The senior United Nations child rights envoy today said she is heartened by the commitment of the Colombian Government and a the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC) to separate and reintegrate children associated with the armed group, despite the negative results of the recent referendum on the Colombian peace accord.
“[The decision on children] is an important humanitarian trust-building measure and I join the Secretary-General in calling upon all those involved to do their utmost to provide adequate support and care to children and their communities who have suffered too much in this conflict,” said the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui.
Ms. Zerrougui was commenting on the Secretary-General’s third report on the situation of children affected by the armed conflict in Colombia, which covers the period from September to June 2016, and highlights the peace talks between the Government and FARC-EP, as well as the agreement on the separation and reintegration of children signed in Havana, Cuba on 15 May 2016.
The historic peace accord, meant to end the Western hemisphere’s longest running conflict, that emerged from nearly four years of talks hosted in Havana, Cuba, was defeated last month in a public referendum. Both sides have since agreed to keep pressing ahead with efforts to maintain their agreements.
Ms. Zerrougui said the report highlighted the importance of pursuing peace and protecting children from the impact of the armed conflict, and to continue the separation of under-18 children associated with the FARC-EP, and assure that their reintegration needs are satisfied. According to the report, the number of violations against children has decreased and advances were made towards strengthening the legal framework and adapting protection policies.
However, some concerns remain regarding the challenging presence of post-demobilization groups, and the gaps between policy commitments and implementation.
Strengthening of family reunification, gender-sensitive protection and care services, providing socio-economic and psychological support to children were among the efforts that the Secretary-General encouraged the Colombian government to undertake.
The report also welcomed the announcement of a roadmap for the peace talks between the Government and the Ejército de Liberacion Nacional (ELN). With negotiations are scheduled to begin this week in Quito, Ecuador, the Secretary-General inviting the parties to consider including the issue of the protection of children as soon as possible.
According to Ms. Zerrougui, the agreement between the Government and FARC-EP “illustrates how the protection of children, the universal desire to build a better future for our children, can truly serve as an entry point to negotiate peace and it is my hope that what has been accomplished will be emulated in future negotiations in Colombia and elsewhere.”