Unicef urges a global ban on the use of children in conflicts


Related Topics

Conflict is like a terrible fire that ceases and flares, spreading through communities and across borders, making it very difficult to calculate the numbers of children affected or associated with armed forces and armed groups. Unicef estimates that thousands of girls and boys in more than 20 countries around the world are taking part in hostilities.

Protecting children from harm is at the heart of Unicef’s mandate and has been since its inception more than 60 years ago. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guides Unicef’s work, specifies that every child, everywhere, has the right to survive, grow and be protected from all forms of violence. But children who participate in conflict are exposed to egregious and sustained violence in all its forms – as witnesses, victims and forced participants.

They may be used as combatants, spies, messengers, porters and cooks, and for forced sexual purposes. Many are abducted or forcibly recruited, while others are driven by poverty, abuse and discrimination, or revenge for violence enacted against them or their families. In the most extreme instances children are used on the frontlines of battle and may be forced to commit terrible atrocities against their own families, friends and communities.

The brutalising impact on their mental and physical well-being not only breaches the most fundamental human rights, it also represents a grave threat to durable peace and sustainable development, as cultures and cycles of violence are perpetuated, with the consequences passed down from one generation to the next.

The recruitment and use of children are grave violations under international law and it is a war crime to conscript, enlist or use children under 15 in armed conflicts. Unicef believes any child under the age of 18 should be protected from the dangers of associating with armed groups and promotes an optional protocol within the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, a principle which 151 State parties have so far agreed to ratify.

Unicef, together with partners, is ever increasing its efforts to prevent and end all recruitment and use of children for armed conflict and sexual violence and is working together with partners and Governments to make sure that children are safely reunited with their families and communities and given counselling, life skills and vocational training to help them cope with the terrible realities they have experienced, to begin life anew and enable them to earn money in a safe and sustainable way. In 2012, more than 5,300 children associated with armed forces or armed groups were released and reintegrated in nine countries with the help of Unicef and partners.

Unicef is also committed to holding accountable those responsible for the abduction and forced recruitment, whether government forces or armed opposition groups. This means that the violations of the laws of war that affect children need to be properly monitored and reported, so that perpetrators can be investigated and prosecuted under national or international law.

While opinion can be divided, Unicef holds that children who are unlawfully recruited by armed groups must be primarily considered as victims of violations against international law and not as alleged perpetrators and treated in accordance with international standards for juvenile justice with alternatives to judicial proceedings sought where possible.

But the issue of child soldiers must also be tackled in the wider context of all forms of violence against children. Violence destroys lives – in every country and at all levels of society, and when it occurs, the physical wounds or bruises may disappear but the mental scars take longer to heal, if they ever do.

At no time or place is violence against children ever acceptable or can it be justified.  If no one talks about violence, or calls for action against it, perpetrators believe their actions are tolerated and victims believe that there can be no end to the misery and horror.

Laws must be enacted and enforced and social norms that promote the continuation of violence must be changed. Governments cannot do the job alone. It is up to each and every one of us to speak out and to help drive change.

Unicef is enormously grateful for the support received, which enables us to negotiate for the release of children from armed forces and armed groups. Since 1998 we have secured the release of more than 100,000 children.

Children received psychosocial support, health care and other essential services. They are reunited with their families and communities, and provided with educational opportunities and life skills to help them in their return to civilian life. But even then our work is not complete and we cannot act alone. We need governments, civil society partners, communities and individuals to join in our efforts to protect children and prevent them from the atrocities of war.

Susan Bissell, Unicef’s Global Chief of Child Protection on violence against children

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A still from the BBC's new rap about the outbreak of WW1  

Why give the young such a bad rap?

David Lister
Israeli army soldiers take their positions  

Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Guy Keleny
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice