Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
The paper outlines key developments in international efforts to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and highlights some of the challenges involved in the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups. February 2010 (pdf).
Hundred of thousands more children have been recruited, both into governmental armed forces and armed opposition groups. While most child soldiers are aged between 15 and 18, many are recruited from the age of 10 and sometimes even younger. In many countries, both girls and boys are used as soldiers; girls are at particular risk of rape, sexual harassment and abuse. The problem is most critical in Africa and Asia, though children are used as soldiers by governments and armed groups in many countries in the Americas, Europe and Middle East.
There is a growing international consensus against the use of children as soldiers. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (or 'child soldiers’ treaty') was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in May 2000 and came into force on 13 February 2002. Although 111 countries have now signed the 'child soldiers' treaty' recognizing that forcibly recruiting children into war is wrong, only 46 countries have actually made a binding legal commitment to enforce the Optional Protocol.
The UN has also begun to take steps to monitor countries’ records with respect to the use of child soldiers. In November 2002, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report to the Security Council identified 23 parties to conflict -not only armed opposition groups, but also government forces- in five country situations that involved child soldiers. While civil society organizations campaigning against the use of child soldiers welcomed the report, it was considered to be limited in that it only looked at countries on the Security Council agenda, leaving out some of the world’s known worst offenders. NGOs also called for follow up action on the UN list naming those parties using children in conflicts.
At the end of January 2003, the UN Security Council adopted the new Resolution 1460 on children and armed conflict calling on the Secretary-General to include information about protecting children in all his country-specific reports.
On the first anniversary of the 'child soldiers’ treaty', the international NGO Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers warned the International community against assuming that the issue of child soldiers could be struck-off simply because their use was now banned by international law, and emphasized that the problem, far from being solved, is still prevalent.
Formed in May 1998 by six leading non-governmental organizations: Amnesty International,
Human Rights Watch, International Save the Children Alliance, Jesuit Refugee Service, the
Quaker United Nations Office, and International Federation Terre des Hommes, to promote a
ban on all recruitment of children under the age of 18, by any armed force or group, and to
ensure the demobilization and rehabilitation of all existing child soldiers.
The Watchlist is a network of local, regional and international non-governmental organizations working to protect the security and rights of children in armed conflicts. The Watchlist monitors the impact of armed conflict on children, compiles reports about children, including adolescents, and influences programs and policies to improve their lives.
The UN Security Council established a new mechanism to monitor and report on violations against children in conflict situations and set up a working group of the Security Council to make concrete recommendations for action against abusive parties. It also demanded action plans for ending child recruitment by parties responsible for this practice. July 2005.
Governments and armed groups that recruit children into their military ranks should no longer be allowed to “slip through the net,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told a 5–6 February conference in Paris. He warned that such “lost children” represent a time bomb that could threaten stability and growth in Africa and beyond. Called the Free Children from War conference, the event was organized by the French government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Fifty-eight governments and dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) signed a set of principles known as the Paris Commitments, in which they vowed to “spare no effort to end the unlawful recruitment or use of children by armed forces or groups in all regions of the world.” April 2007.
While human rights organisations welcome the fact that Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga will soon stand trial at the International Criminal Court for conscripting child soldiers, some are concerned that the scope of the official charge is inadequate. They allege that girls who were kidnapped into Lubanga's Hema tribal militia in Ituri province will not be able to give full testimonies at the ICC hearings in The Hague because charges of sexual violence have not been included in his indictment. October 2006.
Since the 1990s, increasing attention has been drawn to child soldiering in Africa. While greater awareness is important in responding to the use of children as soldiers, popular images have too often sensationalized the issue, with counter-productive consequences. Ubiquitous media images of boys with guns as the epitome of child soldiering and girl sex slaves as 'victims' of conflict obscure the fact that many other children and young people, both male and female, play a variety of different, and often simultaneous, roles in conflict.
A coalition of groups is urging U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to prepare an annual list of governments and groups that recruit or use child soldiers or fail to protect children during military conflicts.
The paper outlines key developments in international efforts to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and highlights some of the challenges involved in the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups. October 2009 (pdf).
