UN officials hail MILF for completing disengagement of children from its ranks

December 4, 2017 - 8:01 PM
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From left: Andrew Morris, head of UNICEF Cotabato; Julia Rees, UNICEF Deputy Representative; Ola Almgren, UN Resident Coordinator; Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Central Committee Chairman; and USEC Ronald Flores, OPAPP Undersecretary. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

NEW YORK/MANILA – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and UNICEF Philippines held a formal ceremony Monday marking the removal of the MILF from a UN list of armed groups recruiting and using children.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Ola Almgren congratulated the MILF for promoting and protecting the rights of children.

“Today, we mark an important milestone for the boys and girls of the Philippines. The Joint Action Plan between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the United Nations on the issue of recruitment and use of children has now been fully implemented. As a result I am very happy to announce that the MILF has been delisted from the annexes of the Secretary General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. I would like to congratulate the MILF for completing the action plan with the support of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting. This achievement is the result of a sustained commitment by the MILF with United Nations support”, Gamba said in her congratulatory message.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict serves as the leading UN advocate for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict.

The UN-MILF began working together by signing of an Action Plan between the United Nations and the MILF in 2009. It was completed at the beginning of 2017 upon the fulfilment of a six-point roadmap, resulting in the disengagement 1,869 children from the ranks of the MILF. The disengagement of children will facilitate their access to appropriate support and services from government and development partners to enjoy all their rights to health, education and protection.

“The United Nations country team in the Philippines welcomes this important milestone achieved by the MILF, in demonstrating its commitment to the protection and welfare of children,” the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Mr. Almgren shared in his message. “In line with the UN package of existing programmes to support the normalization track of the peace negotiations between the Government and the MILF, the UN stands ready to support the relevant plans for the disengaged children and their communities,” he added.

UN children’s agency UNICEF facilitated the completion of the UN-MILF Action Plan which involved training programs, systematic sensitization and awareness-raising initiatives for the MILF and its communities.

“We congratulate the MILF as they reach this important milestone. Children are zones of peace and their rights must be promoted and protected at all times. UNICEF’s support to the MILF continues to ensure that disengaged children and their communities live in safe environments, by facilitating access to psychosocial support and other protection, social welfare, education and health services. In addition, UNICEF supports parents in providing family based guidance and care, ” said UNICEF Philippines Representative, Officer-in-Charge, Julia Rees.

In response, the MILF reiterated its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children in their communities.

“MILF has worked for years in partnership with the UN and we are pleased at being delisted in the 2017 Secretary General’s report and to be recognized here today by our UN country partners,” said Eduard Guerra, former Chair of UN-MILF Action Plan Panel and currently the Co-chair of Joint Normalization Committee – MILF.

“MILF will keep up the commitment and the work to protect and promote the inherent rights of every child in our community. Together we will work toward ensuring a peaceful environment and a fair chance for children to enjoy their childhood while having access to education and other essential social services critical for their growth and wellbeing,” added Mr. Guerra.