In April 2012, Watchlist launched its new report No One to Trust: Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia at UN headquarters in New York as well as at events in Bogotá, Colombia. Based on field research, No One to Trust highlights the severe risks children are facing in Colombia’s armed conflict, including child recruitment, rape and sexual violence, and attacks against schools. Watchlist’s local partner, the Coalition against the involvement of boys, girls and youth into the armed conflict in Colombia (COALICO) as well as UNICEF – represented through its deputy director for programs – participated in the main launch event at the UN, demonstrating their support for the initiative.
Watchlist presented the report at high-level meetings with the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC), the Group of Friends on 1612 in New York and Bogotá, as well as at meetings with the in-country Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) Task Force, Colombian government entities (e.g. Foreign Ministry, Vice-Presidency, National Ministry of Defense, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute), and relevant UN agencies, NGOs and donors in New York and Bogotá. In its official response to the report, the Colombian government promised to demonstrate through its actions that there is ‘someone to trust’ for children and other war-affected communities.
The report received extensive international, regional and national press coverage. Watchlist appeared with partner organization COALICO on CNN Café, reaching 35 million viewers in Latin America and the United States. Watchlist also posted a blog on the Huffington Post, Threats in the Classroom: Teachers Protect Students in the Midst of Colombia’s War, highlighting the misuse of schools by warring parties.
Looking ahead, the SCWG-CAAC is expected to discuss the situation of children in Colombia in the upcoming weeks. These discussions follow the already released 2012 Secretary-General report on children and armed conflict in Colombia (S/2012/171). The Secretary-General’s report, which serves as the basis for the Working Group’s negotiations, reflects core messages of Watchlist’s report: the need for the systematic release of children from armed groups through action plans or through inclusion in any peace negotiations; an appeal for equal treatment of children associated with paramilitary successor groups as children associated with other armed groups; and an emphasis on gaps in the implementation of the government’s policies on the prevention of child recruitment, sexual violence and other grave violations.