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Blacklisted Rebels: Commitment to Child Rights in the Philippines
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Chapman University, United States
Internal armed conflicts in Mindanao, Philippines, have involved child rights violations, including recruiting, killing, abducting, and sexually abusing children. Since 2003, United Nations (UN) annual reports have blacklisted warring parties for violations of child rights. In response, one of the rebel groups in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), signed and eventually implemented a UN action plan for ending its use of child soldiers in 2017. In contrast, other rebel groups in the Philippines—the New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf Group, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters—have not signed any action plans and have continuously abused children. What determines these rebel groups’ various responses to the UN’s blacklisting? I explore rebel groups’ commitment to international humanitarian law with a particular focus on MILF. It is notable that a non-state armed group, which is ineligible to be a member of the UN human rights treaties, would voluntarily comply with a written agreement with the UN to address its violence. By conducting process tracing with archives and interviews, I argue that the low likelihood of future conflicts, evident in the group’s signing of a comprehensive peace agreement, is a necessary condition for compliance. MILF complied with its action plan when it implemented the power-sharing provisions of its peace agreements, due to its aspiration to be considered as a legitimate political actor by international and regional audiences. This paper contributes to both literatures on international institutions and political violence by demonstrating how the UN’s “naming and shaming” increases rebel groups’ commitment to international law.