On 21 December 2012, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG) adopted its conclusions on the situations of children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka and Colombia. In total, the Working Group adopted four conclusions in 2012, a record low. The average time taken to negotiate conclusions was 12.9 months, also a new record, far eclipsing the 10 months taken in 2010, the previous slowest year for the Working Group.

The conclusions on Sri Lanka had been pending for exactly twelve months, since the submission of the Secretary-General’s report (S/2011/793) on 21 December 2011. In 2012, the last remaining party responsible for grave violations against children in Sri Lanka was ‘de-listed’ from the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. In its conclusions, the Working Group welcomed the positive developments leading to the de-listing of all parties, encouraged the Government to strengthen efforts to identify the whereabouts of children still missing, urged the Government to continue to investigate and to prosecute those responsible for violations including child recruitment, and called on the United Nations and donors to support child protection services and the return and reintegration of former child soldiers.

 The conclusions on Colombia had been pending for nine months, since the submission of the Secretary-General’s report (S/2012/171) on 21 March 2012. In its conclusions, the Working Group strongly condemned violations against children by listed non-State armed groups, called on them to immediately halt violations, and encouraged the United Nations and the Government to work together to put an end to violations by non-State armed groups. The conclusions take a particularly conciliatory stance towards the Government, reflecting Colombia’s presence in the Working Group and its ability to block the necessary consensus therein. The Working Group commended and welcomed the Government’s efforts to prevent and to respond to the recruitment and use of children and to the needs of children separated from armed groups as well as its efforts to address sexual violence in the military. The Working Group urged the Government to strengthen its efforts and to continue to ensure compliance with international and domestic law, and it stressed the importance of regular exchanges of information between the Government and the Co-Chairs of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) and with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG).

 The lengthy delay in adoption of the Sri Lanka and Colombia conclusions was due in part to the Working Group’s difficulty in adopting conclusions for Sudan and South Sudan earlier in the year.  Once these were adopted, the Working Group ran into difficulties in reaching agreement on the Colombia conclusions, a task complicated by Colombia’s presence in the Working Group and the Group’s need to achieve consensus. In a positive innovation, the Working Group departed from its usual and time-consuming practice of summarizing the views of the Government concerned in its conclusions, instead annexing the statement of Colombia’s representative to its conclusions. This eliminated the frequently lengthy discussions in the Working Group as to how to summarize the Government’s statement on contentious points, and hopefully this practice will be continued in the future.