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SC/14881
5 May 2022

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 fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Yemen (S/2021/761), 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 Yemen which are mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General, and in particular non-State armed groups, such as the Houthis (who call themselves Ansar Allah), as well as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State:

  • Strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in Yemen, and noting with concern the increase in violations; as well as at the disproportionate negative impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on children, which further exacerbated existing challenges; demanding that all parties to the conflict to immediately end and prevent all abuses and violations against children, including those involving killing and maiming of children, the recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abduction, and the denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law;
  • Calling upon all parties to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Yemen (S/AC.51/2013/3) (S/AC.51/2020/1);
  • 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 without undue delay, including through timely and systematic investigations, and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction;
  • Stressing that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, and that the specific needs and vulnerabilities of girls and boys should be duly considered, when planning and carrying out actions concerning children in situations of armed conflict;
  • Strongly condemning the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict identified in the report, of which the majority were recruited and used by the Houthis; noting that some two thirds of the children were recruited and used in active combat, while approximately one third of the children were used in other roles that include guarding military checkpoints and placing or clearing landmines; also noting that the recruitment and use of children was frequently connected to other of the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, in particular killing and maiming; strongly urging all armed forces and groups to immediately and without preconditions release all children associated with them and end and prevent further recruitment and use of children, consistent with their obligations under international law and, as applicable 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 Yemen upon accession thereto in 2007;
  • Expressing concern about the deprivation of liberty of children by parties to armed conflict, for their alleged association with armed forces and armed groups and urging all parties to the conflict to release those children; and ensure their full reintegration through child protection programmes, urging that children allegedly associated with parties to the conflict should be treated primarily as victims, including those children who are accused of having committed crimes and that detention should be used 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 (the Paris Principles) endorsed by the Government of Yemen in December 2012;
  • Calling upon all parties who have not yet done so to enhance their engagement with the United Nations to develop and adopt appropriate standard operating procedures for the release and reintegration of children associated with parties to the conflict and grant immediate access to civilian child protection actors to facilitate their release and reintegration into their communities, and underlining that family and community-based reintegration of children formerly associated with parties to the conflict is essential to provide a future to these children, as well as to prevent the risks of re-recruitment in violation of international law, and welcoming in this regard efforts undertaken by the Government of Yemen and the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen to reunite children formerly associated with armed groups with their families;
  • Strongly condemning the high number of children killed and maimed, including by mortar and artillery shelling, ground fighting, including by small arms fire and snipers, mines and explosive remnants of war (ERWs), airstrikes and other aerial attacks, and noting an increasing trend of child casualties due to military vehicle collisions; urging all parties 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, and in this context expressing deep concern at the fact that shelling often is carried out in built-up residential areas;
  • Expressing deep concern at the cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children and at the lack of appropriate 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; noting with concern that rape and other forms of sexual violence continue to be underreported due to fear of stigmatization, cultural norms, lack of awareness, fear of reprisals, and threats, and lack of adequate support services; and stressing the importance of providing non-discriminatory and comprehensive specialized services, including psychosocial, health, including sexual and reproductive health services, legal and livelihood support and services to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence;  
  • Strongly condemning the attacks on schools and hospitals, including protected persons in contravention of international law; which threaten children’s right to education, noting with concern that schools were used for the dissemination of propaganda and for recruitment purposes which in some cases led to students being unable to attend classes; calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, and to end and prevent attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel in violation of international law; expressing deep concern at numbers of incidents of military use of schools and hospitals and the disruption caused to the education thousands of children in Yemen;
  • Expressing deep concern at the abduction of children, including for the purpose of recruitment and use of children by parties to the conflict and other forms of exploitation as well as ransom, and calling upon all concerned parties to cease the abduction of children and immediately release all abducted children;
  • Expressing grave concern at the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, strongly condemning the unprecedented high number of incidents of denial of humanitarian access to children, including attacks on humanitarian personnel, facilities and assets, noting in particular reports of delays and hold-up of humanitarian personnel at checkpoints; and calling upon all parties to the armed conflict, in particular the Houthis, to allow and facilitate, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, safe, timely and unhindered access to children, and recalling also the UN guiding principles adopted in General Assembly resolution 46/182 as well as the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and to respect the work of all United Nations humanitarian agencies, and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction;
  • Encouraging those who are or will be engaged in peace talks and agreements to ensure that child protection provisions, including those relating to the release and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups, as well as provisions on the rights and well-being of children, are integrated when relevant and appropriate into peace negotiations, ceasefire and peace agreements, and into provisions for ceasefire monitoring, and taking into account children’s views, where possible, in these processes;
  • Expressing grave concern at the security, access and other challenges faced by United Nations personnel of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on the six grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict and demanding that parties to the conflict facilitate their safe and unhindered access to territories for monitoring and reporting purposes and immediately halt threats against mechanism personnel, including monitors, and communities where allegations of violations and abuses are being reviewed;
  • Calling upon all parties to the conflict listed in the annexes of the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict to sign and implement an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the six grave violations against children, if they have not yet done so, and to this effect enter into a dialogue with the United Nations, and calling upon them to implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Yemen;

To the Houthis

  • Expressing grave concern and strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in Yemen by the Houthis; noting that the Houthis are the main perpetrators of the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict in Yemen; acknowledging the steps taken by the Houthis regarding the formalization of a child protection-focused dialogue with the United Nations in July 2019, the development of a joint action plan, as well as the signing in April 2020 of a protocol for the hand-over of children captured during military operations; urging the Houthis to immediately take all necessary actions to meet their obligations under international law, to enhance their ongoing dialogue with the United Nations in Yemen and to implement the action plan and to implement the existing handover protocol; and calling upon them to implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Yemen;

To community and religious leaders

  • Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by 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 those involving 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 of Yemen, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support the reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to prevent the stigmatization of those children.

For information media. Not an official record.