Children, Not Soldiers: Yemen Signs Action Plan to End Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Forces

SANAA, Yemen – In a landmark development for the protection of children, today, the Government of Yemen signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment of children by the Yemeni Armed Forces.

“We stand by the commitment we make today to ensure that government forces are free of children” said Prime Minister Mohamed Salem Basundwah.

“The commitment made by the Government of Yemen today is another important step towards building a professional security sector accountable to the people, in full respect of the rule of law,” said Mr. Paolo Lembo, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Yemen. “The United Nations in Yemen stands ready to support the implementation of the action plan, and in particular the reintegration of children, which is key to prevent re-recruitment.”

The action plan sets out concrete steps to release all children associated with the Government Security Forces, reintegrate them into their communities, and prevent further recruitment. The measures include:

  • Aligning domestic legislation with international norms and standards prohibiting the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict;
  • Issuing and disseminating military orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of children below age 18;
  • Investigating allegations of recruitment and use of children by the Yemeni Government Forces and ensure that responsible individuals are held accountable;
  • Facilitating access to the United Nations to monitor progress and compliance with the action plan.

“With this action plan, Yemen has formalized its commitment to protect its future generations,” said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in Sanaa for the signing ceremony. “This is an important step, but a lot remains to be done to realize the promise of a brighter future for the country’s children. I rely on the Government’s commitment to act on each of the points listed in the action plan, and I call on the international community to spare no efforts to support Yemeni authorities in this endeavor. On behalf of the United Nations, I pledge my full support to them.”

This Action Plan aims to ensure the release of all children within armed forces in Yemen and their effective reintegration into communities,” said Julien Harneis, UNICEF’s Representative in Yemen. “It serves as a critical framework in our collective efforts to ensure the fulfilment of the basic rights of hundreds of children in Yemen”, Mr Harneis concluded.

A milestone for the campaign Children, not Soldiers

Photo May 15, 12 00 00 AM (3)

Students in Yemen support the campaign ‘Children, not Soldiers’. ©UNICEF Yemen

Yemen is one of eight countries whose national security forces are listed by the Secretary-General for recruitment and use of children. In March 2014, the Special Representative and UNICEF launched Children, not Soldiers, a campaign to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by Government security forces in conflict by 2016.

“Today, we are one step closer to a world in which no child is used by security forces in conflict,” said Ms. Zerrougui, who also used her time in Yemen to meet with Government ministers, donors and representatives of civil society organizations to secure their commitment to the implementation of the action plan.

The action plan was co-signed by the representative of the Minister of Defense, Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Ahmed Ali Al-Ashwal, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and the UNICEF Representative, in the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Prime Minister of Yemen Mr. Mohammed Salem Basundwah.

The Yemeni Government Forces will be removed from the list of the Secretary-General upon successful completion and verification by the UN of all measures agreed to in the Action Plan.

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Note to editors:
Background: The Security Council’s resolutions 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009) and 1998 (2011) on Children and Armed Conflict established measures and tools to end grave violations against children, through the creation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism, and the development of action plans to end violations by parties listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report for children and armed conflict.

The Yemeni Government Forces were first included on the list of the Secretary-General in its 2012 annual report on children and armed conflict. Following a visit by the Special Representative in November 2012, the Government committed to developing an action plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children and the president Abdrabu Mansour Hadi stated publicly that children under 18 should be banned from his Government’s forces.

Pro-government militias, Ansar al Sharia and Al Houthi are the other parties listed in Yemen for recruitment and use of children. During a meeting with the Special Representative in November 2012, Abdul Malik Badraldeen Al Houthi has pledged to work towards the reintegration of children.