UNICEF calls for effective implementation of law protecting children in armed conflict

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IN THIS April 2017 photo, 10-year old Tarik, a former member of the Abu Sayyaf Group known for kidnap-for-ransom activities and has ties with the extremist Islamic State, receives a bicycle during the launching of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) Program Against Violent Extremism. The ARMM was replaced in 2018 by the Bangsamoro ARMM following the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. — BPI-ARMM

IN JANUARY 2019, the Philippines passed a law giving special protection to children in armed conflict situations, considered a landmark legislation for a country that continues to grapple with communist insurgency and violent extremism. “We urge the Government of the Philippines to ensure the effective implementation of the law so that children in situations of armed conflict realize the full spectrum of their rights,” Oyun Dendevnorov, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Philippine representative, said during a commemoration activity for the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers on February 12 in Davao City. The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11188, An Act Providing for the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict, was completed in May last year. The IRR’s provisions include specific measures that the government must “take to prevent the recruitment, re-recruitment, use, displacement of, or grave child rights violations against children involved in armed conflict.” The 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Philippines show 69 grave violations affecting 109 children, 26 of which took place in 2017, mostly in the restive parts of Mindanao. “Children pay a deadly price during conflicts. Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, many children still get caught in the crossfire, their schools and homes attacked. We must remember that children are zones of peace and we must do all we can to protect them,” Mr. Dendevnorov said.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said while the government undertakes programs to put an end to armed conflicts, including social and economic interventions that address the roots of unrest and violence, the youth can also play a part as “agents of peace and development.” “The youth can do so much more with your vast potential to do great things. We encourage all of you to play a more active part in helping build a culture of peace and development,” Ariel Hernandez, co-chairperson of the Joint Normalization Committee for the Bangsamoro peace agreement, during the OURmindaNOW Summit 2020 held earlier this month. The gathering was attended by youth leaders coming from different parts of Mindanao. Mr. Hernandez reminded the young leaders to guard against the “spoilers of peace (who) remain by our doorstep and continue to promote the culture of fear, mistrust and violence among our people.” Mindanao Bureau