Why is child protection at the heart of peacekeeping?
Armed conflicts disproportionately affect children. As the primary victims of wars, many girls and boys are subject to killing and maiming, recruitment and use as child soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, and denial of access to humanitarian aid. They are also increasingly victims of attacks on schools and hospitals.
In many conflict-ridden countries, peacekeeping missions are the largest actor on the ground and their contribution is vital to protecting children.
The Security Council has addressed this issue since the late ‘90s, requesting the Secretary-General in Resolution 1261 (1999) to ensure that “personnel involved in United Nations peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building activities have appropriate training on the protection, rights and welfare of children”. The protection of children in conflict has been included in the mandates of UN peacekeeping operations since 2001. In their tireless efforts to implement the child protection mandate, UN peacekeepers have – among others - helped release thousands of child soldiers and provided vital technical support to legislative reforms aimed at strengthening national child protection system.
How is UN Peacekeeping protecting children?
Photo credit: MONUSCO
Deployment of Child Protection Advisers
In Resolution 1379 (2001) and subsequent thematic resolutions, the Security Council called for the inclusion of specific provisions for the protection of children in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations, and for the deployment of Child Protection Advisers (CPAs). (For more information, please see below: “Who are Child Protection Advisers”)
CPAs are currently deployed to the following peacekeeping operations:
- United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)
- United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
- United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)
- United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)
Mainstreaming child protection within the mission
Child protection mainstreaming is an approach aimed at integrating the protection of children in armed conflict into all aspects of United Nations peacekeeping operations, including strategies, policies, training, and other activities. That approach allows the United Nations to use all mission staff and their different types of expertise, networks and capacities to ensure a better and more comprehensive protection of children. Heads of peacekeeping missions (HOM) have the crucial role to ensure that child protection principles and obligations are mainstreamed into, and integrated across, all operational decisions, activities and processes of United Nations peacekeeping operations. All teams within a mission have a responsibility to contribute to protecting children. CPAs work in close collaboration with other sections such as Human Rights, UN Police, UN Military, Rule of Law, to ensure coherence and exchange of information related to grave violations against children. In South Sudan, for example, UNMISS provided training and mainstreaming activities on the child protection mandate to more than 4,900 UN personnel from January 2018 to July 2019.
Monitoring and Reporting
Monitoring and reporting on violations perpetrated against children in armed conflicts by armed forces and groups constitute essential and central responsibilities of CPAs. Rigorous monitoring and reporting establish child protection staff as credible advocates for children and provide the foundation for their analysis and recommendations. CPAs contribute to, and fulfil, reporting obligations under the Security Council-mandated Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on grave violations against children, including Global Horizontal Notes; the Secretary-General’s country reports on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), and the Secretary-General’s annual report on CAAC. Systematic data collection supports national and international efforts to provide appropriate responses to children and communities who have suffered grave violations of children’s rights, to hold perpetrators to account and to prevent further violations by enhancing the protection of children. In 2020, the United Nations verified 4,030 violations in the four countries where our CPAs are working. In the same year in South Sudan, UNMISS Child Protection Officers participated in over 160 patrols to verify instances of grave violations against children.
Negotiating with parties to the conflict
By virtue of Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005), which request that action plans and dialogue for their development be established, United Nations child protection advisers and teams are mandated – and have the political space – to engage with all state and non-state armed actors involved in grave violations against children. CPAs foresee and diligently plan opportunities for engaging with parties to the conflict on child protection matters.
Photo credit: MONUSCO
Over the past year numerous action plans have been adopted and thousands of children have been released as a direct result of the engagement with parties to the conflicts. In 2020, for example, dialogue with armed groups enabled the separation of 497 children in the Central African Republic. In the same year, 44 children were released and reintegrated in South Sudan, 23 children in Mali and 1,313 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Photo credit: MONUSCO
The Head of a Peacekeeping Missions (HOM) is the highest UN authority in the country and has unique leverage with the government to advocate for the protection of children. United Nations entities, NGOs, donors, and other local and international actors also play a crucial role in supporting and implementing actions to advance the rights, well-being, and protection of children. Child protection staff use evidence gathered through monitoring and reporting to advocate for actual, long-term change for conflict-affected children and their communities. In MINUSCA, the Child Protection Section’s direct advocacy with armed groups led to the release of more than 8,600 children from January 2016 to June 2019.
Capacity building of national counterparts
Child Protection Advisers and their teams work with national counterparts on a daily basis to strengthen their capacity to deal with child protection issues and concerns. For example, in South Sudan, UNMISS co-located a child protection officer with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) to support the implementation of the action plan to end the recruitment and use of children. In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA collaborates with local authorities to help them effectively fulfil their responsibility in the domain of child protection, including the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups into communities, and the identification of early warning signs of grave violation against children. In 2020, 22 representatives of the Malian Defense and Security Force and 152 police personnel, participated in training of trainers on the protection of children in armed conflict.
