November 22, 2002

UN Hails Entry Into Force of Optional Protocol on Child Soldiers

The United Nations (UN) agencies hailed on Tuesday the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in Geneva.

The protocol prohibits the use of child soldiers.

Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Olar Otunnu said, "Children have no place in war and deserve the highest level of international protection to keep them from being used as child soldiers."

Statistics from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) show that over 300,000 boys and girls are serving in government or rebel forces in more than 30 armed conflicts in the world as soldiers, runners, guards, sex slaves, cooks or spies.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, "Too often children are forced into combat. They are terrorized in their homes and schools and subjected to abductions, ill-treatment and sexual exploitation."

She said the entry into force of the Optional Protocol is vital to protection of children in conflicts throughout the world.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) joined other UN agencies on Tuesday in welcoming the entry into force of the Optional Protocol.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said refugee children are among those involved in armed conflict and at the greatest risk of illegal recruitment. Most are adolescents, but some are even below the age of ten.

He said UNHCR will continue to advocate for wider ratification, as well as for practical implementation in the field by those who have ratified it.

The Optional Protocol that comes into effect on Tuesday outlaws compulsory recruitment of children under the age of 18 by either government or non-government armed forces.

It also raises the previous standard by obligating states to ensure that members of their armed forces under age 18 do not take direct part in combat.

(Xinhua News Agency February 12, 2002)

In This Series
UN Urges Protection of Children's Rights

UNICEF Prioritizes Children's Rights

Guarding Children’s Interests


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