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SC/14174
29 April 2020

Public Statement by Chair of Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the fourth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan (document S/2019/727), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to the armed conflict in Afghanistan, in particular non-State armed groups, such as the Taliban forces and affiliated groups, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), Haqqani Network and Hezb-e Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as well as the Afghan National Police and Afghan Local Police, as mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General, through a public statement by its Chair:

  • Expressing deep concern at the scale, severity and recurrence of grave violations and abuses endured by children in Afghanistan, particularly the high levels of killing and maiming of children; strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in Afghanistan; and urging all parties to the conflict to immediately end and prevent all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law;
  • Calling upon them to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan (S/AC.51/2016/1, S/AC.51/2011/3, and S/AC.51/2009/1);
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict and stressing that all those responsible must be brought to justice and held accountable, including through timely, systematic, impartial and independent investigations, and, as appropriate, prosecution, and conviction;
  • Expressing deep concern at the significant increase of children killed and maimed, including those resulting from military operations on the ground, improvised explosive devices attacks, explosive remnants of war, aerial operations by Government and pro-Government forces, and suicide and complex attacks, particularly by the Taliban and the ISIL-KP; and strongly urging all parties to reduce levels of violence and to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid and in any event minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects; encouraging parties to continue to follow up on reports of the killing and maiming of children to improve operational practice and ensure accountability, as well as ensure adequate and effective reparations;
  • Condemning the recruitment and use of children, both by armed groups which are responsible for the majority of cases, with the Taliban remaining the main perpetrator, as well as by the Afghan security forces, in particular the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Local Police; strongly urging all security forces and armed groups to immediately and without conditions release all children associated with them and end and prevent further recruitment and use of children under 18 years of age, consistent with their obligations under international law, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the declaration made by Afghanistan upon accession thereto in 2003, as applicable;
  • Expressing concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed forces and armed groups and urging all parties to conflict to release all those children and support their full re-integration through specialized child protection programmes; urging that children associated or allegedly associated with parties to conflict must be treated primarily as victims, and that detention should be considered only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, in line with international law as well as guided by the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (“Paris Principles”) endorsed by the Government of Afghanistan;  and urging the Government to ensure that, where children face prosecution for allegedly committing crimes, those prosecutions respect the rights of the child;
  • Expressing deep concern at the cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, which are underreported, including cases of sexual violence involving bacha bazi, and about the lack of appropriate response and services for survivors; strongly urging all parties to the armed conflict to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; and stressing the importance of accountability for those responsible for sexual and gender-based violence against children;
  • Strongly condemning the attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of international law, including attacks by armed groups on schools used as voter registration and polling centres, with armed groups being responsible for the majority of attacks on schools and education personnel and on hospitals and medical personnel, mostly attributed to the Taliban; calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals as such, including their personnel, and to end and prevent disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel as well as the military use of schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international law, guided by the Safe Schools Declaration signed by the Government of Afghanistan in May 2015, and stressing the importance of accountability for attacks in violation of international law against those institutions;
  • Strongly condemning the abduction of children, of which the majority of cases were attributed to armed groups; and calling upon all concerned parties to cease the abduction of children and immediately release all abducted children;
  • Strongly condemning the incidents of denial of humanitarian access, of which the majority are attributed to armed groups, in particular the Taliban, including attacks on humanitarian personnel, such as humanitarian de-miners and vaccinators; and calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered access to children, consistent with the United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance, to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and to respect the work of all United Nations agencies, and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction;
  • Expressing concern about the lack of sufficient programmes for reintegration and support to children formerly associated with parties to conflict, children released from detention facilities and rejected underage applicants to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and underlining that family and community-based reintegration of children formerly associated with parties to conflict is essential to provide a future to these children and their families, as well as prevent the risks of re-recruitment;

To the Government of Afghanistan:

