Arria-formula meeting of the Security Council
on reintegration of children associated with armed forces and armed groups
26 November 2019, UNHQ
Statement by Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka thanks the Permanent Missions of Belgium, Peru, Poland and the UK for hosting the Arria-formula meeting on this important area of concern.
In 2009, the 30 long years of separatist terrorism in Sri Lanka came to an end and the country faced new challenges that included the rehabilitation of former LTTE combatants, including child soldiers. The rehabilitation of the former child soliders, reuniting these children with their families and addressing their educational needs were the utmost priority in the immediate post-conflict phase. The programme launched under the Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services resulted in the rehabilitation and reintegration of all former child soldiers, numbering 594 of them, with Sri Lanka having a success story in this respect to share with the world.
All the former child soldiers who did not possess a National Identity Card were issued with one and supported in their education by facilitating school enrollment with the provision of school supplies and financial assistance including scholarships. It is noteworthy that special attention was paid to those whose education had been disrupted due to conscription by the terrorist group and who were desiring to complete their formal education. As a result, the rehabilitation programme enabled a number of former child soliders to participate in the national examinations.
Eleven children took up the university entrance examination, with four being successful either during or after their rehabilitation programme. Three were able to receive a university education. Many others have undergone vocational training programmes offered by the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. As such, many of these former child soldiers are now employed as accounts clerks, computer instructors, mechanics, carpenters, farmers, fishermen and employees in the garment manufacturing industry.
In recognition of the fact that involvement in violent conflict and loss of loved ones cause trauma and other psychological effects that could severely hamper children’s growth and education, those who required special attention in these aspects were identified and provided with care including professional counseling, where necessary. This was accomplished through the education system as well as community and civil society groups. A special screening process was also carried out to identify former child soldiers who were physically disabled, recovering from injury, and others who required medical intervention.
As a policy, no former child solider was prosecuted with priority being accorded to their investigations and speedy disposal of their cases. In these efforts the Government collaborated with UN agencies, the ICRC and civil society organizations including INGOs and NGOs with knowledge and experience in dealing with children exposed to armed conflict.
Sri Lanka is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography and was one of the first States to have ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. My delegation takes this opportunity to reiterate Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the promotion and protection of child rights.