Celebrating 25 years of the UN Children and Armed Conflict mandate

Children standing in front of barbed wire Children standing in front of barbed wire © Janeb13 on Pixabay

18 January 2022

The UN celebrated 25 years of its Children and Armed Conflict mandate by presenting its achievements as well as key areas for future action

In 1996, the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict was created by the United Nations General Assembly after a report by Graça Machel that highlighted the disproportionate impact that war has on children. Twenty-five years later, the United Nations celebrated the anniversary of this mandate, which aims to protect children in conflict from being recruited by armed groups as well as being killed, maimed, abducted, and generally being at risk of grave human rights and humanitarian law violations.

The mandate counts substantial achievements as its related actions have led to the release of thousands of children from armed groups, and has contributed to the undertaking of various commitments and action plans by which warring parties were able to reach peace agreements. Through multiple resolutions, soft law documents, pushing towards the ratification of binding legal instruments and awareness raising, the UN has not only succeeded in establishing a global consensus on child protection, but also in addressing specific issues of great significance, such as sexual violence against children and the protection of schools during armed conflicts.

Nevertheless, “much more is needed”, according to the UN Secretary General António Guterres. More specifically, Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative responsible for the mandate highlighted three key areas for future action. First and foremost, that the existing protection frameworks and standards should be maintained, and that the endorsement of binding and non-binding legal documents by all states should be ensured. Secondly, to recognize prevention as being an extremely useful tool, as efforts to stop conflicts before they even start allow to break cycles of violence. Lastly, holding the perpetrators of violations accountable is also required in guaranteeing the efficiency of the protections brought forth by the various treaties. Furthermore, participants in the anniversary’s celebration highlighted the critical need for stronger collaboration between international and national, governmental and non-governmental actors in efforts designed to protect children caught in conflict, as well as the need to ensure the meaningful participation of children in such processes. 


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Author: Charoula Papastefanaki; Editor: Maxime Grenier

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