Child Soldiers in Nepal
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Child soldiers
Child soldiers in Nepal
Coalition to Stop The Use of Child soldiers
International Efforts Still Failing Child Soldiers
Child Soldiers: Facts and Figures
Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 SUMMARY
Child Soldiers Global Report 2008

Coalition to Stop The Use of Child soldiers
New York, 20 May 2008

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)

International Efforts Still Failing Child Soldiers

Despite progress, efforts to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers are too little and too late for many children, according to the 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report, launched today by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

The report details how a near global consensus that children should not be used as soldiers and strenuous international efforts - with the UN at the forefront - to halt the phenomenon have failed to protect tens of thousands of children from war. When armed conflict exists, children will almost inevitably become involved as soldiers.

The report documents military recruitment legislation, policy and practice in more than 190 countries worldwide - in conflict and in peacetime armies - as well as child soldier use by non-state armed groups.

"The international community's commitment to ending the global scourge of child soldiering cannot be doubted, but existing efforts are falling short," said Dr Victoria Forbes Adam, Director of the Coalition. "Laws, policies and practices must now be translated into real change to keep children out of armed conflict once and for all."

There have been positive developments over the past four years. The Coalition's research shows that the number of armed conflicts in which children are involved is down from 27 in 2004 to 17 by the end of 2007. Tens of thousands of children have been released in that time from armies and armed groups as long-running conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere have ended.

But the report shows that tens of thousands of children remain in the ranks of non-state armed groups in at least 24 different countries or territories. The record of governments is also little improved - children were deployed in armed conflicts by government forces in nine situations of armed conflict, down only one from the 10 such situations recorded when the last Global Report was published in 2004.

"Existing strategies have not had the desired impact. If further progress is to be made, it must be recognized that child soldiers are not only an issue for the child rights specialists, but should be on the agendas of all those involved in conflict prevention and resolution, peace-building and development," said Dr Forbes Adam.

Myanmar remained the most persistent government offender. Its armed forces, engaged in long-running counter-insurgency operations against a range of ethnic armed groups, still contained thousands of children, some as young as 11 years old. Children were also used by government forces in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen. Palestinian children were used on several occasions as human shields by the Israeli defence forces, and a few British under-18s were deployed to Iraq up to mid-2005.

The failure of governments to adhere to their international obligations does not end there. In at least 14 countries children have been recruited into auxiliary forces linked to national armies, local civilian defence groups created to support counter-insurgency operations, or by illegal militias and armed groups used as proxies by national armies.

Children have also been used as spies. In some countries child soldiers who have escaped, surrendered or been captured by government forces were locked up instead of receiving support to return to their families and communities. Burundi, Israel, and the US were among the countries where there were allegations of ill-treatment or torture of child detainees alleged to have been associated with armed groups.

"Given government obligations to protect children from involvement in armed conflict, there can be no excuse for the armed forces of any country unlawfully using children for military purposes or for committing other human rights violations against them," said Dr Forbes Adam.

Children have also been used in combat by armed groups in at least 19 countries or territories. These children, some 12 years old or even younger, were exposed to death, injury and psychological trauma. In Afghanistan, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Pakistan teenagers were used in suicide attacks.

"Armed groups pose the greatest challenge," said Dr Forbes Adam. "International laws have had limited impact in deterring child soldier use by armed groups. Many groups attach little value to international standards and the need to build fighting strength overrides other considerations. This reality must be confronted and new strategies developed."

The Coalition's report also highlights that years of accumulated best practice on releasing children from fighting forces and assisting their rehabilitation and reintegration is being overlooked by those involved in designing and implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs. Sustained funding for the long-term support of former child soldiers is also rarely available. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, delayed, unpredictable and short-term funding, combined with poor planning and mismanagement of the DDR program, meant that some 14,000 former child soldiers were excluded from reintegration support.

Those who lose out most are girls. The existence of girls in fighting forces, in combat and non-combat roles and as victims of sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual violence, is well known. Yet the overwhelming majority of girls soldiers are not identified by and do not register in official DDR programs. In Liberia, where the DDR program ended in late 2004, only just over a quarter of the 11,000 girls known to have been associated with fighting forces registered in the official DDR program. Here, as elsewhere, thousands of girls returned to their communities informally with their complex medical, psychosocial and economic meets unmet.

"Tens of thousands of children - particularly girls - are effectively rendered invisible during the demobilization and reintegration process," said Dr Forbes Adam. "It is not that their needs and vulnerabilities are unrecognized - it is simply a failure to apply lessons learned that is failing these children and their futures."

