UN: Children in war must never be a political bargaining chip

The United Nations Security Council must urgently fix its monitoring and reporting mechanism for children impacted by armed conflict, which is putting some of the most vulnerable lives at further risk by pandering to political sensitivities, Amnesty International said ahead of an open debate on the subject scheduled for 23 June.

In the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict (CAAC), published last week, Saudi Arabia was completely removed from the list of warring states and armed groups around the world found to be violating children’s rights.

“The latest decision by the Secretary-General to remove Saudi Arabia from the list of states is the clearest sign yet that the system is failing to protect children in armed conflict. Instead, these children  have become a bargaining chip in wider political discussions,” said Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York.

The Saudi Arabia and UAE-led Coalition has rained down bombs on Yemeni children as they travelled in a school bus and in their homes as they slept, as well as used internationally banned cluster bombs that can maim and kill children for years to come.
Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York


“The Saudi Arabia and UAE-led Coalition has rained down bombs on Yemeni children as they travelled in a school bus and in their homes as they slept, as well as used internationally banned cluster bombs that can maim and kill children for years to come. Amnesty International has also documented incidents of rape and abuse of children by members of armed groups affiliated to the Coalition.

“This premature delisting shows the UN’s mechanism is highly compromised and therefore warrants a full, transparent review of how it’s working. Year on year, we have seen it weakened and a course correction is desperately needed to ensure an accurate and consistent approach to the listing process. The only way we see that happening is if Secretary-General Guterres initiates a full and independent review.

“We need to remember that this mechanism was set up to protect children in conflict. If it is failing, the international community needs to be willing to look into what should be done, and what programmes need to be resourced to ensure children are protected.”

On 22 June, Amnesty International joined a group of 24 NGOs in sending a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, calling on him to: reconsider the delisting of Saudi Arabia and Myanmar’s Tatmadaw; initiate a due diligence procedure to ensure that the annual report’s annexes accurately and consistently reflect the evidence gathered; and communicate to stakeholders how the new procedure will be implemented.

Background

In 2015, Saudi Arabia was included in the CAAC report for violations in the war in Yemen but was removed the following year by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He then publicly called out Saudi Arabia for effectively blackmailing the UN by threatening to pull funding from UN programmes. The reports published in 2017 and 2018 again downplayed Saudi Arabia’s role in endangering Yemeni children.

For the past five years, Amnesty International has reported extensively on how all parties to the conflict in Yemen have committed international humanitarian law violations, including likely war crimes, against children and other civilians.

The organization has recently begun a new strand of research to examine specific ways in which armed conflicts impact children, and continues to monitor the situation for children in northern Iraq, Northeast Nigeria and elsewhere.