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SC/14383
11 December 2020

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 fifth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Philippines (S/2020/777), 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

  • 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 Philippines;
  • Stressing the importance of accountability for all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict, stressing that all perpetrators must be brought to justice and held accountable without undue delay, including through timely, systematic, impartial and independent investigations, and, as appropriate, prosecution and conviction, through appropriate justice mechanisms, 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, notably the Sulu Archipelago, 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 therefore does not reflect the full impact of armed conflict on children in the Philippines;
  • Noting with concern the increase in instances of the six grave violations compared to the previous reporting period, including as a result of the Marawi siege in 2017, as well as the increased number of children detained by Government security forces for alleged association with armed groups;
  • Condemning the recruitment and use of children, for combat and support roles, urging all parties to immediately and without conditions release all children associated with them, and 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 and 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 through specialized child protection, including family- and community-based reintegration programmes, and including access to health care, psychosocial support and education programmes, as well as to raise awareness and work with communities to avoid stigmatization of these 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 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, urging all parties to take steps to prevent and end such killing and maiming, and calling upon parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality enshrined therein;
  • Expressing deep concern about both verified and unverified incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, 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; and stressing the importance of accountability for those who commit sexual and gender-based violence against children, and of ensuring access to non-discriminatory and comprehensive specialized services, including psychosocial, health, legal and livelihood support and services to survivors of sexual violence;
  • Strongly condemning the increase in attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of international law and affecting the access to quality education for at least 20,000 children, calling upon all parties to comply with applicable international law and to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals, including their personnel, as such, and to end and prevent disproportionate or indiscriminate 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 their use can have on the enjoyment of the right to education;
  • Strongly condemning the abduction of children, including for recruitment and use and other forms of exploitation, and calling upon all concerned parties to cease the abduction of children and immediately release all abducted children;
  • Encouraging further action to ensure humanitarian access; and the elimination of violence and the threat of violence against humanitarian personnel, and calling upon all parties to allow and facilitate, in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access, consistent with UN guiding principles for humanitarian assistance 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 humanitarian agencies, and their humanitarian partners, without adverse distinction;
  • Expressing deep concern about the scale of the six grave violations affecting children of indigenous communities in the context of conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), and the increased involvement of paramilitary groups, and about the renewed and intensified conflict during the reporting period, leading to displacement that mostly affected remote indigenous communities, notably in Davao, Northern Mindanao and Caraga;
  • Encouraging the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government and armed groups and urging the parties to include child protection issues in respective peace talks, with the support of the United Nations and guided by, inter alia, the Practical Guidance for Mediators to protect children in armed conflict;
  • Welcoming the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, marking the culmination of the peace process between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); and calling upon the Transition Authority to continue to implement the peace agreement and use the lessons learnt and best practices of UNICEF and the Office of the SRSG CAAC 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 cooperate with civilian child protection actors to facilitate their release and reintegration into their communities, and underlining that family and community-based reintegration of children formerly associated with parties to the conflict is essential to provide a future to these children and their families, as well as to prevent the risks of re-recruitment in violation of international law;

To the Government of the Philippines

  • Stressing the primary role of the Government in providing protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict in the Philippines, and recalling that the Philippines is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict;
  • Welcoming the promulgation of the CSAC law in January 2019 and the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations in June 2019 and urging the Government to swiftly implement these domestic legal obligations and to reinforce the protection of children, including by taking preventive measures and ensuring accountability by thoroughly investigating allegations of violations against children and by bringing perpetrators to justice;
  • Commending the Government of the Philippines for integrating gender-sensitive provisions in the CSAC law which include guarantees for access to education for girls in situations of armed conflict, as well as access to comprehensive health services; 
  • Expressing serious concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their association or alleged association with armed groups, including those who may have committed crimes, urging the Government to align its practice with the CSAC Law, including its provision that children associated with armed groups be treated primarily as victims of recruitment and use, and to comply with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular the obligation that the arrest, detention and imprisonment of children should only be considered as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and that, in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration; also urging it to prioritize their reintegration, through family and community based programmes, including access to healthcare, psychosocial support and education programmes as well as raising awareness and working with communities to avoid stigmatization of these children and facilitate their return; and further urging the Government to ensure that the prosecution of children is carried out with respect for the rights of the child;
  • Urging the Government to reinforce the protection of children, including by taking all necessary measures to prevent and end the six grave violations against children in the context of armed conflict;
  • Encouraging the Government of the Philippines to take measures to put an end to violations committed against children, including by members of its security forces and in particular those involving a high number of instances of killing and maiming of children and attacks against schools and hospitals attributed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the reporting period;
  • Urging the Government to expedite the revision of its protocol on handling children in armed conflict, to align it with the CSAC law and to ensure that victims of violations receive timely, effective, appropriate services and can access family- and community-based reintegration programs;
  • Expressing grave concern at the increased attacks on schools and their personnel, particularly in indigenous communities; urging the Government to take measures for the protection of schools, teachers and children including in indigenous communities and calling upon the Government to fully implement its “National policy framework on learners and schools as zones of peace”;
  • Welcoming the lifting of martial law in Mindanao in December 2019 and calling on the Government to facilitate humanitarian access to affected areas to assess the impact of the siege on the civilian population, particularly on children, and to provide humanitarian assistance as necessary;
  • Calling upon the Government to implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction and to consider ratifying the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects in order to prevent killing and maiming of children through improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war;
  • Urging the Government to pursue its efforts towards accountability, including through comprehensive, independent, timely and systematic investigation, and, as appropriate, prosecution, conviction and punishment of anyone found to be responsible for violations and abuses against children and to ensure that all victims have access to justice as well as to the medical, psychosocial and support services that they need;
  • Calling upon the Government to address all ongoing violations against children, support the implementation of its national child protection procedures and guidelines and facilitate access to conflict affected areas for child protection actors;
  • Further calling upon the Government to continue the constructive collaboration with the country task force on monitoring and reporting and the United Nations; and encouraging the Government to continue cooperation to strengthen capacity of its armed and security forces as well as auxiliary forces on child protection;
  • Calling upon the Government to ensure that the rights and needs of conflict-affected children are taken into account during the talks and in the implementation of any future peace agreements, including provisions on release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces or armed groups, as well as provisions on the rights and well-being of children, and that these are integrated in peace negotiations, ceasefire and peace agreements and in provisions for ceasefire monitoring, where appropriate, and taking into account children’s views, where possible, in these processes, while recalling the existence of a Practical Guidance of Mediators to integrate child protection issues in these processes;

To all armed groups operating 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 Maute Group

  • Urging NPA, Maute Group and Bangsamore Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups to immediately end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, to issue military orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of anyone under 18 years of age and to immediately release all children from their ranks to civilian child protection actors and support their reintegration into society; 
  • Calling on all listed armed groups to enter into dialogue with the UN for the purpose of action plans to end and prevent child recruitment and use;
  • Expressing deep concern about reports of the use of children, including as human shields as by the Maute Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF);
  • Expressing grave concern about the killing and maiming of children, as well as other grave violations against children, committed by armed groups;
  • Urging the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and NPA to cease using children in any activity that may put them at risk;

To community and religious leaders:

  • 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, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, abductions, and attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals, and to support the reintegration of children affected by armed conflict in their communities, including by raising awareness to avoid stigmatization of such children.
For information media. Not an official record.