Progress towards a global standard prohibiting the military recruitment or use in hostilities of children is hampered by continued recruitment of under-18s into peacetime armies. At least 63 governments - including the UK and the USA - allow voluntary recruitment of under-18s, despite the age of adulthood being set at 18 in many countries. Young recruits considered too young to vote or buy alcohol are subjected to military discipline, hazardous activity and are vulnerable to abuse. Active targeting of children, often from deprived backgrounds, raises questions on the depth of these governments' commitment to child protection and whether such recruitment can be genuinely voluntary.

"2012 will mark the tenth anniversary of the enactment of the international treaty on child soldiers," concluded Dr Forbes Adam. "Over the next four years the international community must make good on its pledge to end the use of children in armed conflict."

Background Information

The Global Report covers the period from April 2004 to October 2007. It contains detailed information on military recruitment and use of child soldiers, release and reintegration initiatives and, where relevant, justice initiatives in 197 countries.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers was formed in 1998 by leading human rights and humanitarian organizations. The Coalition works to end the use of child soldiers - girls and boys below the age of 18 - to prevent recruitment, to secure their release from armed forces and groups, and to promote their return to civilian life. The Coalition works with partners and local NGOs in many regions.


Facts and Figures on Child Soldiers
Who are child soldiers?

While there is no precise definition, the Coalition considers a child soldier any person below the age of 18 who is a member of or attached to government armed forces or any other regular or irregular armed force or armed political group, whether or not an armed conflict exists. Child soldiers perform a range of tasks including: participation in combat; laying mines and explosives; scouting, spying, acting as decoys, couriers or guards; training, drill or other preparations; logistics and support functions, portering, cooking and domestic labour. Child soldiers may also be subjected to sexual slavery or other forms of sexual abuse.

A similar definition is provided in the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups. It states "A child associated with an armed force or armed group" refers to any person below 18 years of age who is or who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.

The number of child soldiers globally

Although it is impossible to accurately calculate the number of children involved in armed forces and groups, it is clear that there are many tens of thousands of child soldiers. Child soldiers exist in all regions of the world and, almost inevitably, wherever there is armed conflict.

It is likely that the number of child soldiers is fewer than in 2004 when the Coalition published its last Child Soldiers Global Report. Since then, tens of thousands of child soldiers have been released from fighting forces following peace agreements and demobilization programs in Afghanistan, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Southern Sudan and elsewhere. However, in the meantime, conflicts in countries such as Central African Republic, Chad, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan (Darfur) have broken out, reignited or intensified and child recruitment there increased.

Where child soldiers were involved in armed conflicts
Children were actively involved in armed conflict in government forces or non-state armed groups in 19 countries or territories between April 2004 and October 2007. These were: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, the DRC, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand and Uganda.

Peace agreements brought an end to internal conflicts in Aceh/Indonesia in 2005 and in Nepal in 2006. As a result the use of children in hostilities ended in both situations, although child soldiers with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had not been formally discharged.

Government armed forces which used children in armed conflicts

The number of governments that used children in armed conflict only marginally declined - down from 10 in the period 2001-2004 to nine in 2004-2007.

In Myanmar boys below the age of 18 continued to be forcibly recruited into the army in large numbers and were used in active combat as well as other roles. Children also took direct part in hostilities in government armed forces in Chad, the DRC, Somalia, Sudan/Southern Sudan and Uganda. In addition, there were reports that the Yemeni armed forces used children in fighting against a militia in early 2007. The Israeli defence forces used Palestinian children as human shields on several occasions. A number of under-18s were deployed to Iraq by the British armed forces between 2003 and 2005, although most were removed from the theatre of war within a week of their arrival.

At least 14 governments also recruited, and in some cases used in hostilities, children in auxiliary forces, civilian defence groups or in illegal militias and armed groups acting as proxies for official armed forces. These included Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, the DRC, India, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In Burundi, Colombia, the DRC, India, Indonesia, Israel, Nepal and Uganda children - often captured, surrendered or escaped from armed groups - were also used as spies, informants or messengers.

The recruitment and use of children by non-state armed groups

The vast majority of child soldiers are in the ranks of non-state armed groups. Dozens of armed groups in at least 24 countries have recruited under-18s and many have used them in hostilities.

Armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda are well known for having recruited and used children over many years. Others receive less international attention. In southern Thailand the separatist group National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-C) recruits under-18s and uses them in various roles including propaganda and in support of military operations. h In the Philippines and Myanmar children are associated with armed groups involved in protracted low-level conflicts with state forces.

In countries such as Central African Republic and Chad there are numerous irregular groups which are characterized by unclear, shifting alliances and activities that are often more criminal than political. In situations such as Kenya and Nigeria criminal groups involving children have been used for political purposes. In Afghanistan, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Pakistan, children were used by armed groups in suicide attacks.

The challenge of releasing and reintegrating child soldiers

Tens of thousands of children have left armed forces and groups since 2004 as long-running conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa drew to a close. Although many thousands were demobilized through official disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs, many more child soldiers self-demobilized.

