflict, and the ways in which women and children are rendered vulnerable in situations of armed conflict, humanitarian assistance should be gender and age specific. This should apply to needs assessments, as well as to preparedness and post-conflict reconstruction activities.
- United Nations field personnel and the staff of humanitarian relief organizations must treat children in armed conflict as a distinct and priority concern. This principle applies to staff in all sectors – military, political, humanitarian, human rights, electoral and administrative – and in all their monitoring and reporting activities. In the light of article 45 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, all such sectors should establish mechanisms to assess and to report on the implementation of the Convention in areas falling within the scope of their activities.
- Governments bear the primary responsibility for protecting children in situations of armed conflict and in preventing those conflicts from taking place. The present report documents the magnitude of the task and the need for civil society and United Nations bodies and the specialized agencies to support these efforts. Through her work, the expert has come to believe that the singular capacity of a number of United Nations and specialized agencies bodies provides significant hope for the protection and care of children affected by armed conflicts. Indeed, the expert came to believe that their contributions posited one of the strongest hopes for the future. In both the short and long-term, the principle aim of these contributions must be to strengthen the capacity of Governments to fulfil their obligations to children, even in the most difficult circumstances. The present report describes many of the excellent initiatives on the part of United Nations bodies and specialized agencies while at the same time acknowledging that many of the United Nations bodies and specialized agencies themselves are far from satisfied with their results overall. With this in mind, the expert has chosen to be particularly forthright in making recommendations about future activities and priority actions. The following recommendations are addressed to related United Nations bodies, programmes and funds, specialized agencies and other autonomous bodies and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
Department of Humanitarian Affairs
- The rapid response, assessment, policy planning, training and evaluation activities of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs should ensure a child and gender focus. This will require the development of new indicators to be used in information gathering and in training and evaluation programmes. The Department’s mine-awareness and rehabilitation activities should emphasize age- and gender-appropriate design and delivery. On behalf of UNICEF, UNHCR and other relevant bodies, the Department should request the Department of Political Affairs and Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the Secretariat to identify ways in which military and civilian defence assets (logistics, supplies, equipment and specialist personnel) can offer better protection for children. Through the framework for coordination established by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs and in collaboration with the High Commissioner for Human Rights/Centre for Human Rights, guidelines, accountability mechanisms and systematic training in humanitarian and human rights instruments for peacekeepers should be developed with an emphasis on child rights. As Chair of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Task Force on Internally Displaced Persons, the Department of Humanitarian Affairs should ensure the development of an appropriate institutional framework to address the special needs of internally displaced children.
United Nations Children’s Fund
- UNICEF’s anti-war agenda is a reflection of the agency’s commitment to reaching children affected by conflict and the recently approved policy on child protection is an important step in giving greater impact to the agenda. Within this framework UNICEF needs to accelerate development of policy and programme guidelines specifically designed for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict, with special attention given to measures for the recovery and development of those children who are displaced or separated from their families, who are living with disabilities, who have been sexually exploited or unlawfully imprisoned or conscripted to armed groups. UNICEF should also accelerate the development of programming for adolescents, including opportunities for their participation in programme design, implementation and evaluation and reflecting the importance of education, sport and recreation in adolescent recovery and development. UNICEF should ensure that all these concerns are incorporated into inter-agency consolidated appeals. In addition, the agency should establish channels through which its personnel can report on violations of children’s rights. In collaboration with other specialized agencies and NGOs, UNICEF should develop a set of indicators based on child rights that will guide assessment and country programming. In cooperation with the Department of Humanitarian Affairs and with major humanitarian organizations, UNICEF should provide leadership for the protection and care of internally displaced children. UNICEF should pay special attention to the situation of women and girls affected by armed conflict, ensuring a gender-sensitive approach to emergency assessments, programme planning, design and implementation – and offer appropriate training in this and other child rights areas for field and headquarters staff. UNICEF should ensure that peacemaking and peacekeeping actions take into account the needs of children – through the Department of Humanitarian Affairs/Department of Political Affairs/Department of Peacekeeping Operations framework for coordination and by monitoring Security Council meetings.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Relying on strong policy guidelines, particularly the Guidelines on the Protection and Care of Refugee Children, UNHCR needs to ensure that gender and age related principles and standards are consistently implemented in all country programmes and agreements with implementing partners. This will require further development of its response capacity and training programmes for staff and implementing partners. Recognizing that UNHCR is often first to respond to emergencies, it is essential that it deploys qualified staff in the initial emergency phase to ensure that assessments and programme responses are gender and age appropriate. Among other matters, this would entail the systematic inclusion of issues relating to sexual violence in health and psychosocial programmes, and practical prevention measures identified for camp design, security and distribution processes. UNHCR should ensure a psychosocial focus from the outset of an emergency, taking into account local community and social networks. Building upon its experience with returnees, local capacity building and institution strengthening, UNHCR should ensure that the protection and assistance needs of women and children, in particular, custody, property and inheritance issues for female- and child-headed households, are fully addressed in repatriation and reintegration programmes.
