4 August 2023 - Colombia

Colombia ceasefire agreement needs to stop recruitment of child soldiers – Save the Children

Press Release

BOGOTA, 4 August 2023 – A landmark truce agreed between the Colombian government and the ELN, the largest remaining rebel group in the country, allows for the recruitment of girls and boys over the age of 15 which must be addressed, said Save the Children.

The aid agency is dismayed that after 10 months of negotiations, the six-month truce, which entered into effect on Thursday, will be governed by a protocol that allows for the use of child soldiers.

The protocol - Article 2 of Decree 1117 of 2023 – is counter to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires armed groups not to recruit or use children under 18 years of age.

Save the Children called on Colombia to adopt all possible measures to prevent the recruitment of girls, boys, and adolescents and to guarantee the restoration of their rights.

Between 1990 to 2017, 16,238 children and adolescents were recruited by armed groups, in Colombia although it is understood the true figure could be as high as 40,000.

María Paula Martínez, Executive Director of Save the Children in Colombia, said:
"Save the Children rejects this protocol as well as any act that puts the lives and rights of children living throughout Colombia at risk. The protection of children should not be negotiable, but should be a starting point in any peace negotiation.

"The condition on recruitment is unacceptable. What if that boy or girl who may be recruited was your child? We must think of thousands of families whose lives have been torn apart by the scourge that is the use of children in war. Should the future of children be negotiated? Does this really contribute to peace?

"The ELN should not ignore international or national norms, and neither should it omit the commitments it has made in other spaces, for example, in 1998, in the Puerta del Cielo Agreement in Mainz, Germany. This group mentioned that in the future they were going to increase the age of recruitment to over 18 years of age, which did not happen. This Decree does not express their will to comply with it either."

Save the Children has been working in Colombia since 1991, supporting children with education, healthcare, clean water and sanitation, as well as working with schools and communities affected by armed conflict.

For further enquiries please contact:
· Daphnee Cook, Head of Global News, Daphnee.Cook@savethechildren.org (Based in Kenya)
· Samantha Halyk, Global Media Manager, Samantha.halyk@savethechildren.org (Based in London)
· Maria Gabriela Alvarado, Regional Media Manager, maria.alvarado@savethechildren.org (Based in Panama)
· Our media out of hours (BST) contact is media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409

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