Photo credit: UN/MINUSCA – Leonel GROTHE
National Legal Reform
Child Protection Advisers support and promote the drafting and passing of new national laws to protect children. For example, thanks to MINUSCA’s and other partners’ joint efforts, in 2020 the Central African Republic adopted the Child Protection Code, which criminalizes the recruitment and use of children and addresses other grave violations against children.
Peacekeeping operations use their radio stations, events and campaigns to make child protection issues widely known, and promote ways to prevent grave violations against children in conflict. For example, MONUSCO together with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, launched the campaign 'Plus jamais de Kadogo' to prevent the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups. From January 2018 to July 2019, UNMISS provided training and awareness-raising sessions on national and international laws on child protection and military command orders for more than 19,000 armed forces and groups, community members and protection partners. In 2019, MINUSMA rolled out the “ACT to Protect Children Affected by Conflict” campaign in three regions to strengthen collaboration, partnerships and synergies between local, regional and international actors.
Training Training for peacekeepers
CPAs deliver mission-wide training on child protection on a daily basis, so that every peacekeeper is provided with the knowledge and skills to protect children. Additionally, DPO organizes a training course on the UN Specialized Training Materials (STMs) on Child Protection for the UN Military aimed at military officers serving with UN peacekeeping operations and national training officers from troop-contributing countries.
All CPAs ensure mission-wide training on CP so that every peacekeeper has the knowledge and skills to protect children. UNAMID created a training and resource center, where weekly trainings took place and staff could read about laws and problems of children.
All United Nations peacekeeping operations personnel not only have the obligation to promote and safeguard the rights of children throughout their work and interact with national and local interlocutors, but also adhere to and abide by the highest international norms and standards reflected in the body of law and guidance on children’s rights.
The 2017 DPKO-DFS-DPPA Policy on “Child Protection in United Nations Peace Operations” outlines the roles and responsibilities of all relevant UN stakeholders, including the Department of Peace Operations (DPO), in protecting children affected by armed conflict in contexts where United Nations field missions are deployed.
DPO is guided by the principles of complementarity and coherence in the implementation of the child protection mandate in United Nations peacekeeping operations and coordinates closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed conflict (SRSG-CAAC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and other relevant United Nations entities.
The DPO-DPPA “Manual for Child Protection Staff in United Nations Peace Operations” complements the “2017 DPKO-DFS-DPA Policy on “Child Protection in United Nations Peace Operations”. The Manual is a practical guide for civilian child protection staff in United Nations field missions on the substantive implementation of the child protection mandate. It is designed to strengthen the capacities of UN field missions child protection staff in fulfilling their distinct responsibility to protect and promote the rights of children in armed conflict.
Who are child protection advisers?
Although everybody in a peacekeeping operation, including military and police personnel, play a role in protecting children, peacekeeping missions should be adequately resourced to fully and effectively implement their child protection mandates, including through the speedy deployment of Child Protection Advisers and child protection staff (A/74/19). Child Protection Advisers are specialized staff serving with UN field missions to help them fulfil the child protection mandate. Their work includes, but is not limited to:
- Advising senior mission leadership, including SRSG/Heads of Military (HOMs), Force Commanders and Police Commissioners, on child protection issues and relevant actions to be taken, including in the framework of mediation and national reconciliation efforts;
- Monitoring grave violations committed against children in situations of armed conflict, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions;
- Co-chairing with UNICEF the Country Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) at the technical level when established, and supporting the HOM or senior mission leadership in co-chairing with the UNICEF Representative the CTFRM at the principal level;
- Engaging in dialogue with parties to conflict on the signing and implementation of Security Council mandated action plans to halt and prevent grave violations against children;
- Supporting the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups, as part of action plan dialogues, peace negotiations and peace agreements, Disarmament Demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes or other relevant processes;
- Advocating for protective, preventive and remedial measures in relation to other violations of children’s rights identified as key child protection concerns by the mission, including for instance the security detention of children and the use of schools for military purposes;
- Training and the provision of guidance and expertise on child protection issues, tools and methodologies to other components and sections of United Nations peacekeeping operations;
- Liaising with United Nations specialized agencies and other child protection actors and channelling in specific technical expertise in pursuance of the child protection mandate.
How we are making a difference?
