UN CTFMR signs Joint Action Plan with Democratic Karen Benevolent Army to end use and recruitment of children
The signature of a Joint action plan (JAP) with an Ethnic Armed Organisation represents an important new chapter for efforts to end and prevent grave violations against children in Myanmar
Video of the virtual signing ceremony will be made available to download here
YANGON, 20 November 2020 – Today, in a virtual ceremony, the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) on grave violations against children in Myanmar signed its first ever bilateral Joint Action Plan (JAP) with an Ethnic Armed Organisation, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA). The DKBA has been listed in the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict since 2013 for recruitment and use of children. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, also joined the ceremony, signing the joint action plan as a witness. The historic event was also attended by the Chairman of the Peace Commission of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre, Dr Tin Myo Win, diplomatic corps in Myanmar and UN agencies.
“The CTFMR commends the commitment made today by the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. It is an important step towards the protection of children and communities affected by armed conflict,” said the Co-Chairs of the CTFMR, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ola Almgren, and UNICEF Representative to Myanmar, June Kunugi.
The signature and implementation of the Joint Action Plan represent important steps towards the eventual delisting of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. While the group was originally listed in 2013, there have not been reports of any grave violations committed by the DKBA in any subsequent annual report. However, they remain listed because no delisting is possible before the signing and completion of a joint action plan with the UN as per the UN Security Council mechanism on Children and Armed Conflict.
“The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army has engaged with the CTFMR since 2017, with the intention to sign and implement a joint action plan. We are keen to demonstrate that we no longer have children in our ranks nor are we committing any other grave violations,” said General Saw Mu Shae, Commander in Chief of the DKBA. “Through signature and implementation of the plan, we are seeking to clear our name and ensure delisting from the UN Secretary-General's Annual Report.”
Aimed specifically at preventing the recruitment and use of children, the Joint Action Plan will also seek to sustainably prevent all grave violations against children more broadly. The JAP includes a number of key steps, including: Monitoring: joint verification, together with the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, that there are no children in the group’s ranks; Reintegration: if children are found within the ranks they will be released and supported to reintegrate into civilian life; Prevention: to ensure that children are not recruited in the future; Accountability: the enforcement of systematic and appropriate disciplinary measures against any troops found to be recruiting or using children, or committing other grave violations. The duration of implementation of a joint action plan is expected to last a minimum of 18 months.
“Being a trailblazer takes a lot of courage and I commend General Saw Mu Shae, as well as all the members of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, for their commitment to child protection. This is a proof of your willingness to abide by national and international norms and your pursuit of dialogue, which hopefully can also lead to lasting peace,” said Special Representative Gamba.
The Chair of the Union Peace Commission, Dr. Tin Myo Win, who attended the signing ceremony, on his part said, “The protection of children affected by armed conflict should always be an integral part of any peace process. Having fully recognized this, we have incorporated strong provisions to prevent grave violations against children in conflict situation in our Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.”
Last year, the national legal framework to protect children affected by armed conflict in Myanmar was strengthened by the landmark adoption of the Child Rights Law and the ratification by Myanmar of the Optional Protocol (OPAC) of the UN Child Rights Convention (CRC) on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Despite tremendous progress, children still bear the brunt of armed conflict in Myanmar. It is hoped that this ground-breaking event will set an important precedent, encouraging broader engagement of ethnic armed groups and signature and implementation of further JAPs with the other Ethnic Armed Organizations also listed in the annexes of the UN Secretary-General's Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict.
“Keeping children away from armed forces and armed groups can play an important role in bringing about a sustainable peace in Myanmar. We look forward to working with the DKBA in the implementation of this Joint Action Plan,” added the Co-Chairs of the CTFMR.
In addition to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), there are six Ethnic Armed Groups listed by the UN Secretary-General as perpetrators of recruitment and use of children in Myanmar. They are the:
- Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
- Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)
- Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC)
- Karenni Army (KA)
- Shan State Army South (SSA-S)
- United Wa State Army (UWSA)
The Myanmar Armed Forces, Tatmadaw, which has been provisionally de-listed in this year’s report for recruitment and use, had been listed for this violation since 2003. The Tatmadaw remain listed for two other grave violations: killing and maiming; and rape and other forms of sexual violence. The listing and de-listing of parties to conflict is the decision of the UN Secretary-General.
ABOUT THE UN COUNTRY TASKFORCE ON MONITORING AND REPORTING (CTFMR) ON GRAVE VIOLATIONS AGAINST CHILDREN
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1612 mandates the UN to establish UN-led CTFMRs in countries where there is verified evidence that Grave Violations against children are being committed by parties to a conflict, either by armed forces and/or by armed groups. The CTFMR is tasked with establishing a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) which documents, verifies and reports to the UNSC on Grave Violations against children. The six Grave Violations that are monitored and reported are:
- killing or maiming of children
- recruitment and use of children in armed forces and armed groups
- attacks against schools or hospitals
- rape or other grave sexual violence
- abduction of children
- denial of humanitarian access for children
The CTFMR is also mandated to provide a coordinated response to such grave violations. The CTFMR was established in Myanmar in 2007 and is co-chaired by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ola Almgren, and the UNICEF Representative to Myanmar, June Kunugi. The CTFMR in Myanmar includes relevant UN agencies (the UN RCO, UNICEF, ILO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UN OCHA, and WFP), Save the Children and World Vision.
UNICEF in Myanmar
UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation.