At its 67th meeting, on 3 August 2017, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, in connection with the examination of the fourth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Philippines (document S/2017/294), covering the period from 1 December 2012 to 31 December 2016, agreed to convey the following messages through a public statement by the Chair of the Working Group:
- Taking note of the general decrease in large-scale armed engagements during the reporting period and encouraged by the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government and armed groups in the Philippines, and urging the parties to include child protection issues on the agendas of the respective peace talks, with support of the United Nations;
- Strongly condemning all violations and abuses committed against children in the Philippines and urging all parties to the conflict to immediately end and prevent all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children, abduction, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals and to comply with their obligations under international law;
- Calling on the parties to further implement all previous conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in the Philippines (documents S/AC.51/2008/10, S/AC.51/2010/5 and S/AC.51/2014/1);
- Strongly urging all armed groups, to immediately and without preconditions release or disengage all children associated with them and end and prevent further recruitment and use of children, including re-recruitment and re-association of children who have formerly been released or disengaged;
- Expressing deep concern about the number of children killed or maimed, as a direct or indirect result of hostilities between parties to the armed conflict and of incidents of indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population and calling upon all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, and in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality enshrined therein;
- Calling upon all parties to the armed conflict to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, and to 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.
To Government of Philippines
- Welcoming the Government’s commitment to strengthen the protection of children affected by armed conflict and prioritize child protection in the national legal framework in line with its obligations under international law;
- Noting the development of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) circular No. 1, on child protection in armed conflict situations, dated 4 February 2016, and encouraging the armed forces to fully implement it and to make sure that it is in line with its obligations under international law;
- Commending the Government for the follow-up to the last conclusions of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on the Philippines (document S/AC.51/2014/1), emphasizing in this regard the importance of ensuring accountability for those responsible for violations and abuses committed against children in the context of armed conflict;
To Leadership of Moro Islamic Liberation Front
- Welcoming the continued engagement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, and commending significant progress towards the full implementation of the United Nations-MILF Action Plan, culminating in the formal disassociation of over 1850 children to date;
- Urging MILF to continue disengaging children identified as being associated formally or informally with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in all front and base commands, and call on the armed group to fully implement internal safeguards put in place to prevent the recruitment and use of children, linked to the implementation of existing accountability mechanisms;
- Further commending the MILF’s issuance of a directive on 25 March 2017 requiring regular monitoring and screening of armed elements and internal quarterly reporting from all front and base commands, and the application of age-assessment guidelines during recruitment processes, calling upon MILF to fully implement internal safeguards preventing the association and re-association of children.
To Leadership of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
- Expressing concern about reports of the recruitment and use of children, including as human shields, as well as of attacks against schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international law by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF);
- Urging BIFF to publicly express their commitment and take active steps to end all recruitment and use of children in violation of applicable international law and to prevent all other violations and abuses committed against children, including by entering into dialogue with the United Nations.
To Leadership of New People’s Army
- Welcoming the initiation of technical-level discussions between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the United Nations on the issue of protection of children affected by armed conflict, and calling on the New People’s Army (NPA), to end and prevent all recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools, in violation of applicable international law;
- Further welcoming the adoption of the NDFP Declaration and Programme of Action on the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children in 2012 and urging the NPA to publicly express its commitment to end and prevent all violations and abuses committed against children and to expeditiously develop action plans in line with Security Council resolutions 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2068 (2012), 2143 (2014) and 2225 (2015).
To Leadership of Abu Sayyaf Group
- Calling upon the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to end and prevent all recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international law, and expressing concern about reports of abductions of children, including kidnapping for ransom and extortion;
- Urging ASG to publicly express its commitment and take active steps to end and prevent all recruitment and use of children in violation of applicable international law and all other violations and abuses against children.
To Community Leaders in Philippines
- Emphasizing the important role of community leaders in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict and fostering reconciliation efforts;
- Urging 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, abductions, attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and support reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of these children.