Chapter 7 – Protection and Care of Children
To take proactive measures to ensure that all children, including those associated with armed forces and armed groups, who come into contact with our peacekeepers during peacekeeping operations are treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and applicable international human rights law, with special consideration of their status as children, and are protected against violations of international humanitarian law and applicable international human rights law, and that any requirements for the care and aid of such children are appropriately addressed and communicated to Heads of Missions and the military chain of command in the most expeditious manner possible in the circumstances.
Why is this principle important?
International humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) outline specific protections and safeguards for children in armed conflict, including under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, as well as under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.Endnote 74 These are reinforced by a series of UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) that underscore child protection as a fundamental concern for international peace and security, beginning with UNSCR 1261 (1999). A series of normative instruments have further reinforced the priority of child protection, including the Paris Principles (2007), the Safe Schools Declaration (2015), and the Vancouver Principles (2017).
Within this legal and normative framework, the UN has articulated clear policies and procedures for UN personnel regarding the protection of children, including through the 2017 DPKO-DFS-DPA Policy on Child Protection in United Nations Peace Operations, the UN Policy on the Prohibition of Child Labour in Peacekeeping Operations, the UN prohibition of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), and the Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS), which contain specific provisions related to children.Endnote 75 These mechanisms have a number of cross-cutting themes, including the assertion that peacekeepers must ensure, to the maximum extent possible, the survival and development of the child.
The ability of peacekeepers to take proactive measures to protect children, in accordance with the abovementioned international legal, normative and policy framework, and within the mission mandate, is important to mission success and underpins the very credibility of peacekeeping and of the UN itself. The consequences of failing to protect the rights of a child are severe: for the victims, the local community, the mission at large, and the reputation of the Troop and Police Contributing Country (T/PCC). In the 2015 report on implementing the recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), the UN Secretary-General placed the protection of children in armed conflict as a core priority within the broader UN mandate to promote the protection of civilians.
How can this principle be implemented?
Articulate the roles and responsibilities of peacekeepers for child protection in relevant national strategic policies, doctrine, and directives: Professional expectations for peacekeepers regarding child protection that reflect the existing legal, normative and policy framework should be reiterated in national policy, doctrine, orders, and directives, enshrined in national codes of conduct, and enforced through appropriate national reporting, accountability, and disciplinary measures. These national-level guidance documents should reflect a number of core principles regarding child protection, including, but not limited to, “the best interest of the child, non-discrimination, do no harm, confidentiality, gender awareness, and a child rights-based approach.”Endnote 76 These national-level documents should also situate peacekeepers as strategically complementary to other child protection actors in situations of armed conflict, respecting the important – and often lead – roles of other child protection actors.
Ensure peacekeepers are educated and trained on relevant and applicable IHL and IHRL, as well as the special protections afforded to children: Peacekeepers should be educated on the international legal, normative and policy framework relevant to their roles and responsibilities for child protection. Furthermore, peacekeepers should receive specific training to give them the skills necessary to appropriately handle encounters with children. Peacekeepers need to know how to consider the best interests of the child and to abide by the principle of “do no harm.” They also need to know how to undertake proactive efforts to protect children from the six grave violations and respond to other child protection concerns, in accordance with the mission mandate and in support of other child protection actors. The UN’s Core Pre-deployment Training Materials (CPTM) for UN Peace Operations (Module 2, Lesson 2.7 on Child Protection) can be used as a training reference.Endnote 77
Ensure peacekeepers understand their roles and responsibilities regarding child protection before deploying to a UN peacekeeping operation, in accordance with the UN Force Commander’s and Police Commissioner’s Child Protection Directives, as applicable: While peacekeepers have a clear obligation to protect children, their role must be situated properly within a network of important child protection actors. In the context of a UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Force Commander’s and UN Police Commissioner’s Child Protection Directives provide mission-specific guidance on the role of peacekeepers in child protection, in close coordination with the Child Protection Advisors (CPAs) and Child Protection Focal Points (CPFPs).
Develop clear procedures, directives, or orders for peacekeepers on how to handle encounters with children affected by armed conflict, including child soldiers, to ensure all children are treated in accordance with international law and consistent with UN policy and guidance: Peacekeepers should be equipped with clear procedures, directives, or orders on how to handle encounters with children affected by armed conflict, whereby the protection and care of children is prioritized. More specifically, peacekeepers should be directed to provide immediate attention and care upon encountering a child, and then to transfer the child as soon as practicable to the appropriate authorities so that they can be protected in a safe environment and receive care from the appropriate medical, mental health, or other specialised personnel, as required.
UNSCR 2427 (2018) calls for ‘standard operating procedures’ for the rapid handover of children to relevant civilian child protection actors.Endnote 78
Transfers should always seek to protect children from further exploitation by armed forces or armed groups, and children should not be transferred if there exists tangible risk that the detainee would be in danger of being subjected to torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, or other forms of mistreatment at the hands of the authorities to whom that person is transferred. National contingents should consult the mission’s CPAs on safe and appropriate receiving authorities, and other considerations relevant to the transfer of children, as appropriate.
Examples and resources
UN Specialised Training Materials (STMs) on Child Protection: These courses comprise specialised training modules that focus on specific topics or groups, particularly those that have been identified as priority areas of mandate implementation like child protection. Notably, these materials identify “dos and don’ts” for uniformed peacekeepers regarding child protection in UN peacekeeping operations with child protection mandates.Endnote 79 These training materials are arranged by the specific function or employment category of the individuals deployed on peacekeeping operations, such as military or police experts on mission, political affairs officers, or movement control personnel. Prior to conducting training with these STMs, personnel must complete the Core Pre-deployment Training Materials (CPTM).
UN peacekeeping operations that have Child Protection Directives: The following missions have an established Force Commander’s Directive on Child Protection, in accordance with the mission’s mandate. These Directives articulate how the child protection mandate will be mainstreamed by peacekeepers throughout the Force component:
- United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO); signed in July 2017.Endnote 80
- United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA); signed in December 2018.Endnote 81
- United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS); signed in February 2019.
Children and Armed Conflict: A Guide to International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law: Produced by the International Bureau for Children’s Rights, this guide provides a detailed overview of the international laws, standards, and principles that guarantee the fundamental rights of children affected by armed conflict.Endnote 82
To implement this principle, Member States should undertake the following:
- Articulate the roles and responsibilities of peacekeepers for child protection in relevant national strategic policies, doctrine, and directives.
- Ensure peacekeepers are educated and trained on relevant and applicable international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL), as well as the special protections afforded to children.
- Ensure peacekeepers understand their roles and responsibilities regarding child protection before deploying to a UN peacekeeping operation, in accordance with the UN Force Commander’s and Police Commissioner’s Child Protection Directives, as applicable.
- Develop clear procedures, directives, or orders for peacekeepers on how to handle encounters with children affected by armed conflict, including child soldiers, to ensure all children are treated in accordance with international law and consistent with UN policy and guidance.
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