On 19 February 2014, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its conclusions on the Philippines. The Working Group welcomed developments in the peace process between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which have decreased hostilities. The Working Group urged MILF to implement all provisions of the action plan, signed in 2009 and extended in 2013, and to establish a complaints mechanism within its command structure to report and address alleged violations against children. The Working Group also urged all other non-state actors to publicly express their commitment to end and prevent all violations and abuses committed against children, and to expeditiously develop action plans.
In its conclusions, the Working Group commended efforts by the Government of the Philippines to integrate human rights into security operations, including by developing standard operating procedures for military forces in their interaction with schools and students. The Working Group also praised the Government for progress on developing legislation specifically to address children and armed conflict issues, including the criminalization of the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Working Group did urge the armed forces to immediately end grave violations against children, including use of children as soldiers, maiming and killing, and military use of schools. The Working Group urged the Government to ensure the protection of the rights of children suspected to be associated with armed groups.
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict made specific recommendations to the Working Group on the Philippines through its Monthly Updates on Children and Armed Conflict. In particular, Watchlist highlighted the need for child protection concerns, including vetting and accountability for violations, to be fully integrated in ongoing peace negotiations between the Government and MILF. Some of these points were taken up by the Working Group in its conclusions as reflected above.
The Working Group also directed recommendations to the Secretary-General, encouraging the strengthening of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and encouraging outreach by the United Nations to the armed group, New People’s Army (NPA), with a view to developing an action plan to end recruitment and use of children. The Working Group further agreed to send letters to the World Bank and donors requesting funding aimed both at providing resources to the UN country task force to strengthen capacity for monitoring and reporting and for implementing the action plan signed by MILF. The Working Group also invited donors to support and fund effective welfare programmes for children affected by armed conflict.
This was the third conclusion adopted on the Philippines. Previous conclusions were adopted in 2008 and 2010. Adoption of the February 2014 conclusion took seven months from the publication of the July 2013 Secretary-General’s Children and Armed Conflict in the Philippines Report. Actual negotiation time was three and a half months, exceeding the target of two months.
To ensure meaningful follow-up of country-specific situations, the Working Group must continue to increase the pace of negotiations.