The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict

In 1996 an expert study by Graca Machel raised the awarness of the General Assembly for the need of better protection and care of children in conflict situations. With the changing character of warfare the lines between civilians and combatants were no longer clear, often women and children were on the frontline and directly targeted. This development called for a comprehensive agenda and for action by member states and the international community. As a consequence, by resolution 51/77 (1996) the General Assembly created the post of a Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, whose overriding function was to mobilize a UN system wide effort for better protection of children in conflict situations.

The first Special Representative was the former ambassador of Uganda, Mr. Olara A. Otunnu, who identified the situation of Children and Armed Conflict as an issue of peace and security, thus as relevant for an engagement of the Security Council. This engagement began with resolution 1261 (1999): The Council asked the Secretary-General to compile a report on Children and Armed Conflict, which has become the basis for ongoing Security Council action on this issue.

In 2006 Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy assumed the post as Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The mission statement of Ms. Coomaraswamy is "to promote and protect the rights of all children affected by armed conflict". Within this mission, the Special Representative …

  • … serves as a moral voice and independent advocate for the protection and well-being of boys and girls affected by armed conflict,
  • … works with partners to propose ideas and approaches to enhance the protection of children and armed conflict and to promote a more concerted protection response,
  • … and her Office advocate, build awareness and give prominence to the rights and protection of children and armed conflict and
  • … is a facilitator, undertaking humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives to facilitate the work of operational actors on the ground with regard to children and armed conflict.

Though not having a field presence, the Office of the Special Representative has the important function to promote and support operational partners in their efforts. Since assuming office in 2006 Ms. Coomaraswamy has developed a strategic plan with six key-objectives. These objectives are…

  • … to support global initiatives to end grave violations;
  • … to promote rights-based protection for children affected by armed conflict;
  • … to make children and armed conflict concerns an integral aspect of peacekeeping and peacebuilding;
  • … to identify new trends and strategies for the protection of children through research;
  • … to secure political and diplomatic engagement on CAAC initiatives and
  • … to raise global awareness with regard to all issues relating to children and armed conflict.

In light of these six key-objectives and in close consultation with the United Nations partners, Member States, NGOs and civil society groups, the Office of the Special Representative seeks to apply the following essential strategies:

  • Monitoring and reporting;
  • Advocacy;
  • Research;
  • Working in partnership, coordination and mainstreaming.

Besides statements and reports to specific countries affected by armed conflict, Ms. Coomaraswamy provides a report to the General Assembly on the issue once a year, (not to be confused with the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of Children and Armed Conflict).