  • Welcoming the progress and concrete steps taken by the Government of Afghanistan to end and prevent child recruitment and use by its security forces in the implementation of the Roadmap to Compliance it endorsed in 2014 to complement and expedite the implementation of the Action Plan, including by enacting a law criminalizing child recruitment and use in the ANDSF in 2015 and by adopting the 2017 revised Penal Code, which explicitly criminalizes recruitment and use of children and falsification of tazkeras, and the Child Act by Presidential Decree, and by endorsing the national age assessment guidelines in 2015; expressing concern that progress on screening mechanisms in the Afghan Local Police remains a challenge, and that the implementation of the revised Penal Code and prosecution of perpetrators for recruitment and use, including for bacha bazi, is lacking; and urging the Government to intensify its efforts to end and prevent recruitment and use of children by the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Local Police, to put in place age screening mechanisms when operationalizing the Afghan Territorial Forces, and to ensure accountability for recruitment and use of children;
  • Urging the Government of Afghanistan to prevent the recruitment of children when integrating former combatants of Hezb-e Islami, following the signing of the peace agreement between the Government and the armed group;
  • Welcoming the 2016 Ministry of Interior directive prohibiting media exposure of children arrested on national security-related charges, the National Directorate of Security directive that children should be separated from adult detainees, and the 2018 amendment to the Criminal Procedural Code providing that children arrested on security-related charges should be referred to a Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre; urging the Government to develop a national plan on children detained on national security-related charges and to put in place a solid response mechanism to address the needs of children formerly associated with parties to conflict, released from detention facilities or rejected during formal recruitment processes, to help ensure their recovery, protection and reintegration, and prevent further recruitment;
  •  Welcoming the endorsement by the Government of Afghanistan of the National Policy on Civilian Casualty Prevention and Mitigation and urging it to implement this policy;
  • Commending the Government of Afghanistan for ratifying Protocol V of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons concerning explosive remnants of war in August 2017 and encouraging it to develop an implementation plan and to continue awareness raising programs on the dangers of explosive remnants of war amongst communities in order to end and prevent the killing and maiming of children by explosive remnants of war;
  • Welcoming the 2017 revised Penal Code which explicitly criminalizes bacha bazi and the Child Act which includes provisions on sexual violence against children and should be adopted as soon as possible by parliament; encouraging the Government to improve implementation and prosecution of perpetrators, in particular of bacha bazi, including Government officials, and to provide response mechanisms to provide support and protection to victims and survivors of sexual violence;
  • Recalling the endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration and welcoming the subsequent promulgation of two directives by the Ministry of Education to better protect schools; and encouraging the Government to continue to strengthen laws and policies to prevent the military use of schools;
  • Welcoming the launch of the Child Protection Policy by the Ministry of Defence in 2017 which focuses on the prevention of the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict and military use of education and health facilities, applicable to all Afghan National Army-related personnel;
  • Underlining the importance of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognizing that a strong focus is needed on combating poverty, deprivation and inequality in Afghanistan to prevent and protect Afghan children from all violations and abuses in particular in the context of armed conflict and to promote the resilience of children, their families and their communities, and the importance of promoting education for all and peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development;

To the NATO Resolute Support Mission:

  • Welcoming the deployment since 2016 by the NATO Resolute Support Mission of a Senior Child Protection Advisor and encouraging it to continue to provide support in strengthening the child protection capabilities of ANDSF through its Train, Advise and Assist mandate, including in revising their policies and through training on children affected by armed conflict and child protection;

To the United States:

  • Taking note with appreciation of the designation by the United States of a senior civilian within the Department of Defence responsible for developing, coordinating and overseeing compliance with policies relating to civilian casualties in United States military operations, including policies for assessing reports of civilian casualties, and of the further development of policy to guide its forces’ efforts to minimize civilian casualties; and encouraging them to continue their efforts to protect children during military operations, and to continue to abide by their obligations under international law;

To the Taliban and other armed groups:

  • Expressing grave concern at the use of indirect fire systems and their effect on children, including in civilian-populated areas, and improvised explosive devices targeting civilians and civilian objects, as well as the indiscriminate use of these weapons by the Taliban and other armed groups; and urging them to make a distinction between civilians and civilian objects on the one hand and military targets on the other and to take measures to protect civilians;
  • Urging the Taliban and other armed groups to immediately end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, to issue military orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of anyone under 18 years of age, to immediately release all children from their ranks and support their re-integration into society;
  • Urging the Taliban and other armed groups to immediately halt attacks against medical personnel and facilities, including during vaccination campaigns, as well as against schools and education personnel, including when used as voter registration and polling centres, and to stop abducting children for any purposes;

To all those concerned:

  • Calling upon all parties to the conflict listed in the annexes of the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, that have not yet done so, to enter into a dialogue with the United Nations for the purpose of developing and implementing an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict;
  • Calling upon those who are or will be engaged in peace talks and agreements to ensure that child protection provisions, including the release and reintegration of children, as well as provisions on the rights and well-being of children, are integrated into all peace negotiations, ceasefire and peace agreements and in provisions for ceasefire monitoring, taking into account children’s views, where possible, in these processes;
  • Calling upon the Government of Afghanistan, Member States, United Nations entities, including the Peacebuilding Commission, and other parties concerned to ensure that the protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children affected by armed conflict are fully incorporated and prioritized in all post-conflict recovery and reconstruction planning, programmes and strategies as well as in efforts on peacebuilding and sustaining peace and encourage and facilitate consideration of the views of children in these processes;
  • Demanding parties to the conflict to facilitate the United Nations monitoring and reporting personnel safe and unhindered access for monitoring and reporting purposes;

To community and religious leaders:

  • Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children and armed conflict;
  • Urging them to strengthen community-level protection and to publicly condemn and continue to advocate ending and preventing violations and abuses against children, notably the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks and threats of attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions and denial of humanitarian access, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support re-integration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of these children.
For information media. Not an official record.