Children's Rights and the UN Security Council

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What is the Security Council?

The Security Council's main role under the UN Charter is to help maintain international peace and security.

When the Council receives a complaint, it will usually recommend in the first instance that the parties try to settle the dispute peacefully.

In some cases, the Council itself investigates the situation and mediates between the two parties. It may also appoint "Special Representatives" to address the situation or request the Secretary-General to do so.
Full list of functions and powers


Members of the Security Council

The Council has five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States

It has another ten non-permament members who are elected by the General Assembly for a term of two years.


How does the Security Council make decisions?

Each Council member has one vote. Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members.

Decisions on substantive matters require nine votes, including agreement by all five permanent members. This need for all five permanent members to agree on any action by the Security Council is referred to as the "veto" power.

This rule has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years and is part of discussions to reform the Council. Read more about the negotiations to reform the Council on the website


Children's rights and the Security Council

The Council began to pay attention to the issue of children and armed conflict when it realised that the use of children in armed conflict had serious consequences for peace and stability.

Since 1999, the Council has strengthened its focus on children and armed conflict and has passed a number of specific resolutions on the issue. 

The Resolutions of the Security Council addressing children and armed conflict are:
1261 (1999), 1314 (2000), 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003), 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009) and 1998 (2011)

How does the Security Council monitor violations of the rights of children who are affected by armed conflict?

The Security Council passed Resolution 1612 in 2005, which called for the creation of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, as well as the creation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on six grave violations of children's rights:

  • Killing or maiming of children;
  • Recruiting or using child soldiers;
  • Attacks against schools or hospitals;
  • Rape and other grave sexual violence against children;
  • Abduction of children;
  • Denial of humanitarian access for children.

What are ‘Annex I’ and ‘Annex II’ that are often mentioned in relation to the Security Council’s work on children and armed conflict? 

Annex I and Annex II are “naming and shaming” lists of parties which violate international standards on children and armed conflict. Each year, an updated version of the countries listed in the two Annexes is included in the UN Secretary General’s annual report.

Annex I lists parties on the agenda of the Council and Annex II lists the parties that are not on the Council agenda but where there are also concerns about children and armed conflict .


Does the Security Council have anyone working specifically on the issue of children and armed conflict?

The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

In 1996, Ms. Graça Machel, an independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General, submitted her report to the General Assembly entitled Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (A/51/306).

The report led to the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 51/77 of 12 December 1996, establishing the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict for a period of three years. The Assembly has since extended this mandate four times and most recently by its resolution A/RES/63/241 of 24 December 2008. Read more

The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

The Working Group works with the Council to:

  • review the reports of the Council’s monitoring and reporting mechanism.

  • look at progress made in developing and implementing action plans by groups named in the Secretary General’s lists to stop recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.

  • make recommendations on measures to promote the protection of children affected by armed conflict.

  • consider country reports.

Download the reports of the activities of the SCWG of 2007, 2008 , 2009, 2010 and 2011.


What are some of the internal challenges which the Security Council faces in protecting children in situations of armed conflict?

A 2006 Security Council report reveals some of the challenges it faces in taking action on children and armed conflict:

France has led on the protection of children and armed conflict within the Security Council, but the other four permanent members have sometimes shown reluctance in acting on this issue. Below are some of the political concerns of different countries and regions:

China and Russia have expressed concern that thematic issues such as children and armed conflict provide another route for issues which are not on the Council’s agenda to be pushed onto its formal agenda.

China is concerned about the number of situations that the Security Council is dealing with on its formal agenda.

UK and Russia: The UK expressed concern about the mention of Northern Ireland and Russia about the reference to Chechnya in the Secretary-General’s 2003 report. They were included because there were groups involved in recruiting and using children in armed conflict. However, the UK and Russia argued that these were not situations of armed conflict. As a result of these protests, corrections were issued and references to Northern Ireland and Chechnya were dropped.

US: The US argues that the Security Council should be a place for action and its role is to address specific situations. The US wants to see results before the body's mandate is expanded.

South America:
In the past, certain South American countries have been strongly lobbied by Colombia, which often appears in Annex II. They have therefore not always been supportive of initiatives involving armed conflicts listed in Annex II.

Africa: Some African members countries, for example, Tanzania and Benin, have criticised the fact that most of the countries listed in Annex 1 are African countries.

Other issues that divide Security Council members on the issue of children and armed conflict include whether there should be one or two annexes and whether to use targeted sanctions or just send warning letters to groups involved in recruiting and using children in armed conflict.


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    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.