On 8 September 2014 the UN Security Council held an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict briefed the Council for this debate and over 60 speakers participated. The Security Council's last open debate on Children and Armed Conflict, which was held on 7 March and unanimously resulted in SCR 2143 regarding the prevention of children from being directly involved in military activities.
Only 25 out of 60 speakers included significant gender considerations in their statements, particularly around issues of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and the importance of protecting women and children from being victims of violent conflict. Twenty speakers denounced the Boko Haram kidnapping of 276 Nigerian school girls. Only two speakers - the UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation and the representative of Sudan - mentioned the importance of including women in peace processes.
Although most gender-sensitive speakers briefly touched upon an aspect of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in one or two sentences, the representative of Iran, Gholamhossein Deghani, was a clear exception in this debate. Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), he expressed their “resolve to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, especially in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation, including the systematic use of abduction and rape by the parties to a conflict as an instrument of war, as well the trafficking in and victimization of women and girls”. He also expressed that perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice and emphasized the importance of having legislation that protects women and girls from such atrocities. This strong statement aside, requests from the Council in SCR 2122 for integration of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) considerations remained largely unaddressed, as 60 percent of the statements were gender blind.
This debate focused on the effects of current global conflicts on children. It highlighted that although gains have been made in the protect of children in recent years, these gains have been overshadowed by global crises. Amongst the challenges mentioned were the grave situations in Gaza and Syria and the threats of Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). All of the speakers emphasized the importance of engaging non-state actors and of holding perpetrators of these crimes against children accountable. All of the speakers additionally noted that violent conflict can physically or psychologically wound children: whether they are victims or forced to be violent actors in times of war.
One of the speakers briefing the event, was war survivor Sandra Uwiringiyimana, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms. Uwiringiyimana told the moving story of how she fled from violent conflict in her hometown which resulted in the closing of her school, the destruction of her home and the killing of her loved ones- before she escaped at the age of 10. Ambassador Powers recounted the story of three victims of war, including an 18 year-old woman from Iraq who was captured by ISIL with 300 other women and girls, who witnessed the massacre of boys and men from her community and is now being raped everyday. These two stories particularly stand out as an example of how important is it that Council members bring attention to WPS issues in their statements and mobilize political will and concrete action toward implementation of the WPS agenda.