New York, 25 August 2020 –Although notable progress to protect boys and girls has been made, including as part of the peace process between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), children in the Philippines suffered the direct impact of armed activities such as large-scale military operations, notes the fifth report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) in a recently published report.
Covering a 3-year period (2017-2019,) the report highlights that 90% of all grave violations against boys and girls in the country occurred in the Mindanao region, with a spike in verified incidents following the Marawi siege. Killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals and recruitment and use of young people under 18 have affected the region’s children the most, while restrictions on access have impaired the work of monitors in verifying violations, the report states.
“I congratulate the Government of the Philippines on the measures taken to better protect boys and girls from armed conflict in the country, including the landmark Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (CSAC) Law, and now urge its swift implementation as well as ensuring that any other legislation, such as the Anti-Terror Act passed in July 2020, is in harmony with this Law,” said the CAAC Special Representative, Virginia Gamba.
“Despite progress achieved, children in the Mindanao region have been disproportionately affected by violence and I urge the Philippines to facilitate access of humanitarian actors to affected areas of Marawi City to assess the impact of the siege on children,” added USG Gamba.
Grave Violations Against Children
The killing and maiming of children remained the most verified violation with 139 children affected, the majority of incidents due to ERW or IEDs. The Special Representative called upon all parties to immediately halt their use and abide by their obligations under international laws. She further called upon the Government to fully implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their destruction.
The recruitment and use of children mostly by armed groups remained preoccupying and the Special Representative urged armed groups to immediately release all associated children from their ranks for reintegration purposes and to enter into dialogue with the UN to develop action plans to end the practice. Also of concern was the detention of children for alleged association with armed groups, which showed a two-fold increase compared to the previous report. “Detaining boys and girls for their actual or alleged association with armed groups only contributes to further victimizing them. I call on the Government to abide by the provisions in the CSAC Law that maintain children should be treated as victims, with the best interest of the child as the primary consideration,” said Virginia Gamba.
“I further urge the Government to expedite the revision of its protocols on handling children involved in armed conflict and ensure that all affected children can receive appropriate services and comprehensive reintegration programs and support,” she added.
The Special Representative is particularly concerned that the education of at least 20,000 children was disrupted following an increase in verified attacks on schools and protected personnel, with increasing cases being attributed to government and pro-government forces and groups regarding threats to children and schools operated by non-governmental organizations in indigenous peoples’ communities in Mindanao. The Special Representative reminded all parties to conflict of their obligation to protect the civilian character of schools as per international law and urged the authorities to implement the Government’s National Policy Framework on Learners and Schools as Zones of Peace and to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration for the non-military use of schools.
Best Practices from the Philippines
The completion of the Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2017 marked a turning point in the protection of children in the Philippines, especially in the Mindanao region. The United Nations has been documenting lessons learned from this process, especially the release of 1,869 children, the reintegration programs benefitting disengaged children and their families, and the manner in which the action plan and its result have boosted peace dialogues between the armed group and the Government.
“Support programs on the prevention of re-association of children have been proven effective and have provided meaningful and sustainable reintegration services to children formerly associated with armed groups. Completion of action plans to end recruitment have also proven to be a confidence-building measure between the armed group and Government, yielding lasting results for children,” added Ms. Gamba.
She further encouraged all parties to integrate the concept of protection of children as a central issue in ongoing and future peace negotiations and agreements, including through the use of the Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict developed by her Office and key experts.
She commended the work of the United Nations on the ground, often working in difficult conditions especially during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and called on the international community to support the monitoring and reporting capacities of the United Nations in the country as well as the work on the prevention of grave violations against children.
Grave Violations Against Children in the Philippines (2017-2019)
Overall number of grave violations: 331
Recruitment and Use: 67 children
Killing and Maiming: 139 children (44 killed, 95 maimed)
Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence: 6 children
Attacks on Schools and Hospitals: 98 attacks (62 schools, 36 hospitals)
Abductions: 21 children
Denial of humanitarian access: No incidents verified but the monitoring and verification of violations was challenged by access restrictions due to the volatile security situation and restricted freedom of movement, as well as concerns over threats and violence against humanitarian personnel.
For additional information, please contact:
Soop-Mai Tang, Political Affairs Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict +1-929-810-9124 (work) / email@example.com
Source : OSRSG Children and Armed Conflict