In a significant development, India no longer figures in the United Nations Secretary-General's Children and Armed Conflict Report. This comes in light of the measures taken by the Indian Government to better protect children, particularly in conflict-ridden areas.
India's presence in the UN's Children and Armed Conflict Report had been consistent since 2010, alongside countries like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Lake Chad basin, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines. The report had highlighted the alleged recruitment and use of boys by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir; detention of boys by Indian security forces in J&K for their alleged association with armed groups, or on national security grounds; children killed and maimed by Indian security forces, including by the use of pellets; unidentified perpetrators, crossfire between armed groups and unidentified perpetrators, and crossfire and shelling across the line of control.
"The Government of India had been consistently engaged in efforts to exclude our country’s name from this ignoble list," the Ministry of Women and Child Development said on Wednesday (June 28, 2023) as it announced the development.
According to information provided by the ministry, engagement with the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) intensified after an inter-ministerial meeting in November 2021. The meeting was attended by top officials from the Ministry of Women and Child Development , Ministry of External Affairs, Permanent Mission of India at New York, and the Ministry of Homr Affairs from the Government of India, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children Virginia Gamba and the UN officials in New Delhi. This led to the appointment of a national focal point to identify priority national interventions to enhance protection of children.
A roadmap for cooperation and collaboration on child protection issues was developed by the Ministry under the guidance and leadership of Union Minister of Women And Child Development Smriti Zubin Irani.
UN Secretary-General Guterres emphasized the importance of the technical mission conducted by the office of his special representative in July 2022. This mission aimed to identify areas of cooperation for enhancing child protection. Furthermore, a significant workshop on strengthening child protection took place in Jammu and Kashmir in November, organized by the government and with the active participation of the United Nations. These initiatives underscore the collaborative efforts made to address child protection issues and signify the commitment towards safeguarding the well-being of children in the region.
UN Secretary-General Guterres, in his 2023 report, acknowledged the measures taken by the Indian Government. He also called upon India to implement the remaining measures identified in consultation with his Special Representative and the United Nations. Guterres emphasized the need for training of armed and security forces on child protection. This measure is aimed at ensuring that security personnel are well-equipped to safeguard children's rights and well-being during conflict situations.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, noted that the UN has been working closely with India for the last two years. "India decided to start a prevention engagement," she said, indicating that the country was ready to put in place measures that could be sustained over time, leading to its removal from the report.
The UN chief had previously expressed concern over the "increased number of violations against children verified in Jammu and Kashmir", and had called upon the Indian government to strengthen child protection. He welcomed the legal and administrative framework for the protection of children and improved access to child protection services in Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, and progress in the creation of a Jammu and Kashmir Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
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