On Wednesday September 19th, 2012, the Security Council held an open debate on Children in Armed Conflict (CAAC). The main focus was the Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict (S/2012/261), dated 26 April 2012. At the start of the open debate, the council adopted Resolution 2068 on CAAC, which addressed the issue of persistent perpetrators and the need for accountability; in addition to member states bringing perpetrators to justice through both national and international justice systems. The resolution passed: eleven in favor, zero against, and four abstaining. The four abstaining member states included Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan, and Russia. It is unprecedented for a resolution on thematic issues not to be passed by consensus and this vote illustrates the current divisions and tensions on the Council.
The open debate started with newly appointed Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui. Also addressing the Council was Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, and the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, David Tolbert. Forty-five member states, in addition to the European Union, addressed the Council. Out of the collective forty-six statements, twelve Member States made gender references, as did Special Representative Leila Zerrougui, Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous, and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake during their statements.
Fifteen statements out of some 50 speakers included gender references, the majority speaking to sexual violence, systematic rapes and sexual torture perpetrated against young girls during times of armed conflict.
SRSG Zerrougui, in addition to expressing her anticipation about future workings with SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, referenced sexual violence perpetrated against children by armed groups including those in Syria and M-23 in Africa. Also the Republic of Korea addressed the necessity for greater cooperation between offices.
Many delegates, including Canada, Afghanistan, Syria, US, France, and Switzerland, referenced sexual violence perpetrated against children during armed conflict. The Democratic Republic of the Congo acknowledged new government provisions concentrating on sexual violence, forced marriage, and forced prostitution as steps forward. Some reference the vulnerability of both women and children during times of war. However, unlike last year's debate, not one statement made direct reference to resolutions on women, peace and security: Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889 or 1960. It must be remembered that sexual violence as experienced by children in armed conflict is not mutually exclusive from sexual violence as articulated in resolutions on women, peace and security.
Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, made additional gendered references. Mr. Ladsous accredited the multidimensional peacekeeping operations, which include gender experts, in addition to child protection advisers who work with civilian components such as women protection advisers and gender and security sector reform, however he did not specifically mention any resolution pertaining to women, peace, and security (SCR 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960), all of which directly mention the necessity to implement gender and women within peacekeeping operations.
This is the first time in the Council's history to not reach a consensus on a resolution regarding children in armed conflict. It is gravely disappointing that Member States of the Council would abstain from such a vote in light of their country being mentioned in the SG Report. Such pretense does not warrant the abstaining action of Member States and should not be quietly overlooked by remaining members of the Council.
Member states did express their disappointment that the Council was unable to reach a consensus regarding the resolution. Azerbaijan, China, Russia and Pakistan abstained and noted reasons in their statements, which focused on the mandate of the SRSG. Additionally, Pakistan directly stated the report made an “unwarranted and completely misleading section on Pakistan” unequivocally calling attention to the country's dislike of being named in the report.
Various other topics articulated during the open debate on CAAC included measures necessary for dealing with persistent perpetrators. Many delegates supported this be done through existing sanctions committees. Numerous delegates also referenced the recent conviction of Thomas Lubanga for recruiting children in the DRC as a means to encourage states against impunity. Additionally, delegates encouraged both states and non-state actors to sign national action plans on children if they have not done so already.
Member states who spoke at the open debate included: representatives of the Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Estonia, Finland (on behalf of the Nordic Countries), France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Syria, Thailand, Togo, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and Viet Nam. The representative of the European Union delegation also delivered a statement.
UN and Civil Society representative at the debate included: Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, and the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, David Tolbert.
*States who referenced gender are in bold