The Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) has committed to prohibiting the use of children in hostilities and to ensuring that children are not recruited by or forcibly associated with armed forces. A party to one of the world’s longest-running civil wars in Shan State, Burma/Myanmar, RCSS/SSA has been working for several years with Geneva Call to plan for the concrete implementation of this Deed of Commitment. General Yawd Serk, Chairman of the RCSS/SSA and Alain Délétroz, General Director of Geneva Call signed the Deed on the 26 November 2019 following final agreement on key implementation points.
By signing this Deed of Commitment, RCSS/SSA not only reinforces its policy not to use or recruit children under the age of 18, but it further commits to ensuring the safe release or disassociation of any children who may be found among their ranks now or in the future. Under the Deed of Commitment, RCSS/SSA pledges to protect all children from the effects of military operations and to make the best possible efforts to facilitate the provision of necessary humanitarian aid and care to all children in Shan State.
RCSS and Geneva Call have been working for years to train troops on the respect of child protection norms, an endeavor which it will expand following the signing.
In his speech marking the occasion, the Chairman of RCSS/SSA, Gen. Yawd Serk, stated that “This event marks a key positive milestone for RCSS/SSA to adhere to humanitarian norms. Children are the most important – they are the new generation. By signing this Deed of Commitment and taking concrete steps with Geneva Call to ensure its full implementation, RCSS/SSA commits to work for the greater protection of all children in Shan State. Tomorrow I will issue an order to all RCSS/SSA commanders to remind them not to recruit children and to review their current forces”
Alain Délétroz, General Director of Geneva Call, welcomed this commitment by RCSS/SSA, saying, “This is a crucial step towards the better protection of all children affected by conflict in Shan State and across Myanmar. It marks a new phase in the ongoing humanitarian engagement by RCSS/SSA and Geneva Call, and launches a joint monitoring process to support RCSS/SSA in adhering to their policy banning the use and recruitment of children. Geneva Call is committing to support the humanitarian efforts of RCSS/SSA to improve the situation of all children affected by the conflict – including those most vulnerable, those separated from their families, and those who have been displaced.” By strengthening the protection of children in Shan State, this signing can inspire other armed actors operating in Myanmar to make new commitments related to child protection and better uphold those that have been made. The signing can contribute to positive change, helping to turn the tide against the recruitment of children, killing and maiming of children, and sexual violence against children across Myanmar’s conflict-affected areas.
Geneva Call respects the principles of neutrality and impartiality in its work, and strictly limits itself to increase compliance with humanitarian norms by armed non-State actors in order to ensure a greater respect for the civilian populations. The Deed of Commitment is a formal humanitarian commitment that armed non-State actors (ANSA) sign to ensure respect for humanitarian norms. The signature of this commitment does not give any political or legal recognition to these actors.
Following years of humanitarian engagement by Geneva Call and RCSS/SSA on child protection activities, the signing of this Deed of Commitment opens a door to sustained and strategic support for children in Shan State and the RCSS/SSA remains engaged in dialogue with Geneva Call on other humanitarian issues.
A signatory to the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, RCSS/SSA is engaged in the current Myanmar peace process and is militarily active in Shan State, which borders China, Laos and Thailand in eastern Myanmar. In recent years, RCSS/SSA has been involved in clashes with the Myanmar Tatmadaw and with other armed non-State actors operating in Shan State. Clashes have caused displacement of communities and have greatly affected civilians, particularly women and children.
For further reference to the model Deed of Commitment on the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict click here.