World Health Organization
- At all stages of conflict, WHO should promote emergency preparedness and responses in relation to child health and development. The organization should design indicators and instruments which would enable other organizations and specialized agencies to rapidly assess, plan and implement essential and priority child health activities, involving affected communities. WHO should produce materials for children of differing ages and stages of development in situations of armed conflict. Reflecting WHO’s definition of health as encompassing physical, mental and social well being, the organization should increase its collaboration with UNICEF, UNHCR, the World Bank and UNDP in multi-sectoral programming for children and in strengthening public health infrastructures in the reconstruction of conflict-affected countries. This would include provision of substantial technical support through technical guidelines and planned work on child health, plus technical support and training materials to assist countries and NGOs in the prevention and management of health issues related to violence against women and girls during armed conflict. These issues should be reflected in WHO’s humanitarian and consolidated emergency appeals. Inter-agency collaboration in a critical appraisal of best practice in conflict situations could lay the foundation for improved programming for children and adolescents. WHO should provide reproductive health expertise in emergency responses and develop the inclusion of gender and women’s perspectives into health policies and programmes. WHO should take a lead role in training for all health workers in children’s human rights. At the same time it should establish and promote appropriate child rights monitoring and reporting mechanisms for health professionals. While these are not new ideas or policies, WHO is encouraged to give priority to their implementation.
United Nations Development Programme
- UNDP is encouraged to give greater priority to the special needs of children and women in special development situations. UNDP’s efforts to reduce regional, political, economic and social disparities through country programmes should emphasize a preventative approach through, for example, measures to prevent discrimination against women, minorities and indigenous communities. Within the resident coordinator system, UNDP has a responsibility to ensure that children are central to the overall programme framework for national and international action. UNDP should consider the restoration of health, education and judicial services, as well as economic and national institutions, to be essential elements of post conflict recovery.
UNDP’s support for the role of women in rebuilding institutions and improving governance should be strengthened, as should its support for the work of UNIFEM in these areas. Throughout its multi-sectoral country and regional programmes, UNDP should integrate measures designed to prevent conflict, namely, through the strengthening of civil society.
World Food Programme
- Food aid can be a powerful instrument in the rehabilitation process, not only as a practical matter in providing a nutritional supplement, but also as a resource to be used in recovery. WFP should encourage community participation in the design and delivery of food aid and, in particular, ensure that in refugee and internally displaced persons camps women are the initial point of control for distribution systems. WFP should collaborate with other United Nations specialized agencies and with NGOs in combining food aid with programmes designed to strengthen family unity, integrity and coping mechanisms. Food aid programmes such as “food for guns” should be linked to health, education and other development activities in recovery and reintegration, particularly for adolescents and former child combatants.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
- Given the importance of FAO’s work in early warning systems and food security assessments and analysis, the organization should, during armed conflicts, incorporate data and information that identify the particular vulnerabilities of children. FAO should provide technical expertise and advice in the design of programmes, such as food security programmes that disproportionately benefit children, and projects for demobilized child soldiers that offer alternative livelihoods and promote social integration. Having identified a growing number of child-headed households through its work with rural farmers, FAO should develop, implement and share guidelines on appropriate support with other specialized agencies. FAO should work with WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR and WHO, among others, to strengthen the capacity of families to care for their children, and to ensure that these programmes are linked to development activities in the areas of agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
- Education has a crucial preventive and rehabilitative part to play in fulfilling the needs and rights of children, particularly those in conflict and post-conflict situations. UNESCO’s expertise in educational curricula development and teacher training should be utilized in support of educational programmes run by operational agencies in all phases of conflict, but especially during emergency situations and in the critical period of rehabilitation and reconstruction. UNESCO is encouraged to collaborate with ILO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP and relevant specialized agencies, as well as with international and national NGOs, in the more rapid development of appropriate activities and programming for adolescents, particularly former child combatants. Such activities could include the development of communication, sports and recreation as opportunities to develop life-skills and promote health. In collaboration with the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF and involved NGOs, UNESCO should produce and promote mine-awareness materials through a technical meeting to identify best practices and evaluate mine-awareness programmes for children. UNESCO should also assist other United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, NGOs and educational systems in peace education, identifying best practice, developing strong evaluation mechanisms, assessing programmes and better coordinating principles and materials.
United Nations Development Fund for Women
- UNIFEM should work closely with UNICEF in expanding its support for girls and women in crisis situations. It should also expand its women’s peace- building and peacemaking activities. UNIFEM should take the lead in ensuring that system-wide emergency assessments, guidelines, training and evaluation are gender sensitive. UNIFEM should develop and promote training in women’s human rights for the military and judicial systems. In cooperation with UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF, UNIFEM should ensure that all humanitarian responses address the special reproductive health needs of girls and women, and should develop guidelines for reporting on gender-based violations. Further, the Fund should facilitate access to appropriate legal and rehabilitative remedies for victims of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.
