Working for children’s rights in Colombia

Paola Cuaran

Latin America

Colombia

Read the biography

Within the framework of Canada's voluntary cooperation programme, my current mandate as volunteer legal advisor to the International Bureau for Children's Rights (IBCR)'s Project for the Integral Strengthening of Children's Rights (PRIDE) has given me the opportunity to support the work of the Coalición contra la vinculación de niños, niñas y adolescentes al conflicto armado en Colombia (Coalition against the involvement of children and adolescents in the armed conflict in Colombia) (COALICO). The mission of this partner organisation of the PRIDE project in Colombia is to contribute, with a rights-based approach, to the effective reduction of the use, recruitment and involvement of children and young people in the Colombian armed conflict. To this end, COALICO develops different strategies for observation, prevention, protection and advocacy with society, the state and the international community.

Since the first years of my law studies, I have felt a special interest in working for human rights, understanding this work as a means to promote democratic and social transformations. I believe that constant efforts in the promotion and recognition of rights and freedoms, to which we are all entitled, are fundamental, particularly in contexts where they are ignored and violated even by those who have the obligation to recognise and enforce them.

COALICO

The Coalition against the involvement of children and young people in the armed conflict in Colombia was created in October 1999. It is a space of confluence and articulation of civil society organisations, which through monitoring, advocacy, defence and promotion of the rights of children and young people, seeks to contribute to the reduction of the impact of the armed conflict and related violence on children and adolescents in the country, particularly those related to the use, recruitment and involvement of children in armed groups.

See COALICO’s website

Photo: COALICO Archive – Oscar Fernando Cobo

 

Today, with this mandate of international volunteering, I have the opportunity to contribute from my experience to the work of those who are dedicated to the promotion and protection of the rights of children in regions where their rights are violated and where the political will to change their realities is not enough. 

At the moment, two main themes are at the heart of my mandate at COALICO. On the one hand, I am participating in the case study on "Armed Violence" in the framework of an alliance established with the organisation "TejiendoRedesInfancia". This case study will form part of the documentary collection of the Regional Observatory for the monitoring of the rights of children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope that this work will help to visualise the condition of vulnerability in which millions of children living in regions affected by armed violence find themselves, in order to draw the attention of the actors involved, civil society and the international community to initiatives for change that will have a positive impact on the lives of these children.

At the same time, I am collaborating in the analysis of the monitoring bulletins of COALICO's Observatory on Children and Armed Conflict (ONCA), in relation to the events that have affected children and adolescents in the context of the Colombian armed conflict between 2009 and 2020. This activity is part of COALICO's monitoring of children's rights in relation to situations generated by the Colombian armed conflict. This information will also serve as consultation, analysis and input for the preparation of the alternative report on the situation of the rights of children and adolescents in Colombia in light of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its additional protocols, which will be carried out in conjunction with the Alianza por la niñez platform in the second half of 2021.

Thus, through its research, monitoring, local capacity building, access to justice for child and adolescent victims of the armed conflict and political advocacy strategies, COALICO presents society, the Colombian state and the international community with systematic information and analysis on the dynamics of the impact and involvement of children in the Colombian armed conflict, with the aim of placing this issue on the public agenda. The ultimate goal of such actions is to improve the State's responses through public policies and legislative changes that have an impact on the recognition and respect for the rights of children and adolescents.

How the armed conflict in Colombia has affected children and adolescents.
Elaboration and source: COALICO

According to the cases identified by COALICO between 2009 and 2020, there were 656 recruitment events and between 2015 and 2020, 1,206 children and adolescents were affected.

Since the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in 2016, there has been an increase in the recruitment of children and adolescents following an upsurge in violence in Colombia, due to the fact that various armed forces have sought to control territories left by others and establish their control in the communities.  The increase has been noticeable since 2017 and it is precisely the first half of 2020, the period in which there was a considerable increase in child and adolescent victims of recruitment due to factors associated mainly with the isolation prevented by the pandemic.

Interested in working with COALCIO? Find out now about our volunteer opportunities! 

Voluntary cooperation programme financed by Affaires Mondiales Canada.