On February 14, 2017, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its third conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in Colombia. Sweden, Chair of the Working Group, led the negotiations between January 16 and February 14, making it a swift first negotiation under their Chairmanship. The swift negotiations also signal a consensus regarding Colombia, facilitating a positive, productive tone in the outcome document (public version forthcoming).
Ahead of the negotiations, Watchlist worked together with its civil society partners in Colombia to develop targeted recommendations, which were shared with the Working Group members in early January. Watchlist is pleased that key elements of these recommendations are reflected in the conclusions.
On November 24, 2016, the Peace Agreement was signed between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP), which includes provisions on reintegration of children formerly associated with the FARC-EP. The Working Group encourages prompt and full implementation of these provisions in the agreement, specifically with respect to separation and reintegration of children, which should be sensitive to the specific needs of boys and girls. Watchlist was particularly glad to see the principle of treatment of children separated from armed groups as ‘victims first’ enshrined in the peace agreement. The Working Group rightfully stressed the importance of including child protection issues in the early stages of the peace process, which Watchlist has encouraged more broadly through its coordination around a checklist for integrating child protection provisions in peace agreements.
Watchlist was also pleased that the Working Group welcomes the road map for the Government’s engagement of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in peace talks. The Working Group urges the Government to apply lessons from the FARC-EP experience, namely by considering the issue of children affected by armed conflict in the early stages of the peace process and addressing the protection of children as a confidence-building measure. Watchlist and its local partners believe that this would facilitate their separation from the armed group at an early stage, and initiate a process of their reintegration and social inclusion as soon as possible.
While the conclusion is strong, it does not address education-related issues, particularly issues related to the protection of schools from use as recruitment grounds by armed groups.
Watchlist and its partners hope that the international community will continue to lend support to the Colombian Government and civil society in maintaining their efforts to monitor and verify the situation of civilians affected by armed conflict, particularly children. Any UN mission mandated with the task of monitoring the cessation of hostilities, or implementation of the peace agreement, should entail monitoring the situation of children.
Read more about Watchlist’s work on Colombia: https://watchlist.org/countries/colombia/.