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MILF Base Commanders receive orientation on the recruitment and use of children

Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, 2 December 2014— UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held a press conference today to highlight the progress being made on the UN-MILF Action Plan to eliminate recruitment and use of children. MILF military commanders and troops recently underwent a series of orientation sessions on the Action Plan to ensure that its command structure adheres to international law.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014
UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Patrick Halton explains a module during an orientation session with MILF Base Commanders at 111th Base Command, Pantukan, Compostela Valley. UNICEF is providing technical support to the MILF to ensure that no children under 18 years old are recruited or involved with the BIAF as combatants or in supporting roles.

Globally, at least 740,000 people die directly or indirectly as a result of armed violence every year. One third of these deaths can be attributed to armed conflicts in war zones, with the remainder of violent deaths occurring in lower- and middle-income settings otherwise unaffected by warfare. In the Philippines, it is estimated that around 30,000 to 50,000 children were displaced by armed conflict ever year for the past years, of which the majority were in the Southern Philippines. The UN-MILF Action plan is a key component in ensuring that children in situations of armed conflict are protected.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/Marge Francia
UNICEF Representative Lotta Sylwander addresses media and guests at the press briefing about the progress of the UN-MILF Action Plan to eliminate the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.

Originally signed in 2009, the Action Plan commits the MILF to concrete, time-bound activities pertaining to the prevention of recruitment and use of children as combatants or in supporting roles, the separation of any children under 18 from the command structure, unimpeded access for UN verification, and awareness raising on child rights and child protection for its military rank and file, as well as for MILF communities.

“UNICEF recognizes armed conflict as a grievous violation on child rights. Children are affected by armed violence in different ways—they can be recruited as child soldiers, killed, injured and be deprived of access to basic services, including education and healthcare. Children living in conflict areas in the Philippines are among the most vulnerable, and together with its partners, UNICEF is working for all of their rights to be realized and protected,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/Marge Francia
MILF Central Committee First Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar and UNICEF Representative Lotta Sylwander exchange each other's commitments to the Action Plan - the MILF Supplemental General Order prohibiting the recruitment of children and the sanctions for those who violate this, and a booklet outlining the six grave violations against children in armed conflict.

Orientations are currently being carried out across all 31 MILF Base Commands and 7 Front Commands in Mindanao for Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) commanders and troops. So far, 4,151 BIAF elements from 26 Base Commands and 4 Fronts have received these trainings. At the end of these sessions, MILF Front and Base Commanders publicly commit to ensure that no children are associated with their respective commands, and that if there are cases, these children will be separated from the command structure.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014
UNICEF translated the Six Grave Violations Against Children In Armed Conflict booklet to Tagalog and reprinted it for distribution to MILF troops during the orientation sessions to help increase awareness on the international legal foundation on these violations.

The orientations focus on setting out the roles and responsibilities of MILF military leadership and rank and file when it comes to preventing and addressing the recruitment and use of children, as well as explaining what the sanctions are if they do not comply. The orientations are also used to raise awareness on child protection, including the definition of a child under International Law, grave violations against children, as well as legal frameworks on child protection.

“UNICEF commends the MILF for its commitment to address this issue and for the steady progress being made in the implementation of the Action Plan. The UN, including UNICEF, will continue to support the MILF in the Plan’s implementation and in ensuring the protection of all children affected by armed conflict in Mindanao,” Sylwander added.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014
A banner displayed at 106th Base Command in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, shows the MILF Supplemental General Order (SGO) regarding the issue of Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Armed Conflict in Mindanao. The SGO stipulates the MILF’s policy on non-recruitment of children and sanctions for non-compliance.

UNICEF also congratulated the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF for the progress made on the peace process. The Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in March 2014 has brought about a historic opportunity for long-lasting peace and development in Mindanao. UNICEF hopes that the best interest of all children and women are adequately reflected in the new Bangsamoro Basic Law. UNICEF remains committed to supporting the transition process working with both parties and other key stakeholders in Mindanao to ensure it is successful, inclusive and supports the rights of all children.



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