The Bretton Woods Institutions
- The momentum of collaboration between Bretton Woods Institutions and the specialized agencies of the United Nations system should help to make available the resources that are needed to address the issues of children affected by armed conflict. The World Bank is encouraged to pay increasing attention to the preservation and development of human capital in conflict- affected countries, particularly children and youth. Post-conflict recovery initiatives that are not fundamentally linked to relief, especially in the area of education, will ultimately undermine any potential benefit. Macroeconomic initiatives cannot sustain peaceful reconstruction without equivalent attention to micro-level cooperation. The World Bank can make an important contribution overall by evaluating the preventive value of development aid, and by ensuring a better coordinated and funded response to the needs of conflict-affected countries. Within these parameters, the Bank’s emerging work in education, mine clearance and demobilization should provide an even greater focus on children.
Other related organizations
- There are some organizations of the United Nations system that have mandates closely related to many of the concerns raised in the present report.
The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) standards, for example, in areas such as vocational rehabilitation, the employment of disabled persons, special youth employment and training schemes and human resource development, should form the basis of innovative rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes for adolescents in post-conflict situations, especially for former child soldiers, children with disabilities and children who have missed educational opportunities. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) should increase its collaboration with operational agencies to ensure that the reproductive health needs of girls and women are fully addressed in emergency and post-conflict situations. Furthermore, the role of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in refugee and migration activities is increasingly important. As a special intergovernmental agency, IOM is encouraged further to develop its role in the care and protection of internally displaced children, in particular to ensure that the special concerns of children are incorporated in its activities of evacuation, transportation and processing. The expert also wishes to call attention to the work of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development’s (UNRISD) war torn societies project, recognizing its potential to draw attention to the needs of children in post-conflict recovery.
International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and National Societies
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and National Societies have a special mandate and unique contribution, including emergency medical assistance, the reunification of separated families, and access to the internally displaced. The resolutions adopted at the twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, in particular resolution 2, and the plan of action for child victims of armed conflict should be implemented throughout the movement. The role of the Central Tracing Agency of ICRC is vitally important in the reunification of children and families. The expert urges continued and expanded cooperation in tracing and reunification programmes with UNHCR, UNICEF and specialized NGOs. As a critical contribution to prevention and to promoting the practical application of humanitarian law, the ICRC’s advisory services to Governments should be strengthened with special attention to children. Dissemination should be extended to civil society and other humanitarian agencies. The development of the guidelines for United Nations forces regarding respect for international humanitarian law is especially welcome.
- Inter-institutional mechanisms
- Further discussion of inter-institutional mechanisms is needed to ensure that sufficient priority is given to the dimensions of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations that involve children.
Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Political Affairs/Department of Humanitarian Affairs: framework for coordination
- In 1994, a framework for sharing information was established by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs of the Secretariat. In consultation with members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator must ensure that special consideration for children affected by conflict is incorporated in United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian planning, advice, recommendations and proposals presented to the Security Council. In this context, the role of peacekeeping forces in promoting and respecting children’s rights should be emphasized, with special attention to the demobilization and social reintegration of child soldiers.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator should insist that the situation of conflict-affected children is addressed in all country level activities as well as in United Nations field operations mandated by the Security Council, the General Assembly or the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Coordinator should also ensure priority consideration for programmes that support the needs of conflict-affected children and their primary care providers in the preparation of the inter-agency consolidated appeals.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee
- Emanating from General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee was established to ensure a coordinated policy and operational response to emergency issues. Concerned agencies such as UNICEF should develop generic inter-agency guidelines regarding conflict-affected children to be used in the consolidated inter-agency appeal process. The substance of the guidelines should be reflected in the terms of reference for resident and humanitarian coordinators and those with political responsibilities, such as special representatives of the Secretary-General.
Administrative Committee on Coordination and Consultative Committee for Programme and Operational Questions
- The Administrative Committee on Coordination and its subsidiary machinery, namely the Committee for Programme and Operational Questions should discuss ways to link child-related rehabilitation and development activities with relief and recovery, and ensure that all relevant guidelines and strategy proposals reflect the specific needs of war-affected children. The Administrative Committee on Coordination should endorse the principles and guidelines that result from this process, and use them as a model for incorporating child-related concerns into inter-agency assessments, consolidated appeals, round tables and consultative group meetings. In addition, the Administrative Committee on Coordination should be informed periodically by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF and UNHCR about developments relating to children’s issues. Special areas of concern should be considered by the various working-groups established by the Administrative Committee on Coordination for Inter-Agency follow-up to recent global conferences, and as a part of the peace-building, conflict-resolution and national reconciliation activities of the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa. In other words, children in conflict must be a regular part of the agenda of the Administrative Committee on Coordination.