Photo credit: MONUSCO
The deployment of CPAs has helped UN peacekeeping missions to better address child protection concerns at both the political and the operational levels with concrete results for children on the ground:
- Through the political advocacy of peacekeeping missions and their Child Protection Advisers, child protection concerns have been included in peace processes (e.g., in Central African Republic and South Sudan).
- With the support of peacekeeping missions’ Child Protection Sections and in partnership with UNICEF and national child protection actors, thousands of children have been released from armed forces and groups in different peacekeeping settings since the deployment of the first Child protection Advisers in 2000. In 2020, 1,877 children have been released in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan, and Sudan.
- The total number of grave violations against children have decreased from 3,671 (2018) to 3,065 (2019) (-16.5 %) in the five missions where CPAs were deployed.
- Thousands of military and civilian peacekeepers have received training on child rights and child protection form UN child protection staff. In UNMISS, for example, the Child Protection Section delivered training and mainstreaming activities on the child protection mandate to more than 4,900 UN personnel from January 2018 to July 2019. These peacekeepers, often deployed in remote and hard-to-reach areas, serve as the eyes and ears of child protection advisers and officers. They provide them with alerts and information on child rights violations and prevent parties to the conflict from perpetrating new violations against children.
Child Protection in Action: Voices from the field
Protecting children in DR Congo
Dee Brillenburg Wurth is the former Senior Child Protection Adviser in MONUSCO (Democratic Republic of Congo).
Can you describe your work work as a Senior Child Protection Adviser?
I was in charge of a team of about 30 child protection officers who monitor and report on child rights violations on a daily basis. The information they gather is analyzed and integrated into the statistics of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM).
Statistics are essential, but it is important to never forget that every single child we report on has his or her own story on his or her life before the violation happened, during the violation, and surviving after the violation.
This information helped us understand the dynamics and patterns of violations, the perpetrators, their methodology. This helped us develop prevention activities. For example, the recruitment of children by armed groups remains a huge phenomenon. Analysis helps us understand how the different armed groups are operating so we can do targeted prevention activities, and engage with the leaders based on a sound knowledge of their modus operandi.
There are many armed groups in the DRC, around 40 to 45. When we engaged with armed group commanders, I used the information we gather through the MRM as part of our advocacy. In some cases, we brought with us factsheets summarizing trends and patterns of violations committed against children by the group concerned over the years
There has been substantial progress to address the recruitment of children by Government forces in DRC. When we started working on the implementation of the related Action Plan, some people told me that parties to the conflict would never stop recruiting children. I thought it was possible. Now we all know it is possible
“Statistics are essential, but it’s important to never forget that every single child we report on has his or her own story.”
Dee Brillenburg Wurth
Links to CPA interviews and activities online: report websites.
Development of training standards on Child Protection for all Peacekeepers
Pre-deployment training is essential for all military personnel in peacekeeping operations. The UN Secretariat and Troop- and police-contributing countries work jointly to ensure that all civilian and uniformed personnel are fully trained on their roles and responsibilities in child protection (see A/74/19, para. 123) prior to their deployment, including through context specific and scenario-based training. DPO has developed state-of-the art training standards for UN military and police personnel. The UN Military Specialized Training Materials on Child Protection and the Specialized Training Materials on Child Protection for UN Police teach UN uniformed personnel how to prevent and report violations against children, how to interact with other child protection actors, and raises awareness about their own behaviour towards children.
Relevant Security Council resolutions
- Resolution 2427 [S/RES/2427(2018)]
- Resolution 2225 [S/RES/2225(2015)]
- Resolution 2143 [S/RES/2143(2014)]
- Resolution 2068 [S/RES/2068(2012)]
- Resolution 1998 [S/RES/1998(2011)]
- Resolution 1882 [S/RES/1882(2009)]
- Resolution 1612 [S/RES/1612(2005)]
- Resolution 1539 [S/RES/1539(2004)]
- Resolution 1460 [S/RES/1460(2003)]
- Resolution 1379 [S/RES/1379(2001)]
- Resolution 1314 [S/RES/1314(2000)]
- Resolution 1261 [S/RES/1261(1999)]
COIVD-19 and Child Protection
On June 1, 2020, the Department of Peace Operation (DPO), Save the Children and the Government of Niger and Uruguay co-sponsored a virtual high-level side event focusing on “The Child Protection Mandate in the Time of COVID-19: A Joint Responsibility in UN Peacekeeping Operations”. During the event, the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the United Nations Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations Lieutenant General Carlos Humberto Loitey, the United Nations Police Advisor, Luís Carrilho, UNMISS Senior Child Protection Adviser Alfred Orono-Orono and a representative from Save the Children discussed good practices and lessons learned in the implementation of the Child Protection mandate in peace operations, while Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the protection of children in situation of armed conflict.