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Watchlist Newsletter 
June 2016

Updates from New York

Watchlist Welcomes UN Secretary-General’s 15th Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict

On June 2, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his 15th annual report on children and armed conflict, as per the reporting mandate pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1261. The report covers grave violations perpetrated against children between January and December 2015. Per Resolution 2225, the report’s annex, popularly known as the “list of shame,” includes for the first time those parties who abduct children. Watchlist also welcomes the inclusion of several new parties to conflict listed for the first time, including the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Nigeria, Raia Mutomboki in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen. While Watchlist welcomes the new listings and increased attention on abductions in the report, it is disappointed, however, by the omission of other groups from the list of perpetrators who for years have been reported on in the body of the report, as well as the absence of information on the conflict in Ukraine, where in 2015 hundreds of children were killed and hundreds of schools attacked.

Above all, Watchlist is concerned by the removal of the listing of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces following political pressure on the Secretary-General. It is imperative to the UN’s children and armed conflict agenda that the Secretary-General applies an impartial method in the treatment of parties responsible for committing grave violations against children in Yemen and elsewhere. The temporary removal risks harming the credibility of the mechanism and creates a double standard for children. It is important to note that this was not the first time a party avoided listing due to lobbying by Member States.

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Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict Adopts its Second Conclusion on Iraq

On May 17, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its second conclusion on Iraq (document forthcoming) in response to the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq. The report was presented to the Working Group on March 2. In its conclusions, the Working Group notes the worsening trend of violations committed against children by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), but also the continued recruitment and use of children by the Government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). With particular concern, the Working Group noted the issue of detention of children on the basis of security charges under anti-terrorism laws.
Overall, the Working Group’s conclusion on Iraq offers a comprehensive framework whose implementation would significantly improve the condition of children affected by armed conflict. Watchlist will work with civil society partners on the ground to this end.

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Updates from the Field

Watchlist Partner’s Efforts to Engage Armed Groups on Child Protection Norms

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict conducted from May 16 to 26 a field visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to follow up on the implementation of key activities with its national child protection partner.

During the last year, Watchlist has been providing technical and financial support in the implementation of a project aiming to engage self-defense militia groups to negotiate greater compliance with international norms on the protection of children. Watchlist’s partner benefits from longstanding relationships with community leaders and authorities who can offer entry points to the leadership of armed groups and open a dialogue.

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Children and Armed Conflict Key News
Yemen Peace Talks Lead to Agreement on Unconditional Release of Child Prisoners: At a UN briefing on June 6, the Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Leila Zerrougui, reported that during peace talks, the parties active in the Yemen hostilities agreed to the unconditional release of all child prisoners. Government forces, pro-government forces, Houthi forces, and other extremist armed groups have recruited and used children. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that children captured in fighting or suspected of being sympathizers to the opposition have been detained and often held in abusive or poor conditions. Saudi Arabia subsequently handed 54 child prisoners between the ages of 8 and 17, captured while fighting the Houthis, over to the Government of Yemen on June 7.
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Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict Releases Statement Addressing Parties to Conflict in Afghanistan: On May 12, the Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC) released a public statement on the basis of its conclusions on the situation in Afghanistan. The conclusions, following examination of the Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, had previously been adopted on March 2. Addressing all parties active in the armed conflict in Afghanistan, the Chair of SCWG-CAAC condemned the continuation of sexual violence, killing and maiming, abduction, and the recruitment and use of children, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals, and called on parties to immediately cease all violations and abuses against children. In its conclusions, the Working Group expressed concern with the rising issue of attacks on schools, as well as the use of schools for military operations; HRW recently wrote about the increased rate at which Afghanistan’s schools are becoming battlegrounds.
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Fund Launched to Preserve Education in Crisis and Emergency Situations: At the World Humanitarian Summit, held on May 23 and 24 in Istanbul, the Education Cannot Wait fund was launched to respond to emergency and crisis situations in which the education of children and young people is disrupted. Through developmental and humanitarian responses, its primary function is to fulfill their universal right to education and safeguard the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of inclusive and equitable quality primary and secondary education for all. Currently, 75 million children, living in 35 crisis-affected countries, are not getting an adequate education. Education Cannot Wait aims to alleviate the barriers to education created through conflict, which can disrupt education by displacing children and families or through the destruction of schools.     
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New Evidence Incriminates Congolese Peacekeeping Troops in Summary Execution: Amid allegations that peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic have been involved in serious abuses against the people they are charged with protecting, HRW has uncovered new evidence that peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo engaged in the killing of at least 18 people, including several children, between December 2013 and June 2015. Twelve bodies were uncovered in a grave outside the peacekeeper’s base, which HRW believes to be the bodies of 12 people who disappeared after having been detained in March 2014. Among the victims were a 10-year-old boy, 7-month-old baby, an 18-year-old male, a 16-year-old female, and a 17-year-old female. Other evidence reveals that Congolese peacekeeping troops were also involved in torture, public executions, and excessive use of force. To date it does not appear that any of the soldiers involved are being held accountable for their actions.

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Working together to protect the security and rights of children

Watchlist monitors and reports on the situation of children affected by armed conflicts in specific countries around the world.

Watchlist provides its partners in the global south with technical support and advice to strengthen their ability to monitor abuses, to advocate on behalf of children in their communities and to respond to local needs.

With our unique perspective as a bridge between local actors and international policy makers, we are able to find and present practical solutions to the protection of children in conflict zones.

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