This report, submitted to the UN Security Council in November 2002, documents the use of children as soldiers by 72 different parties to armed conflict, reminds the international community that others who fall outside the criteria set in Resolution 1379 also need urgent attention, and calls upon the international community to start turning its promises into practice. November 2002 (pdf).
Human Rights Watch has interviewed child soldiers in countries including Angola, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.
Despite progress, efforts to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers are too little and too late for many children. The Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 details how a near global consensus that children should not be used as soldiers and strenuous international efforts have failed to protect tens of thousands of children from war. When armed conflict exists, children will almost inevitably become involved as soldiers. This is the third edition of the report and covers the period April 2004 to October 2007. May 2008 (pdf).
Civil conflicts have afflicted a third of all nations and two thirds of Africa since 1991. In many cases, up to a third of male youth (including children) are drawn into armed groups, making soldiering one of the world’s most common occupations for the young. Little is known, however, about the impacts of military service on human capital and labor market outcomes due to an absence of data as well as sample selection: recruits are usually self-selected and screened, and may also selectively survive. August 2007 (pdf version).
One of the most disturbing features of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been the widespread and systematic use of children aged under 18 as fighters, porters, domestic servants or sexual possessions by government forces and armed groups. It is estimated that at least 30,000 children were attached to the armed forces and armed groups in the conflict zones of eastern DRC, constituting up to 40 per cent of some forces. October 2006.
The International Criminal Court broke new ground by charging Ugandan and Congolese warlords with recruiting or using children in hostilities. However, this also means that the Court faces new and difficult challenges to ensure child-sensitive investigations, trials and reparations. September 2006 (pdf version).
Adopted by the participants in the Symposium on the Prevention of Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces and Demobilization and Social Reintegration of Child Soldiers in Africa, organized by UNICEF in cooperation with the NGO Sub-group of the NGO Working Group on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Cape Town, 30 April 1997.
Never again should present and future generations be allowed to serve as child soldiers and exploited in armed conflicts, urged delegates to the Amman Conference on the Use of children as soldiers in the Middle East and North Africa (April 2001).
Based on interviews with 69 current and former child combatants from six countries (Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines), Adult Wars, Child Soldiers provides often moving first-hand accounts of their experiences (pdf).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has in a new report called on the Security Council to impose sanctions on armies and groups that make use of child soldiers in at least a dozen countries. Recruitment of children in armed conflicts was happening mainly in African and Asian countries, ranging from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda to Myanmar and Sri Lanka, he said in the report. Those responsible were rebel groups but included government forces in countries like Chad, Somalia and Sudan, Ban said. Some were guilty of killing and sexually abusing children. The Security Council should consider penalising those responsible by banning arms and military aid and slapping travel and financial restrictions on leaders, Ban said. January 2008 (pdf version).
Government forces, rebel groups, armed militia and mercenaries operating in conflicts in at least 12 countries recruit children to serve as soldiers or are responsible for murdering, torturing and committing sexual crimes against them, according to a new report from Secretary-General Kofi Annan. November 2006 (pdf version).
This paper examines how a "childrens' rights" approach has been gradually inserted into the practice of international tribunals. The authors state that child victims should be entitled to no less justice than adults. The paper also argues, however, that to testify on war crimes and be questioned in courtrooms may add to - not relieve - children's trauma. The authors further discuss the dilemma of child soldiers, who could be perpetrators of war crimes but are also victims of forceful recruitment, which is in itself a war crime. The paper demonstrates the growing culture of child-protection within the UN and the cooperation among its agencies in combating the recruitment of child soldiers. November 2006 (pdf version).
Reaffirming its strong condemnation of the continued recruitment and use of child soldiers by parties to armed conflicts, the Security Council indicated it had begun consideration of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for an action plan for a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism. Februarty 2005.
Dyan Mazurana and Susan McKay's study, Where are the Girls?, raises our awareness of the militarization of the lives of girls in fighting forces and the role they play. The authors use data gleaned from their research in Northern Uganda, Mozambique and Sierra Leone to reveal that girls in fighting forces are not, and never have been, simply "camp followers."