Since 1996, the issue of children affected by armed conflict has been placed firmly on the international agenda, beginning with the groundbreaking report of Graça Machel and the establishment of the mandate of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Since then, a solid body of international legal standards has been elaborated. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classifies the recruitment of children into fighting forces as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 defines child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child outlaws child soldiering, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child established 18 as the minimum age for children’s participation in hostilities.
With these foundations in place, the international community is now shifting its focus to an era of application and the provision of real protection.