UNSOM’s mandate includes the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including supporting Somalia to prevent and end grave child rights violations committed by parties to the conflict with a focus of enhancing the implementation of the Government Action Plans on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) signed in 2012.
UNSOM’s Child Protection Unit (CPU) is part of its Human Rights and Protection Group (HRPG) is responsible for the implementation of the child protection mandate.
Since its deployment in 2013, the Child Protection Unit has supported the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in the implementation of the two Action Plans on CAAC. In June 2018, the CAAC Working Group elaborated a roadmap to reinvigorate the implementation of the CAAC Action Plans. Although roadmap was adopted at technical level in December 2018, signature into a policy document is still pending.
The UN CAAC agenda is part of the United Nations peace and security mission, as outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions 1261 (1999), 1314 (2000), 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003), 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011), 2068 (2012), 2143 (2014), and 2225 (2015) and all relevant statements of its President, which together create a comprehensive framework for addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict.
The Somali action plans which have been translated into Somali and are signed commitments between the United Nations and the Somali National Army, which was listed in 2006 as having committed grave violations against children in the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. Other parties to the conflict listed are Al-Shabab, which is listed for recruitment and use, killing and maiming and abduction of children, and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ), listed for recruitment and use of children.
Each of the action plans is designed to address a specific violation, and outlines concrete, time-bound steps that lead to compliance with international law, de-listing, and the creation of a more protective environment for children.
Along with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), CPU co-chairs the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), a mechanism created by the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1612 (2005) to monitor and report on the six grave child rights violations.
The six grave violations are:
- Killing and maiming of children
- Recruitment and use of children
- Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children
- Abduction of children
- Attacks on schools and hospitals
- Denial of humanitarian access for children
The information reported by the CTFMR is used to raise awareness on the plight of children affected by the conflict in Somalia, to inform prevention and advocacy activities, to take action to separate children from armed forces and groups, to hold perpetrators of child rights violations accountable in order to prevent further violations. Programmatic activities informed by data gathered by the Monitoring and Reporting Activities mechanism are implemented by UNICEF and its partner organizations.
The information gathered is equally fed into the Global Horizontal Note (GHN) and UN Secretary General’s Annual Report on Children and armed conflict (CAAC).
The Child Protection Unit works with government entities such as the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development, the National Intelligence and Security Agency, the Somali National Army and various international partners and UN agencies, funds and programmes.
CPU’s specific tasks include:
- Strengthening the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and responding to grave violations: Monitoring and reporting on grave violations of children's rights in compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions.
- Engage with parties to the conflict and support the FGS for the implementation of Somalia's Action Plans on CAAC: Building capacity of the child protection units of relevant ministries through training, development of policies and joint activities.
- Supporting the domestication of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the strengthening of broader protection framework including advocating for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC): Providing technical and capacity-building support to the Ministry of Women Human Rights Development during the drafting process of the Children's Act.
- Outreach and awareness on child protection issues: Developing awareness and promotional materials on child protection.
CPU’s achievements to date include:
- Conducting joint screening activities with UNICEF and the Child Protection Unit of the Ministry of Defence in military camps to verify the presence of children. Children identified during the process are released and placed in rehabilitation centers to prepare them for reintegration into the community. During the screening exercises conducted from January 2017 to March 2018, a total of 23 children were identified, two of whom have already been separated and placed in a rehabilitation center in Baidoa, while the others are yet to be separated and rehabilitated.
- Provided training and guidance for all newly-deployed peace-keeping personnel on child protection. The aim is to enable the participants to integrate child protection concerns in their activities and thus actively contribute to the protection of children.
- Provide training to partners including the SNA, the Somali Police, personnel of the Child Protection Unit of the Ministry of Defence, judges, and members of civil society to enable stakeholders to join efforts in protecting children. From January 2017 to July 2019, a total of 6,565 soldiers, including 6,207 men and 358 women, were trained on child protection and child rights.
- Creating an avenue for the sharing of violations documented with parties to the conflict to seek appropriate response; advocating with the SNA’s Chief of Defence Forces, who on 21 August 2017 issued a general command order to protect and prevent the recruitment and use of children; drafting and securing the approval of two standard operating procedures, one for the reception and hand-over of children separated from armed groups (2014), and the other for the transfer and hand-over of children affected by armed conflict (2018).
- Collaborating with UN agencies to airlift 102 children (who were either rescued, defected or captured while fighting alongside armed groups) from the regions to a rehabilitation center in Mogadishu’ screening and training 5,971 soldiers on child protection; and, building the capacity of members of the Women and Child Protection Unit of the Somali Police.