The international commitment to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict has led to the release and reintegration of more than 5,000 children in 2017, according to the latest numbers compiled by the United Nations; but tens of thousands more remain.
Once released, these children still have to face the complex and long reintegration process into their communities, a decisive step for their wellbeing which also contributes to end the cycles of violence.
“Children can only be freed from armed groups and forces through a comprehensive reintegration process, including medical and psycho-social support, as well as educational programmes and trainings. Without a strong political and financial commitment to the reintegration process, re-recruitment is unfortunately likely to happen in many conflict situations,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, said.
Despite progress, boys and girls continue to be recruited, kidnapped, forced to fight or work for military groups or armed forces. The recruitment and use of children happened in all 20 country situations covered by the Children and Armed Conflict mandate. Sixty-one parties to conflict out of 63 are listed for this grave violation in the 2016 Annual Report of the Secretary-General, making it by far the most widely-spread violation.
“These children experience appalling levels of violence, which is likely to have dramatic physical and psychological consequences for the adults they will become. It is our responsibility to show these children that there is hope outside of conflicts, that they can live in peace and security and be allowed to live their dreams,” Ms. Gamba, reminded.
This year, the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, marks the 18th anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This protocol sets the minimum age for recruitment into armed forces in conflict at 18 and has been ratified by 167 state parties.
The Special Representative called for support to continue moving towards universal ratification of this important international standard.
About the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers
The international Day against the Use of Child was initiated in 2002 when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 2000 and has been ratified by 167 states.