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

The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the sixth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Philippines (S/2022/569), agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:

To all parties to armed conflict in the Philippines, in particular the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute Group, as well as to the Government of the Philippines:

·         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 expressing grave concern at, and its strongest condemnation of, the violations and abuses that continue to be committed against children in the Philippines and urging all parties to immediately end and prevent all violations involving the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access and to comply with their obligations under international law;

·         Calling upon all parties to further implement the previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in the Philippines;

·         Stressing that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration, and that the specific needs and vulnerabilities of girls and boys, as well as children with disabilities, and children from indigenous communities, should be duly considered when planning and carrying out actions concerning children in situations of armed conflict;

·         Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict and stressing that all perpetrators must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through comprehensive, independent, impartial, timely and systematic investigation and, as appropriate, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing, through appropriate justice mechanisms, to address impunity and to ensure that all victims have access to justice and to the medical and support services that they need;

·         Noting with concern that access constraints for the country task force to remote conflict affected areas, as well as security concerns, and response measures related to the outbreak of COVID-19 during the reporting period presented challenges to the verification of the six grave violations against children and that the information contained in the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Philippines (S/2022/569) does not represent the full extent of violations committed against children in the Philippines;

·         Condemning the recruitment and use of children for combat and support roles, urging all parties, in particular armed groups, to immediately and without conditions release all children associated with them to civilian child protection actors; further urging them to end and prevent recruitment and use of children under 18 years of age in line with their obligations as set out in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, as applicable;

·         Expressing concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed forces or armed groups, or due to being relatives of members of armed groups, urging all parties to the armed conflict to consider children associated with armed groups, including those who may have committed crimes, primarily as victims of recruitment and use, to work to ensure their release and support their full reintegration and rehabilitation through specialized child protection, including family- and community-based and gender-sensitive reintegration programmes, and including access to health care, mental health and psychosocial support and education programmes, as well as to raise awareness and work with communities to avoid stigmatization of such children and facilitate their return, and to ensure that prosecution of children is carried out with respect for the rights of the child, that detention should be considered only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and that alternatives to detention should be prioritized, in line with international law, and further urging the Government to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol thereto on the involvement of children in armed conflict;

·         Expressing deep concern at the killing and maiming of children, including those resulting from attacks against communities, crossfire, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, noting almost one in five victims were children under the age of five, urging all parties to take measures to prevent and end such killing and maiming, to end immediately and definitively the indiscriminate use of landmines, indiscriminate explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, and calling upon parties to respect their obligations under applicable international law, including international humanitarian law;

·         Expressing deep concern about both verified and unverified incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against children, while noting that incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence continue to be underreported owing to fear and risk of stigma; strongly urging all parties to take immediate and specific measures to put an end to and prevent the perpetration of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; stressing the importance of accountability for those who commit sexual and gender-based violence against children and recognizing in this regard the Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties (Republic Act No. 11596) of 2021 as an important step taken by the Government of the Philippines to acts that can lead to sexual violence; also stressing the importance of ensuring access to non-discriminatory and comprehensive specialized services, including mental health and psychosocial support, health, including sexual and reproductive health services, legal and livelihood support and services, for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence;

·         Strongly condemning the attacks on schools, in violation of international law, and threats against education personnel, detention of teachers and the demolition of community schools due to the schools’ alleged association with parties to conflict, noting that indigenous communities were especially affected, calling upon all parties to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, and to immediately end and prevent attacks or threats of attacks against those institutions and their personnel, as well as the military use of schools and hospitals, in violation of applicable international law, and noting the effect that attacks on schools and the military use of schools can have on the enjoyment of the right to education, calling on all parties to take concrete measures to mitigate and avoid the military use of schools, consistent with  resolution 2601 (2021), and noting in this regard the Safe Schools Declaration;

·         Strongly condemning the abduction of children, and calling upon all concerned parties to cease the abduction of children and immediately release all abducted children;

·         Urging all parties to allow and facilitate, in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, safe timely and unimpeded humanitarian access including to children, in particular from indigenous communities, and recalling also the UN guiding principles adopted in General Assembly resolution 46/182 as well as 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;

·         Expressing deep concern about the scale of violations and abuses affecting children from indigenous communities in the context of conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, and about the increased targeting of indigenous communities, particular community leaders and schools, during the reporting period;

·         Encouraging the parties to include child protection issues in ongoing and future peace negotiations and agreements with the support of the United Nations and guided by, inter alia, the Practical Guidance for Mediators to Protect Children in Situations of Armed Conflict;

·         Welcoming the extension of the transition period of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, calling upon the Authority to continue to implement the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and to use the lessons learned and best practices of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to prevent violations against children;


·         Calling upon all parties who have not yet done so to enhance their engagement with the United Nations to develop and adopt appropriate standard operating procedures for the release and reintegration of children associated with parties to the conflict and to cooperate with civilian child protection actors to facilitate their release and reintegration into their communities, which is essential to provide a future to these children and their families, as well as to prevent the risks of re-recruitment;

·         Calling upon all listed armed groups to enter into dialogue with the United Nations for the purpose of adopting action plans to end and prevent child recruitment and use;

To community and religious leaders:

·         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 and fostering reconciliation efforts;

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 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.