On May 3, 2018, stakeholders from the Colombian Government, the United Nations, and civil society came together at a conference in Bogota to reflect upon best practices and lessons learned in advancing children’s rights during the Colombian peace process.

Organized by the Colombian Government, with support from the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG-CAAC), UNICEF, and the Office of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) for Colombia, the conference sought to examine best practices and lessons learned from the peace process with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejercito del Pueblo (FARC-EP) and to evaluate mechanisms for strengthening the protection of children affected by the armed conflict. It brought together high-level policy makers, including the Presidential Adviser for Human Rights, the Vice Minister of the Colombian Chancellery, and the SRSG-CAAC, as well as members of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), local civil society including Watchlist’s longtime partner the Coalition against the Use of Children and Adolescents in the Colombian Armed Conflict (COALICO), and international child protection specialists.

The conference represented an important opportunity not simply to hail the successes of the peace process, but also to recognize the challenges lying ahead and seek solutions: the presence of other armed groups in territories previously occupied by the FARC-EP; the urgent need for comprehensive, sustained, and adequate support for children and adolescents formerly associated with the guerrilla group; and the importance of ensuring justice for victims of the conflict, including child victims of recruitment and use, sexual violence, and other grave violations.

A longstanding partner of Watchlist, COALICO spoke on a panel on the recruitment and use of children, which examined the Colombian context in relation to prevention, reintegration, and accountability. COALICO highlighted the key role of UN Security Council Resolution 1612 in raising the profile of children affected by the Colombian armed conflict at both the international and national levels; it ultimately contributed to the creation of Colombia’s Inter-Sectoral Commission on Prevention of Recruitment/Use and Sexual Violence against Children by Armed Groups in 2007, and led to the establishment of the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) in Colombia in 2008, to document grave violations of children’s rights.

COALICO also underscored the need for the Government to continue strengthening child protection mechanisms, including by bolstering State institutions at the regional and local levels in order to promote the enjoyment of rights. The Government should work directly with communities and local civil society in support of this endeavor, said COALICO.

Lastly, a panel of UN staff and international experts spoke about promoting the protection of children’s rights in Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka. In particular, they highlighted best practices and lessons learned in the areas of child protection, transitional justice, and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of former child soldiers.