Security Council Open Debate on "Children and Armed Conflict Towards the Full Implementation of the Agenda"
(New York, March 7, 2014)
Statement by H.E. Ambassador María Emma Mejia, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations
I consider particularly valuable that my first opportunity to participate in a debate in the Security Council alludes to a topic as sensitive as it is children in armed conflict.
This is why I wish to thank you on behalf of the Government of Colombia for the invitation to participate in this open debate. , For a country like mine, wich have faced tremendous challenges embodied by the conflict, provides a valuable opportunity to share lessons learned from experiences in the field as well as the ones learned from the obstacles.
The Security Council resolutions related to this issue not only have the strong support of President Juan Manuel Santos, but also of all the institutions of my country to the extent that, as stated in resolution 1612 of 26 July, 2005, and the resolution approved today, the Council has reaffirmed the recognition of the primary role of governments in the protection and care of children in the context of armed conflict and in the formulation of corrective actions.
Additionally, the Colombian Government agreed with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the Question of Children and Armed Conflict, pursuant the Task Report Mechanism under resolution 1612, that any dialogue between the Special Representative, the UN country team in Colombia or the Task Mechanism, Monitoring and Reporting Group will only be possible with the express prior authorization of the Government of Colombia/
After the visit of Mrs. Graҫa Machel to Colombia in 1996, were she shared her report "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Childre", a law was approved by the Colombian Congress, prohibiting the recruitment of under aged people by the illegal armed groups.
This commitment is evident in Colombia's voluntary acceptance, since December 2008, of the Mechanism for Monitoring and Reporting on Children and Armed Conflict. Also, in a political dialogue that remains fluid at both, political and technical levels, between the national government and the United Nations system.
One of such guidelines is the "Policy for Prevention of Recruitment and Use of Children and Adolescents Organized by Illegal Armed Groups," issued in July 2010 by the Colombian National Council of Economic and Social Policy (CONPES), through which the government has assigned more than $190 million dollars from the national budget for these activities between 2010 and 2014.
Furthermore, the Colombian government has an Interagency Commission operating since 2007 to consolidate the implementation of public policies so that it can reduce the risk of recruitment and violence against children by illegal armed groups. That Interagency Commission has achieved, for example, that more than 23 state agencies include in their programs the focus on sexual violence against children.
It is noteworthy that the Commission is comprised of a broad variety of Colombian governmental agencies such as the Office of the Vice President of the Republic, the Ministries of Interior, Defense, Health, Labour, the Administrative Unit for Victims Reparations, and the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, among others.
Likewise, more than 3,400 cases of children demobilized from groups outside of the law have been attended thanks to policies like those I mentioned before. 3,400 cases of forcibly recruited children and robbed of their childhood that can again have the chance to think and dream of a future away from a violent world.
To do so the Colombian Justice actively pursues the perpetrators. Thus, in 2013 the Office of the General Attorney opened 1,160 criminal investigations related to serious violations of the rights of children.
Colombia considers that the role that the United Nations should take in issues related to children and armed conflict deserves the seriousness and importance of the case, an approach that prioritizes cooperation and prevention and the development of national capacities to prevent, to fight and face this kind of problematic, leaving us with the moral obligation to restore the possibility of a future to a society that demands it.
In 2013 the National Center for Historical Memory in Colombia published a heartbreaking report entitled "Basta Ya! (Enough!) Memories of War and Dignity" in which courageous women recount how they faced illegal armed groups and demanded them to return their children illegally recruited by deception of just against their will.
That's why Colombia believes that the implementation of the Monitoring Mechanism in resolution 1612 should be aimed at strengthening the existing international pressure on illegal armed groups to cease their violence and recruitment of children.
It is important to bear in mind that when dealing with issues such as the present one, the Security Council must assess different situations and concentrate on those where there are actually armed conflicts threatening the international peace and security, establishing clear distinctions with those situations that are not on its agenda. Each case must be analyzed individually and the responses must be in accordance with specific circumstances and contexts.
The Colombian Government is working with the full conviction that the reconstruction of societies in post-conflict situations must be based on the basis of protecting their children. As President Santos highlighted Colombia seeks "a genuine peace, a peace that guarantees non-repetition, a peace that builds an environment of reconciliation and healing the wounds from the confrontation" allowing my country to have the first generation in a long time of children arising in an environment of peace, security and prosperity.
Thank you very much.