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Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict

  • UN and ICRC


Statement during the August 2016 Security Council open debate on the children and armed conflict:

“Airstrikes and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by international coalitions or individual Member States are an acute concern. They have contributed to some of the highest numbers of documented child casualties. ”

Oral update to the Human Rights Council, September 2013

“During the period under review, children continued to be killed and maimed by the extensive use of explosive weapons in conflict, including in active combat and cross fire, by improvised explosive devices, rockets, land mines, unexploded ordnance and remnants of war, or by air strikes, including drone strikes.”


2013 Report of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

“12. Each year, thousands of children are trapped in armed conflict, and they are killed and maimed by explosive weapons, while in the direct line of fire or as collateral damage. Tactics relying heavily on explosive weaponry continued to have a disproportionate effect on children. Air strikes and the use of cluster munitions in populated areas, especially near schools and hospitals, continue to have a devastating impact on civilians, including children. In addition, children have been the victims of suicide attacks, both as bystanders and through their recruitment as suicide bombers. Improvised explosive devices, rockets, landmines, unexploded ordnance and remnants of war continued to take the lives and limbs of children in numerous countries…

Access to education and health care continues to be disrupted by the damage or destruction resulting from targeted attacks on schools and medical facilities and by the use of explosive weapons…

19. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas has been shown to result in a pattern of harm affecting children and their families…

37. [On Yemen] The preponderance of explosive weaponry, such as mines and unexploded remnants of war, and the use of drones continue to put children at risk…

38. The Syrian Arab Republic remained an open wound in 2012 and throughout the first half of 2013, with children killed, maimed or trapped by the extensive use of explosive weapons in populated areas, displaced from their homes and recruited by the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups…

99. Mindful of the severe effects that explosive weapons, including small arms and light weapons, have on children in armed conflict, the Special Representative urges all Member States to sign, ratify and swiftly implement the provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty.”

2012 Report of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

“51. Contemporary warfare continues to take a heavy toll on civilians, with the increased use of explosive weapons in populated areas by non-State armed groups, the use of new technologies that have in some instances resulted in civilian casualties and the use of children as combatants, weapons of war (e.g. victim bombers) and sexual slaves, among other things…

C. Explosive weapons

59. Explosive weapons, defined as weapons that cause injury, death or damage by projecting explosive blast, and often fragmentation, from the detonation of an explosive device, have a devastating impact on civilians, including children, especially when used in highly populated areas. Such weapons, which include air- dropped bombs, grenades, landmines, improvised explosive devices and mortars, tend to have effects that users cannot foresee or control accurately and therefore carry a great risk of being indiscriminate in their impact.

60. The use of explosive weapons by armed forces and groups often results in the commission of violations against children, including the injury, maiming and killing of children, the recruitment of children as suicide and victim bombers, the damaging and/or destruction of civilian installations such as schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access, for example through the planting of landmines. They also cause long-lasting harm by damaging children’s emotional stability, education and future opportunities.

61. Explosive weapons with wide-area effect, such as multiple-launch rockets, high-explosive artillery, mortars, car bombs and other improvised explosive devices, are a particular cause for concern. In 2011, mortar and artillery shells, which are indiscriminate weapons traditionally used against massed infantry, killed and injured children in Libya, Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic, among others. In Afghanistan and Iraq, there has been an increasing number of complex attacks involving the combination of two or more attacks on one target using explosive weapons by armed groups. These attacks, usually perpetrated against Government institutions, resulted in significant child casualties. Aerial bombardments and drone attacks in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen have also killed and injured children.

62. In most of the 23 country situations reflected in the report of the Secretary- General on children and armed conflict covering the period from January to December 2011 (A/66/782-S/2012/261), explosive weapons were used in direct physical attacks against schools and hospitals, a grave violation of children’s rights. They posed a threat to children and medical and educational personnel, resulting in the forced closure or the compromised functioning of those institutions. In some country situations, children were denied humanitarian access because of the presence of explosive remnants of war from previous conflicts.

63. In 2011, 22 incidents were reported of children being used by armed groups to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including one 8-year-old girl and one 9-year-old girl. Some of those children were victim bombers, unknowingly carrying explosive packages.

64. While recognition of the distinct problems associated with explosive weapons has grown over time, there is a need for further policy attention and immediate action to effectively protect children from such weapons. There is also a need for greater acknowledgement that the use of such weapons, especially those with wide- area effect and those used in densely populated areas, severely harm children and communities. Systematic data collection and analysis of the human cost of these weapons is critical to the development of baseline information, which would in turn further strengthen the empirical basis for advocacy efforts to better protect children. In the context of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children, the Office of the Special Representative will, together with United Nations partners, endeavour to gather disaggregated and more detailed information on child casualties resulting from the use of such weapons. The Office will also advocate the inclusion of specific provisions against the use of explosive weapons in action plans signed by parties to conflict that aim at halting the killing and maiming of children.

69. With regard to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the Special Representative urges Member States to take steps to reduce the impact of such weapons on children, including by:

(a) Refraining from using explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated areas, including by revising and strengthening military policies and procedures, as necessary, and ensuring that all military operations are in compliance with international humanitarian law and underpinned by the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution;

(b) Supporting the collection of data on the impact of explosive weapons on children, including by collecting and sharing such information with the United Nations;

(c) Ensuring that those using explosive weapons in contravention of international law are held accountable.”

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