International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers – 12 February 2022
Geneva/ New York – The UN Child Rights Committee and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, today jointly call on Member States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), to commit to ending and preventing the recruitment of children in their armed forces and to criminalize the recruitment and use of children.
Their joint statement to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of OPAC and on the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers is as follows:
“At least 170,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups since the inception of the children and armed conflict mandate; and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) adopted in May 2000 has played a role in this achievement.
Ratified by 172 countries, all of which committed not to recruit anyone under 18 for the battlefield, the OPAC has been a beacon in the establishment of a global consensus that children have no place in war.
Today, as children continue to be used in hostilities, OPAC remains critical. According to the Study on the evolution of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate 1996-2021, more than a third of all grave violations since 2005 involved the recruitment and use of children by parties to conflicts. This corresponds to more than 93,000 children taking part in hostilities, including in fighting roles.
In 2020, over 8,500 children were recruited by armed forces according to the latest Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. Among these children, 85% were boys in the front line. Girls, however, were not spared and were mainly used in supporting roles, including as cleaners, sex slaves or child brides.
From spy to cook, from combatants to sexual slaves, whatever their roles, children used by parties to conflicts are exposed to unspeakable violence. Child survivors carry the scars of battles for the rest of their lives. It is our shared duty to support their reintegration into a society that promises to protect them.
As called for by the Security Council in Resolution 2427 (2018) and by the Paris Principles, reintegration programmes for children who have been recruited and released must be long-term and sustainable, sensitive to their gender and age, and must provide them with access to health care, psycho-social support, and education.
Addressing the root causes of recruitment and providing resources to survivors are critical to end the spiral of violence. We encourage all Member States to step up their support politically and financially, including to the Global Coalition for Reintegration of Child Soldiers, co-chaired by UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
Today, as we mark the 20th anniversary of OPAC’s entry into force, we call on Member States who have not yet done so to ratify the OPAC, to commit to ending, preventing and criminalizing the recruitment of children. We further encourage Governments who have already ratified the OPAC to fully implement their commitments.
We must continue the work to prevent the involvement of children in hostilities and to push for universal ratification of OPAC so that once and for all, the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is eradicated.”
For more information about the Child Rights Committee and media requests in Geneva, please contact:
Vivian Kwok at +41 (0) 22 917 9362 / email@example.com or the UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in New York, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet at +1917 288-5791/ email@example.com
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) gathers information and reports on how and where children are affected by armed conflict. Parties who commit grave violations against children in any of the conflict situations on the CAAC agenda are added to the annexes of the Secretary-General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. Virginia Gamba is the current Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
About the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers
The International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers 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 (OPAC) 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 172 states.