During her first mission to Mali, the Special Representative met with the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Human Rights, and Education, as well as representatives from among others the Ministries of Women, Children and Family, Territorial Administration and Social Cohesion, Peace and National Reconciliation. She also met with the Presidents of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and of the National Human Rights Commission, with the signatory parties to the 2015 Peace Agreement, the civil society and partners from the humanitarian community and the United Nations. She further engaged with the diplomatic community and representatives of regional organisations including the African Union, ECOWAS, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the EUTM.
“The future of Mali and its peace and stability is intrinsically linked to the wellbeing and protection of its children and it is crucial to put an end to grave violations and increase prevention measures through available systems and mechanisms. It is also critical to ensure accountability for perpetrators and reparation for victims,” said the Special Representative.
She commended the Government for its efforts to strengthen the protection of children, including with its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration in February 2018 and urged for its swift implementation. “Also, I remain deeply concerned by the continued deterioration of the security situation which has led to the closure of over 900 schools, impacting hundreds of thousands of children,” she said.
During her meetings with the government, the Special Representative emphasized the importance of education for all children across Mali, as over 900 schools remained closed at the end of May 2019; the necessity of strengthening the legislative framework with, for example, the rapid adoption of a revised child protection code that will include provisions for children affected by conflict and will also criminalize the recruitment and use of all children under the age of 18, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its additional protocol, OPAC, that Mali ratified. She also emphasized that each child should be given the right to an identity through birth registration and supported the extension of free birth registration beyond the existing limited 30-day period. She further called for the adoption of a moratorium to register more than 100,000 children in the north of Mali who have not been registered yet. She also urged the Government to harmonize national laws with child protection standards, such as the draft loi sur les violences basées sur le genre and the Penal Code.
The Special Representative offered support to institutionalise and increase trainings to the Malian Defence and Security Forces on child protection and to partner with regional organisations involved in the sub-region, as part of a preventive regional strategy. “The protection of children in Mali and in the subregion should be an utmost priority, including during the conduct of joint military operations. As such, the child protection elements included in the Human Rights and IHL Compliance Framework of the joint Force of the G5 Sahel should be implemented including through the adoption of clear guidance on the transfer of children that may be captured during military operations,” she added.
In her discussions with the signatory armed groups, the Special Representative urged their leaderships to take immediate action and engage with the UN to release all children present in their ranks and to end the recruitment and use and other grave violations. She encouraged the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) to fully implement its Action Plan signed with the United Nations in 2017 and called on the Platform and other armed groups to engage into similar process with the UN.
On 10 July, the Special Representative travelled to Mopti where she met with boy and girl victims of the recent wave of violence in central Mali as well as with representatives of the Peulh and Dogon communities. She expressed concerns at the increasing number of youths joining armed groups and militias and encouraged her interlocutors to help the stabilization and the prevention of violations by identifying community mechanisms that could be strengthened. She welcomed the recent agreement signed between the Government of Mali and the Dogon and Peulh communities to contain violence and emphasized the importance to include the protection of children in such agreements.
As the deprivation of liberty of children for their association with armed groups continues to be a concern in Mali, “their timely transfer to civilian child protection actors as well as alternatives to detention should be prioritized, in line with international instruments and the 2013 handover protocol signed between the Malian government and the United Nations on the transfer of children associated with armed forces and groups. Children should be primarily considered as victims of recruitment and use,” she said. She emphasized the importance of long-term and sustainable reintegration programmes and the crucial need to fully fund them.
The Special Representative welcomed the efforts from the International partners to support the children of Mali, including through the creation of a new Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict in the country, co-chaired by Belgium and Niger. Concurrently, she launched at country-level her new advocacy campaign “ACT to Protect Children Affected by Conflict” with the support of Malian authorities and the diplomatic community.
While the Special Representative expressed regrets that there were no child protection provisions in the 2015 Peace Agreement, she also expressed hope that such dispositions could be included in the implementation of the Accord, particularly in the DDR programme, and in the next discussions of the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord in August. “There is an opportunity and it must be seized,” she said. She called for the creation of a national prevention plan in line with Security Council 2427 and discussed this idea with the Prime Minister; she also suggested that Mali could lead a regional prevention plan with ECOWAS to prevent violations against children in the whole region.
The Special Representative commended the exceptional work done by child protection actors on the ground in often harsh conditions, including by UNICEF, MINUSMA and other civil society partners. She called on all parties to facilitate the access and the work of humanitarian actors in all parts of Mali and reminded that only peace can provide the full protection of children’s rights.
For more information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, New York. Tel: +1 212 963-8285 email@example.com