Twenty years ago, the world united to condemn and take action against the use of children in armed conflict.
Since then, thousands of boys and girls have been released as a result of Action Plans mandated by the UN Security Council aimed at ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children in conflict.
Children, Not Soldiers
Launched in 2014, the campaign Children, Not Soldiers, an initiative of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and UNICEF, officially ended in December 2016. It aimed to galvanize support to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by national security forces in conflict.
At its launch in March 2014, the campaign focused on the 8 national security forces listed for recruitment and use of children in the Annexes of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
The countries originally concerned by the campaign were:
Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
All those countries have signed Action Plans with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. Chad completed the requirements of its Action Plan and was delisted from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report in July 2014.
The Special Representative, UNICEF and partners supported the efforts of the 7 remaining Governments to release and reintegrate children into civilian life and to ensure all mechanisms are in place to end and prevent their recruitment and use.
• The campaign received broad support from Member States, UN, NGO partners, regional organizations and the general public;
• The UN Security Council and General Assembly welcomed the campaign and requested regular updates through the Special Representative’s reporting;
• The government of Afghanistan criminalized the recruitment of children, endorsed a road map to accelerate the implementation of its Action Plan as well as age assessment guidelines to prevent the recruitment of children;
• The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) named a Presidential Advisor to address sexual violence and child recruitment. In September 2015, the Government adopted a roadmap to accelerate the implementation of its Action Plan;
• 800 children (and youth recruited as children) were released from Myanmar’s army since the signature of the Action Plan. In September 2015, the country signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict;
Somalia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in September 2015. • The Government established a child protection unit in the Somali armed forces and put in place mechanisms for the handover to the United Nations of children found in the ranks of its army;
• Sudan signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the country’s security forces;
• In 2014, South Sudan recommitted to the action plan signed in 2012. Implementation has been stalled due to conflict. Provisions for the separation and release of children by parties to conflict are included in the August 2015 peace agreement;
• Yemen signed an Action Plan with the UN in May 2014. Implementation has been stalled due to conflict.
During the campaign, the Special Representative and UNICEF worked with their UN and NGO partners to support and strengthen their engagement with the concerned Governments to ensure that they reach their goal of ending and preventing recruitment and use of children in their security forces.