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Public Statement by the Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Colombia (S/2021/1022), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To armed conflict in Colombia, including FARC-EP dissident groups, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), the Clan del Golfo/Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC), the Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL), also known as Los Pelusos, Los Caparrapos, also known as Los Caparros, as well as the Colombian armed forces (CAF) and the Colombian National Police and other parties:

  • Commending the positive steps the country had undertaken since the signing of the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace (hereafter: “the peace agreement”) between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) in Bogota on 24 November 2016, which set as guiding principles the best interest of the child, the children who have been separated from armed groups should be treated as victims, and the focus on community-based reintegration,  marking its fifth anniversary and calling for its continued and full implementation and  for it continuing to serve as a model for the protection of children in other peace processes;
  • Encouraging the pursuit of possible negotiated solutions to armed conflict with other armed groups; calling for the integration, from the early stages on and where in the best interest of affected children, of child protection provisions, including those relating to the release and reintegration of children, as well as provisions on the rights and well-being of children into peace negotiations, ceasefire and peace agreements, as well as in provisions for ceasefire monitoring, taking into account children’s views, where possible, in these processes, and encouraging all relevant actors involved in peace and mediation processes to use, as much as possible, the Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict as a tool in these processes;
  • Welcoming the decrease in the number of violations and abuses committed against children verified by the country task force on monitoring and reporting compared to the prior reporting period, but noting with concern that the number of cases involving the six grave violations against children did not decrease during the reporting period;
  • Expressing, however, grave concern at the continued expansion of territorial presence and reconfiguration by armed groups, including the ELN, AGC and FARC-EP dissident groups, particularly in the rural areas marked by limited presence of State authority, and the continued displacement of, and violations and abuses against, children; noting that indigenous and Afro-Colombian children have been disproportionally affected by these conflict dynamics;
  • Expressing grave concern at the violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in Colombia, and urging all parties to immediately end and prevent all violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international law, including the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access and to comply fully with their obligations under international law; expressing grave concern that children from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities remained disproportionally affected, noting that children from these communities often lived in the areas that were most affected by conflict, which were generally also characterized by high levels of poverty, a limited presence of State authority, illicit economies and the presence of armed groups;
  • Stressing that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, and that the specific needs and vulnerabilities of girls and boys should be duly considered, when planning and carrying out actions concerning children in situations of armed conflict;
  • Calling upon all parties to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia;
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict and stressing that all those responsible for crimes in this regard must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through comprehensive, independent, timely and systematic investigation and, as appropriate, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing, including, when applicable, through the transitional justice mechanisms of the peace agreement;
  • Condemning the continued recruitment and use of children, including children from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and refugee and migrant children, noting that nearly all cases were attributed to armed groups,  and noting that children were used in combat as well as in support roles such as informants, porters and in connection with illicit trafficking, as well as for sexual  purposes; urging all parties to end and prevent further recruitment and use of children and immediately release without preconditions all children present in their ranks; noting with concern that the recruitment and use of children often led to other violations and abuses, including killing and maiming, sexual violence and abduction;
  • Expressing grave concern at the killing and maiming of children including as the result of gunfire, anti-personnel mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnances, aerial attacks, and cruel or inhuman treatment, noting that children were also directly targeted for alleged association with opposing armed groups; noting with concern that Colombia is one of the countries most affected by the presence of explosive devices, which pose unacceptably high immediate and long-term risks and constituted a major cause of the killing and maiming of children during the reporting period, and urging all parties to cease the killing and maiming of children, to end immediately and definitively the use of indiscriminate explosive devices and to destroy any such devices remaining in their arsenal;
  • Strongly condemning rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children and urging all parties to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent it; noting that the full scale of sexual violence and exploitation against children is believed to be underreported; expressing concern that movement restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have increased vulnerabilities and risk factors for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in areas affected by the armed conflict, including in border areas, and stressing the importance of providing non-discriminatory and comprehensive age and gender appropriate specialized services to survivors of sexual violence, including mental health and psychosocial support, health – including sexual and reproductive health services, and legal and livelihood support and services;
  • Strongly condemning the abduction of children and urging all armed groups to cease the abduction of children and immediately release without preconditions all abducted children; noting children were abducted for the purpose of recruitment and use, as well as on the suspicion of being informants;
  • Strongly condemning attacks on schools and hospitals, urging all parties to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, as such, and to immediately end and prevent attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel in violation of applicable international law, expressing concern that the use of schools for military purposes by armed forces and groups placed students at risk and interfered with their education and protection support, calling on all parties to take concrete measures to mitigate and avoid the use of schools, consistent with  resolution 2601 (2021), and noting in this regard the Safe Schools Declaration;
  • Strongly condemning the incidents of denial of humanitarian access, and urging all parties to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to children, consistent with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, to respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and to respect the work of all United Nations agencies, and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction;

To community and religious leaders and civil society organizations:

  • Emphasizing the important role of community, religious and indigenous leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict, and recognizing their important role in advocating for an ending to violations and abuses against children;
  • Encouraging them to publicly condemn and continue to advocate ending and preventing violations and abuses against children, in particular those involving the recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, killing and maiming, abductions, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access, and to engage with the Government, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders to support reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness and undertaking efforts to avoid stigmatization of these children.
For information media. Not an official record.