Celebrating 25 Years of the UN‘s Children and Armed Conflict Mandate: How Far Have We Come, and Where Do We Go from Here?


  • Adrianne Lapar Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict




children and armed conflict (CAAC), peacekeeping, counterterrorism, United Nations, child recruitment


Twenty-five years ago, the international community issued an urgent call to protect children affected by armed conflict. Horrified by the findings of Graça Machel‘s historic study on the impacts of war on children, the United Nations General Assembly established the Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) mandate in December 1996.

Since then, the CAAC agenda has expanded and become one of the most significant, dynamic, and broadly supported multilateral initiatives within the UN system. It provides international policymakers a unique set of tools for promoting the protection of children in war and addressing grave violations of their rights. Even in today‘s increasingly polarized world, policymakers can rally around the notion that no child should suffer the horrors of war.

Despite progress, children continue to face the devastating impacts of armed conflict. In 2020, the UN documented nearly 24,000 grave violations against children. More children are living in conflict zones than at any time in the previous two decades. At the same time, the rapid expansion of the global counterterrorism agenda threatens to unravel established laws and norms for protecting children‘s rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated children‘s vulnerability to rights violations and other forms of exploitation and abuse.

This commentary reflects on the progress made over the past 25 years, remaining gaps and challenges, and emerging concerns for children in war. It also provides recommendations for the years ahead.

Author Biography

Adrianne Lapar, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict

Adrianne Lapar is the Director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, an international network of human rights and humanitarian organizations striving to end violations against children in armed conflicts and to guarantee their rights. Previously, she worked as Partnerships Officer at Watchlist, supporting the network‘s partnerships with local civil society organizations in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myanmar. Prior to joining Watchlist in 2017, Adrianne held several field-based positions in human rights and humanitarian protection, including in South Sudan with UNMISS and Nonviolent Peaceforce, in southern Europe with Nonviolent Peaceforce, and in Colombia with UNHCR. She also worked for Human Rights Watch on its UN Advocacy Division in New York. Adrianne has a Master's in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She speaks Spanish, Czech, Slovak, and some French, and is based in New York.