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MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade declares commitment to prevent children from being involved with armed groups

©UNICEF/2015
Participants at the roundtable meeting on preventing the recruitment of children in armed conflict, sponsored and co-chaired by UNICEF and the Embassy of Canada, release a dove to signify their commitment to peace.  

COTABATO CITY, Philippines, 13 March 2015 — The Embassy of Canada was pleased to sponsor, and co-chair with the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, today’s roundtable meeting with the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB) to discuss their important role in preventing the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.

This is the first time in the world where female members of a non-State armed group are acting as catalysts and changing social and cultural norms and behaviours that drive the involvement of children with armed groups. With 29 battalions situated across core Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communities in Mindanao, BIWAB is strategically placed to support the successful implementation of the UN-MILF Action Plan to eliminate recruitment and use of children.

©UNICEF Philippines/2015
UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander speaks during the roundtable discussion with the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade on preventing the recruitment of children in armed conflict. "[Generations of] women around the world have proven to be the peacemakers and peace-builders in their families and communities," she said. 

“Women, like the members of the BIWAB, are also the mothers, grandmothers, and sisters of children at risk of being recruited by armed groups. For generations women around the world have proven to be the peacemakers and peace-builders in their families and communities. When we empower them to be advocates and leaders in their communities, real transformation can take place for those who have been historically marginalised and silenced in society,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

The MILF is currently implementing an Action Plan agreed with the UN to address the recruitment and use of children. Originally signed in 2009, the Action Plan commits the MILF to ensure that no children under 18 are associated with the MILF-BIAF as combatants or in supporting roles. The Action Plan outlines concrete, time-bound activities pertaining the separation of any children under 18 from its ranks, 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 – all of which must be complied by the MILF.

©UNICEF Philippines/2015
Canada's Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder speaks during the roundtable discussion with the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade on preventing the recruitment of children in armed conflict. "Canada firmly supports the need to prevent the recruitment and use of children in conflict and for the rehabilitation of children that have been recruited and used in hostilities," he said. 

“Canada firmly supports the need to prevent the recruitment and use of children in conflict and for the rehabilitation of children that have been recruited and used in hostilities. We are pleased to collaborate with our friends from UNICEF on these important matters both in Manila and in New York where we Chair the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict. We also welcome the commitment by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to work with the United Nations on a Plan of Action on the issue of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the armed conflict in Mindanao,” Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said.

©UNICEF Philippines/2015
Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade sign a declaration affirming their commitment to prevent the recruitment of children in armed conflict.

Today’s meeting ended with BIWAB recommending concrete actions that they will undertake in support of MILF communities on this critical issue. BIWAB also signed a declaration resolving to protect children through campaigning against their involvement and use in conflict by armed groups, as part of the broader MILF commitment to child protection and fulfillment of children’s rights in the context of 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. This quest for durable peace should not waiver despite recent events. The Government of Canada and UNICEF remain committed to supporting the peace process working with the Government of the Philippines, MILF, and other key stakeholders in Mindanao to ensure it is successful, inclusive and supports the rights of all children.

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For further information, please contact:
Carlo Figueroa, Public Affairs Officer, Embassy of Canada, Tel: +639 209 506 223, Mobile: +63 920 950 6223, carlo.figueroa@international.gc.ca

Rebecca Pankhurst, Chief of Field Office, Cotabato, UNICEF Philippines, Mobile: +63 917 867 8354, rpankhurst@@unicef.org

 

 
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