Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
(New York, November 28, 2006)
Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia
Allow me to express my Delegation's satisfaction to see you presiding this important session of the Council. We thank Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Ann Veneman, for their presentations.
With firm conviction, the Government of Colombia continues making progress in constructing peace. Its democratic security policy has not only allowed for the recovery of the presence of legitimate institutions and law enforcement in all municipalities in the country, but for the strengthening of the Rule of Law. It has also translated into greater respect for and protection of human rights and into the implementation of social programs, aimed at the most vulnerable sectors of the population. Democracy in Colombia is solid and stable. Our Government recently started a second mandate, thanks to the unprecedented backing given to it in free, transparent and democratic elections.
In recent years, nearly 43,000 members of illegal armed groups have been demobilized, which has been reflected in an ostensible reduction in the recruitment of children. The Colombian State established, by law, the obligation not to recruit, or link, children under 18 years of age to the armed forces and has strictly applied this prohibition. As the report of the Secretary-General indicates, violent groups outside the law are the only parties responsible for the recruitment of children in Colombia.
Thanks to the democratic security policy, the number of kidnappings has also been reduced and the phenomenon of internal displacement has been slowed down. The number of newly displaced persons went from 450,000 in 2002 to 169,000 in 2005 and 90,000 so far in 2006.
From November 1999 until September 2006, more than 3,000 children separated from illegal armed groups have entered into the special attention programs established by the Colombian Family Welfare Institute. There, they are helped in different stages, according to their conditions and needs, with the objective of reintegrating them to their family and social environment.
Faithfully carrying out the Ottawa Convention, the armed forces of Colombia have destroyed their stockpiles of antipersonnel landmines. On the other hand, the Government is carrying out intense demining actions, for which we have received the support of several United Nations agencies such as UNICEF and UNDP, as well that of countries, among them some current members of the Security Council.
The commitment of the Colombian State to international law and international humanitarian law is full. We will not give up in returning tranquility to the civilian population. We will turn to the international community for support whenever necessary to bring affected communities decent conditions for their social and economic recovery. We will also turn to the international community to call for its commitment and political will to effectively face the global drug problem.
Each gram of cocaine consumed by addicts, is a gram that turns into financial resources for illegal armed groups that recruit and use children in Colombia. Each gram consumed is a potential cause of death and maiming. Each gram consumed turns into the planting of antipersonnel landmines that leave behind hundreds of victims. The drugs consumed by addicts and the money paid for them, turns into illicit arms trafficking, forced displacement, violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and destruction of our forests. Vulnerable groups, and children in particular, directly suffer these consequences.
My country joins the strong rejection of the recruitment and use of children repeatedly expressed by the international community. We do not hesitate in pointing out, at the same time, that the handling of this problem belongs, in the first place, to States and that any action by the international community must first have the full consent of Governments.
From this perspective, we have examined the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary General. Allow me, in this respect, to put forth in a respectful manner the following concerns of my country:
1. The recommendation in accordance to which the Council should give equal attention to children affected by armed conflict in all situations of concern is not appropriate. It might be understood as an attempt to suppress the difference between Annex I and Annex II in the report of the Secretary-General. There are particular conditions in each situation that lead the Council to clearly differentiate them in the two annexes.
The monitoring and reporting mechanism was created a little over a year ago and conclusions have only been agreed in two situations. On the other hand, first there must be an ample discussion of the independent review requested by the Council on the implementation of the mechanism, instead of proposing changes to the established approach and procedures.
For this reason, it is clear that operative paragraph 3 of Resolution 1612 of the Council must be preserved in its integrity.
2. It is not appropriate either to give other grave violations affecting children the same weight given to their recruitment and use.
These additional grave violations are all strongly condemnable, but do not correspond to the reason why this issue was brought to the Council. A change in the approach, would weaken the main objective that is being sought, that is, to put an end to the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. The Council must continue giving greater emphasis to the achievement of this objective.
3. The recommendation for the Council to expand to all situations of concern its call for parties involved to prepare action plans is equally inconvenient.
According to Security Council Resolution 1539 of 2004, action plans must be based in a process coordinated by a focal point designated by the Secretary-general and in charge of engaging parties in dialogue. In the case of Colombia, this would entail an interference in the role, which belongs to the Government and the State, to face the actions of groups outside the law.
For this reason, the action plans must continue being prepared only in those situations on the agenda of the Council, in accordance with what is established in Resolution 1539 of 2004.
Thank you Mr. President.