Visit to Colombia – May 1999

The Special Representative visited Colombia from 30 May to 6 June 1999 to assess first-hand the impact of the conflict on children.

During his visit the Special Representative met with Government and Armed Forces officials, the spokesman for the largest guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and he held discussions with the United Nations country team, international and local non-governmental organizations, the Catholic Church, the business community, the diplomatic community, representatives of ICRC and civil society leaders.

For over 40 years, Colombian children have suffered as victims, witnesses and perpetrators of violence. Large numbers of children participate as Child Soldiers in armed groups and forces. Children comprise the majority of the 1.2 million persons who have been forcibly displaced within Colombia over the past 10 years. Displaced communities lack access to basic rights and services such as schooling, health, water and sanitary living conditions. Colombia’s chronic violence has given rise to alarming rates of child prostitution, gang warfare, domestic violence, child abuse and increasing numbers of street children who are often victims of “social cleansing’. This culture of violence has produced a widespread sense of fear, Impunity and resignation within Colombian society.

The following were the key issues raised during his visit:

  • Protection of civilian populations in the midst of conflict.
  • Kidnapping and hostage-taking.
  • Situation of internally displaced communities.
  • Placing children’s protection and welfare on the peace agenda.
  • “Voice of Children’ project.
  • Launching a coalition on the protection of Colombian children.