Chapter 14 – Peace Processes
To support the inclusion of child protection provisions within the terms of peace processes, peace agreements, and post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts, noting the unique vulnerability and protection needs of children, the importance of their rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities, and the urgent need to prevent and end the recruitment and use of child soldiers to achieve lasting and sustainable peace.
Why is this principle important?
Peace processes, peace agreements, and post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts provide critical opportunities to ensure the rights of children are protected and supported. These instruments help direct the release of children from armed forces and armed groups and ensure they are primarily treated as victims, while also putting the children’s best interests first when reintegrating them into their communities and preventing re-recruitment. Addressing the protection and rights of children can serve as a useful entry point for building confidence among the relevant parties and facilitating negotiations. The meaningful participation of youth in peace processes can help set the foundations for enduring peace and stability.
Since the establishment of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1261 (1999), the UN Security Council has repeatedly called for the inclusion of child protection provisions in peace agreements.Endnote 142 The Paris Commitments (2007) and the Paris Principles (2007) also call for peace agreements to contain specific provisions for the needs of children.Endnote 143 Most recently, the UN Security Council called on the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG/CAAC), together with relevant child protection actors, to compile practical UN guidance on the integration of child protection issues in peace processes.Endnote 144 However, despite repeated calls through UN resolutions, child protection provisions are still excluded from the majority of peace agreements.Endnote 145
Member States can be involved in peace processes, peace agreements, and post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts in a peacekeeping context as mediators, negotiators, donors, partners and allies of the parties, and of course as peacekeepers.
How can this principle be implemented?
Train mediators, negotiators, and other relevant officials on integrating child protection provisions in peace processes: Mediators, negotiators, and their respective teams – both women and men – should have training on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers, to better understand how to effectively include child protection provisions and language in negotiations and, ultimately, in peace and ceasefire agreements, including associated disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs.
Advocate for the meaningful, safe, and equitable participation of children in peace processes: UNSCR 2427 (2018) calls for the inclusion of the views of children in peace initiatives and processes. Recognizing the rights of children as agents of change and critical stakeholders in the transition to peace is part of the reconciliation and justice process, for the children as well as their families and communities. It is important that the participation of girls and boys is meaningful and ethical to avoid causing prejudices to children or instrumentalizing them during the process.
Advocate for the inclusion of child protection provisions in the cessation of hostilities and ceasefires: Member States can encourage negotiators in peace agreements to call for the following:
- The immediate release and reintegration of children: Member States should encourage provisions for all parties to an armed conflict to immediately and without preconditions release all children within their ranks, and identify child protection actors to be present throughout the screening process to facilitate the swift and orderly handover of these children. Member States should also seek to include special provisions and resources for the release and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups (combatants as well as non-combatants), including those born in captivity, and differentiate between the needs of boys and girls.
- The protection of children in security sector reform: Child protection provisions should be addressed in the composition or reconstitution of security and defence forces emerging from peace agreements. In accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Member States should call for parties to prohibit the integration of children into armed forces or armed groups, and to prevent and end grave violations against children by armed forces.Endnote 146 They should call for mandatory practical child protection training for security and defence forces, and for the inclusion of specific provisions on child protection in standard operating procedures – including in the context of detention and transfer, and in rules of engagement.
- The identification of the six grave violations against children as a violation of the ceasefire, and their inclusion as prohibited acts: Peace agreements should incorporate provisions that prohibit grave violations against children, and establish that amnesties for these crimes under international law are prohibited. Peace agreements may also include provisions to end impunity and prosecute those responsible for crimes perpetrated against children, and exclude perpetrators of grave violations of children’s rights from joining security forces.
- The protection of children’s rights in justice and reconciliation mechanisms, recognizing that children should be treated as victims first: All children in contact with the law, including child soldiers, should be treated according to international law, standards, and norms, as well as principles of justice for children. Member States should reiterate that children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups are victims first, and focus their treatment on effective rehabilitation and reintegration into society, including, where relevant, non-judicial measures as an alternative to criminal procedures.Endnote 147 In particular, children associated with armed forces or armed groups should be granted the broadest possible amnesty in peace agreements.
- The protection of children in monitoring arrangements: A child protection representative should be included in the entity tasked with monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire or cessation of hostilities.
- The provision of social services for children: Member States can encourage measures to address specific post-conflict needs of children (e.g. education, vocational training, medical and psycho-social services, dedicated funds, etc.). They can also call for and support provisions to promote birth and late-birth registration as a means to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Support the funding and monitoring of child protection provisions in peace processes: Member States should consider dedicating separate funding for child protection, release, and reintegration during donor meetings for the implementation of a peace agreement. Moreover, Member States should call for child protection expertise in all bodies charged with monitoring and/or implementing a peace agreement.
Examples and resources
Peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army: On 24 November 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) signed the “Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace.”Endnote 148 Among other things, the peace agreement includes a dedicated section on “reintegration for minors who have left FARC-EP camps.”Endnote 149
Peace agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (Lomé Peace Agreement): This agreement reaffirmed the cessation of hostilities of 18 May 1997 and provides for power-sharing arrangements between the Sierra Leone government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).Endnote 150 Article XXX states that “the Government shall accord particular attention to the issue of child soldiers. It shall, accordingly, mobilize resources, both within the country and from the International Community, and especially through the Office of the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, [UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)] and other agencies, to address the special needs of these children in the existing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes.”Endnote 151
“EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict”: Adopted in 2010, the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict express that the EU will ensure that the needs of children are taken into account in peace negotiations and peace agreements.Endnote 152
“Checklist for Drafting Children and Armed Conflict Provisions in Peace Agreements”: Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict has developed a checklist for drafting CAAC provisions in ceasefire and peace agreements. This checklist provides recommendations to mediators and their teams on incorporating inclusive and child protection-relevant language and provisions in various parts of both ceasefire and peace agreements.Endnote 153
To implement this principle, Member States should undertake the following:
- Train mediators, negotiators, and other relevant officials on integrating child protection provisions in peace processes, acknowledging the need for gender diversity in these roles.
- Advocate for the meaningful, safe, and equitable participation of children in peace processes.
- Advocate for the inclusion of child protection provisions in the cessation of hostilities and ceasefires, including by calling for the following:
- The immediate release and reintegration of children;
- The protection of children in security sector reform;
- The identification of the six grave violations against children as a violation of the ceasefire, and their inclusion as prohibited acts;
- The protection of children’s rights in justice and reconciliation mechanisms, recognizing that children should be treated as victims first;
- The protection of children in monitoring arrangements; and,
- The provision of social services for children.
- Support the funding and monitoring of child protection provisions in peace processes.
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