On October 12, 2016, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, with the Permanent Missions of Canada and Finland to the United Nations as co-hosts, launched the Checklist for drafting children and armed conflict provisions in peace agreements (Checklist) during the 71st UN General Assembly’s Rights of the Child Days. The Checklist working draft provides recommendations to mediators and their teams to assist in incorporating inclusive and child protection-relevant language and provisions in various parts of peace agreements.

The Checklist is the result of a consultative process that began in July 2014, when Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination first brought together mediation and children and armed conflict (CAC) experts in a series of workshops focused on how to best address child protection provisions in peacemaking. At the end of the first workshop in July 2014, a recommendation was put forward to the UN and other actors working on mediation to consider developing guidance products and tools that may be useful to mediators and envoys to facilitate the consideration of children and armed conflict perspectives and concerns in peacemaking. Towards that end, in June 2016, a group of participants met in New York and worked together towards the development of such a working tool, namely, a checklist for drafting children and armed conflict provisions in ceasefire and peace agreements. The October 12 event was the official launch of the working draft.

At the launch event, Mr. Kai Sauer, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, and Mr. Michael Grant, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada, provided opening remarks. Mr. Grant highlighted the importance of release, disarmament, and psychosocial support for child soldiers, while Mr. Sauer emphasized that child protection provisions must be the highest priority during mediation processes.

Ms. Eva Smets, the Executive Director of Watchlist, introduced the Checklist and rationale for such a document. Ahead of the Checklist drafting, Watchlist examined 431 relevant documents from the UN Peacekeeping Database from 1999 to 2015, and found only 75 documents that included child protection references. The aim with this Checklist draft is to ensure that each applicable peace agreement in the future includes relevant, context-specific child protection provisions.

Watchlist’s partner the Coalition against the involvement of boys, girls and youth in armed conflict in Colombia (COALICO), which works for an effective reduction in the use, recruitment, and involvement of boys and girls in the armed conflict, spoke about their experience in the recent peace process with Colombia’s biggest rebel group, the FARC-EP. This September, after 52 years of conflict, the Colombian government and the FARC-EP signed a peace agreement and on the basis of the deal, the rebel group has begun an incremental process to release children associated with the group from its camps. During the peace talks, COALICO insisted that both parties recognize children as victims of recruitment first, which is indispensable to protect children during negotiations, and promote their separation from the armed group as soon as possible.

The presentations were followed with a productive question and answer session with the audience, signaling positive receipt of the Checklist.

The Checklist is a working draft. Any recommendations or additions are welcome and can be sent to watchlist@watchlist.org.