Public Statement by Chair of Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

At its eighty-third meeting, on 30 July 2019, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Myanmar (document S/2018/956), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to the armed conflict in Myanmar as described in the report of the Secretary-General, in particular to the Tatmadaw Kyi, including the integrated border guard forces, as well as non-State armed groups, such as the Karen National Liberation Army, the United Wa State Army, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Kachin Independence Army, the Karenni Army, the Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, and the Shan State Army:

Strongly condemning all violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in Myanmar, urging them to immediately end and prevent all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children, abduction, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals as well as the military use of schools and denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law; and calling upon the Government of Myanmar to criminalize the six grave violations against children affected by armed conflict;

Expressing deep concern about the continued recruitment and use of children in violation of international law by all parties to the armed conflict, including by non-State armed groups, the continued abductions of children, including for recruitment purposes, as well as the detention of children associated with armed forces and armed groups;

Expressing deep concern at the high number of children killed and maimed, including as a direct or indirect result of actions by the Myanmar military and security forces, of fighting between parties to armed conflict and of attacks against civilian populations, including through the use of anti-personnel landmines, and urging all parties to comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, as applicable, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid and, in any event, minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects;

Calls upon all parties to armed conflict to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to children, respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and respect the work of all United Nations humanitarian agencies and their humanitarian partners, including child protection actors, without distinction;

Calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, and to end and prevent deliberate, disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel as well as the military use of schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international law;

Urging all parties to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement to fully abide by its provisions relating to the prevention of the six grave violations against children, as well as those actors who are or will be engaged in the peace process fully comply with the agreement made at the July 2018 third session of the Union Peace Conference (21st Century Panglong Conference) to set up and conduct programs to ensure children’s rights, abide by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for all-round development of children and eliminate the Six Grave Violations against children; Demanding that all parties to the armed conflict further implement previous conclusions of the Working Group (S/AC.51/2008/9, S/AC.51/2009/4, and S/AC.51/2013/2);

To the Government of Myanmar:

Expressing grave concern over violations and abuses against children in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States by all parties, including by the Myanmar military and security forces, in particular against persons belonging to the Rohingya community as well as other minority ethnic communities, including those violations involving the systematic use of force and intimidation, killing of children, sexual violence, and including the destruction and burning of homes and property;

Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict and expressing deep concern over the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed against children by all parties to the armed conflict, and urging the Government of Myanmar to put an end to impunity by ensuring that those responsible for violations and abuses are brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through rigorous, timely, independent and impartial investigation and prosecution;

Strongly urging the Government of Myanmar to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children by members of their military and security forces and stressing the importance of accountability for those responsible for sexual and gender-based violence against children;

Calling on the Government of Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force and to comply with their other obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, as applicable, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid and in any event minimize harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects;

Taking note of the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Prevention of the Six Grave Violations during Armed Conflict on 7 January 2019 and calling upon the Government of Myanmar to engage with the United Nations in developing, adopting and implementing without undue delay comprehensive action plans addressing killing and maiming and rape and other sexual violence that the Tatmadaw, including the integrated border forces, are listed for in the Secretary General’s Annual report, and in taking measures to prevent all violations against children, including through the issuance and enforcement of military command orders and punitive directives on all six grave violations against children;

Requesting the Government of Myanmar to facilitate safe and unimpeded access of the country task force on monitoring and reporting to other parties in Myanmar listed in annex I to the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, especially those that have signed the Union Accord during the Third Session of the Union Peace Conference (21st Century Panglong Conference), in order to expedite the development of action plans by armed groups, in line with Security Council resolution 1612 (2005);

Welcoming the ongoing efforts to address the issue of recruitment and use of children in Myanmar and the progress made in that respect since the last conclusions of the Working Group (S/AC.51/2013/2), while expressing concern about new cases of recruitment and use of children as reported by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict on 10 June 2019 (S/AC.51/2019/COMM.7);

Welcoming the releases of children from the Tatmadaw, and calling on the Government of Myanmar to take further measures towards the full implementation of the action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw, including the integrated border guard forces, by complying with their international obligations and consistently applying the principles arising from them also enshrined in the action plan, such as taking into account the best interests of the child as a primary consideration, the recognition that children in contact with the law are to be treated primarily as victims, and the application of the benefit of the doubt to enable suspected minors whose age cannot be conclusively determined to be treated as children and afforded the necessary protective measures in line with that status, including in relation to their release from the Tatmadaw, and stressing the importance of the fight against impunity for child recruitment and use, including through the criminalization of the recruitment and use of children, the issuance of military command orders prohibiting and sanctioning the recruitment and use of children and other violations against children; Welcoming that the Government of Myanmar has signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) and calling on the Government of Myanmar to consider, as a matter of priority, ratifying OPAC, and adopting without undue delay legislation protecting children’s rights consistent with international obligations and standards;

Welcoming that the Government of Myanmar has endorsed the outcomes of the 2007 conference held in Paris;

Urging the Government of Myanmar to grant the United Nations agencies and their partners immediate, safe and unhindered access, including humanitarian access, to Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, as well as other domestic and international non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance;

Welcoming the cooperation between the Government of Myanmar and ASEAN, specifically through ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance, on humanitarian response and protection of refugees, including children, and for their safe, voluntary and dignified return, and calling upon them to coordinate this with the United Nations;

Encouraging the Government to focus on comprehensive and sustainable reintegration and rehabilitation opportunities for all children affected by armed conflict, including those released from armed groups, irrespective of the status of engagement of the group in the peace process, that are gender- and age-sensitive, including equal access to health care, psychosocial support and education programmes, as well as raising awareness and working with communities to avoid stigmatization of these children and facilitate their return, while taking into account the specific needs of girls and boys, in order to contribute to the well-being of children and to sustainable peace and security;

Welcoming the efforts of the Government of Myanmar with regard to training on the six grave violations and to sharing knowledge on how to efficiently prevent all six grave violations and enhance the protection of children affected by armed conflict, and inviting the Government to continue these efforts with a view to providing tangible prevention and accountability for violations and abuses against children;

To Armed Groups:

Noting the efforts of the Kachin Independence Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council and the Shan State Army for their engagement with the United Nations on child protection and their commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children;

Urging all non-State actors to take all necessary action towards the full implementation of their commitments and obligations and to expeditiously develop action plans in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2068 (2012).

To community and religious leaders:

Emphasizing the important role of community and religious leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict, and in promoting the peaceful coexistence of religious and ethnic groups;

Urging them to publicly condemn and continue to advocate ending and preventing violations and abuses against children, in particular those involving the recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, killing and maiming, abductions, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of these children.

Source: UN Security Council