Watchlist conducted a four-week field mission in August/September to Colombia to research and report on the situation of children affected by armed conflict. We visited the capital of Bogota as well as field locations in Nariño, Putumayo, Norte el Santander and Valle del Cauca and spoke to dozens of key informants representing the government, UN agencies, non-government organizations, diplomats and war-affected children themselves and their communities. Based on our assessment, violence levels against children have markedly increased over the past 8 years as a result of the state army expanding its operations throughout the country, the militarization of children and youth through propaganda and the emergence of illegal armed groups known as bacrims or bandas criminales (criminal gangs). We also found evidence that internally displaced children appear most likely to become the target of these violations.
While all six grave violations identified under Security Council Resolution 1612 are committed in Colombia, most of them remain severely underreported. A UN-led 1612 Monitoring and Reporting Task Force has been set up in Colombia in 2008 but has so far mainly focused its operations in the capital without expanding its reporting structures through other parts of the country, where most of the violations occur due to insufficient resources and structural gaps. The next Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Colombia, which is based on input of this in-country Taskforce, is reportedly due to be released in January 2012.
The detailed findings and recommendations of Watchlist’s field visit will be featured in a report that is expected to be released at the beginning of 2012 to coincide with the release of the Secretary-General’s report and the subsequent negotiations of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on Colombia.