UNICEF orients MILF on recruitment and use of children

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COTABATO CITY: Top representatives of the United Children’s Fund, formerly United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), visited Tuesday Camp Darapanan, the main bastion of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, for updates on the progress of a UN-MILF Action Plan to eliminate recruitment and use of children.

The estimated 11,000-strong MILF, is currently involved in peace negotiations with the government, as its field lieutenants and troops recently underwent a series of orientation sessions on the Action Plan to ensure that its command structure adheres to international law.

Originally signed in 2009, the Action Plan commits the MILF on 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 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,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander.


Prior to peace overture with the government, the MILF, a faction of the mainstream Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that inked a final peace deal with the government in 1986, had been waging a Moro rebellion for self-determination since the 1970s.

Globally, at least 740,000 people die directly or indirectly because of armed violence every year, the UNICEF said.

UNICEF data also revealed that one-third of such deaths could 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.

Orientations are currently being carried out across all 31 MILF base commands and seven front commands in preparation for the highly-anticipated entry of the Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the 25-year-old, graft-ridden Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Bangsamoro entity forms part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro inked on March this year between the government and MILF to end the decades-old Moro rebellion in Mindanao.

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.

Such engagements 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.

“The 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,” Sylwander said.

UNICEF is currently working on 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children. PNA

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