Lessons learned about the priorities and needs of children during official DDR processes were often ignored by planners and implementers. Fear of stigmatization and other obstacles prevented tens of thousands of children from registering for DDR programs. The long-term financial and political support needed to successfully reintegrate former child soldiers was frequently lacking and community programs - known to provide the best chance for recovery of war affected children including child soldiers - have not been well supported. Inadequate provision for long-term reintegration of former child soldiers was reported from Afghanistan, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the DRC, Guinea, Liberia and Southern Sudan.

In some cases official DDR programs made no provision for children or otherwise discourage their participation. In Indonesia only adults associated with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) benefited from DDR packages that followed the 2005 peace agreement. In the Central African Republic, out of the 7,500 combatants that went through the official DDR program following armed conflict in 2002-03, only 26 were children. In Colombia, restrictive criteria for accessing the government-run DDR program effectively excluded many child soldiers. In other situations, such as India, Myanmar and Thailand, no arrangements existed to facilitate the release of children from armed groups or to assist their reintegration.

The fate of girl soldiers

Girls continued to be involved in fighting forces in combat and non-combat roles in countries including Central African Republic, Chad, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka. Armed groups in Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, the DRC and Uganda were among those known to have subjected girl soldiers to rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Girls associated with armed forces or groups have been widely excluded from DDR programs. Figures from national DDR programs reflect extraordinarily low figures for girls' participation. In Liberia, 3,000 girls were officially demobilized through the formal DDR process that ended in November 2004. Around another 8,000 did not take part. In the DRC, just 3,000 or just 15 per cent of the total number of girls estimated to have been involved in the conflict were officially demobilized by the end of 2006 when the national DDR program drew to a close.

Justice initiatives

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants against members of the LRA in Uganda in 2005 and subsequently against three members of Ituri-based armed groups in the DRC. The warrants included charges relating to the enlistment, conscription and direct use in hostilities of children under the age of 15. The first ever ICC trial, that of former Congolese armed group leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo who is charged with child recruitment and use, is due to begin in June. In Sierra Leone, the guilty verdicts in 2007 by the Special Court for Sierra Leone against three members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and one member of the government-backed Civilian Defence Forces (CDF) represented the first ever convictions by an international court on charges relating to the recruitment and use of children.

With the exception of two cases in the DRC, no one is known to have been prosecuted by national-level courts for recruiting and using children.

Truth commissions in Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and Liberia have addressed the issue of child soldiers and former child soldiers have participated in their proceedings.

Child soldiers in detention

In a number of countries children suspected of involvement in armed groups have been arbitrarily detained and some were reported to have been subjected to ill-treatment or torture. In Burundi, scores of children, some as young as nine years old have been detained for alleged links to the National Liberation Forces (FNL) for prolonged periods and some were severely beaten. In India, there was evidence that in areas of armed conflict children were detained, often in violation of national legislation designed to protect children.

In Israel, hundreds of Palestinian children have been held under military provisions: incidents of ill-treatment and torture were reportedly common. In Iraq there were reports of abuse in facilities run by the Multi-National Force-Iraq where hundreds of children accused of security offences were detained. In the Philippines, detailed policies on the treatment of children captured, surrendered or escaped from armed groups have been ignored by the military and children held beyond officially sanctioned time-limits and in some cases ill-treated.

In the USA, a detainee facing trial before a military commission, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15-years old, alleged that he was ill-treated in US custody both in Afghanistan and in the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay.

In the DRC and Myanmar child soldiers have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment for desertion from the armed forces. In the DRC several children convicted of military offences remained in prison under sentence of death.

The trend towards a "straight-18" standard for military recruitment

Of the 120 states that have ratified the Optional Protocol, almost two thirds have committed themselves to setting a minimum voluntary recruitment age at 18 or higher. In the past four years, the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces has been raised to 18 in Chile, Italy, Jordan, the Maldives, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and South Korea.

Sixty-three countries permitted the voluntary recruitment of under-18s by their armed forces. In Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom calls to raise the minimum recruitment age to 18 have been resisted on the grounds of manpower requirements. In the USA, following a dramatic number of under-18s joining the military, and general recruitment bonuses, increased enlistment bonuses were introduced and educational standards for recruits lowered.

Elsewhere, safeguards to ensure that minimum recruitment ages were respected were undermined by inadequate measures to determine the age of recruits. In countries such as Bangladesh, Botswana, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, India, Kenya and Zambia, the risk of inadvertent underage recruitment was created by low birth registration levels. In Paraguay, lack of birth registration facilitated forced conscription of children as young as twelve years old. In countries such as Afghanistan and Yemen, inadequate verification procedures to determine the age of new recruits meant that under-age soldiers were likely to be serving in security forces.

Source: Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, May 2008


External links
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers CHILD SOLDIERS GLOBAL REPORT

Coalition aganst Child Soldiers
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