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UN bodies call for a prohibition on the recruitment and participation of children under age 18 in armed conflict

UNITED NATIONS, New York, 13 January

As the UN Working Group on the Draft Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict meets in Geneva to finalise a draft text that would raise the minimum age for recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict, UN bodies urge delegates to bring their deliberations to a successful conclusion and establish 18 as the minimum age for both recruitment and participation in armed conflict.

Joint statement of: Committee on the Rights of the Child; Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict ; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes 18 as the generally applicable age at which adulthood begins, with only one explicit exception. The recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict is permissible as early as age 15. The draft Optional Protocol is intended to address this exception.

We strongly appeal that 18 years be the minimum age for voluntary and forced recruitment and for participation in armed conflict, applicable both to Governments and non-State entities and for both international and internal armed conflicts.

We welcome the evident determination of Member States participating in the Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict to reach consensus on strong and effective measures to eliminate the use of children as soldiers.

We will continue within our mandates to address the conditions that lead to the recruitment of children and their participation in hostilities, promote their immediate demobilization, physical and psychological rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities and societies.

The United Nations was born of a determination to end the scourge of war, yet millions of children face the daily reality of armed conflict and hundreds of thousand are exploited as combatants. The success of the Working Group will be an important measure of the international community’s resolve to end such abuse.