In-Depth: Fighting for the rights of child soldiers

Since IRIN published its first Child Soldiers In-depth in 2003, legal efforts to curb the practice have been stepped up significantly, but still, up to 300,000 children are involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Efforts by the UN to "name and shame" governments and rebel groups into abiding by the applicable international and domestic instruments have had a limited effect; the Secretary-General's annual report lists dozens of groups that continue to recruit or use children.

The largest numbers of child soldiers are in Africa, despite the 1999 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the only regional treaty in the world that outlaws child involvement.

Most observers agree the practice continues because children make for cheap and obedient fighters, easily frightened or brainwashed into compliance. The accessibility of light weaponry has also contributed by making it possible for very young children to bear and use arms.

In 2010, the UN and others launched the Zero Under 18 Campaign, aimed at achieving universal ratification of the protocol on child rights by 2012, ending impunity for violators and strengthening enforcement.

IRIN's updated In-depth explores the progress made, and the challenges that remain. read more

DRC: Rebuilding the lives of children associated with armed groups

A partnership of humanitarian organizations working with community volunteers in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has helped demobilize thousands of children formerly associated with armed groups in the province, says the UN Children's Fund. full report

UGANDA: The LRA's legacy in the north
SOMALIA: Tempted with a phone to carry a gun
SUDAN: Michael David, "My duty was cleaning guns and shining boots"
COTE D'IVOIRE: Children active in armed forces, militias, say witnesses
CHAD: Children conscripted by poverty
BURUNDI: Former child soldiers "languishing in poverty"


AFGHANISTAN: Taliban deny children being used as suicide bombers

About 100 boys aged 12-17 are being detained by Afghanistan’s National Intelligence Directorate (NDS) on charges of attempting suicide attacks on behalf of the Taliban, but the insurgents deny they recruit minors as their presence could cause “vice” in the ranks. full report

PHILIPPINES: Moves to end use of child soldiers, but problem persists
In Brief: Calls to penalize Thailand's child soldier recruitment
SRI LANKA: Former child soldiers struggle for a normal life
MYANMAR: Kya Kya Win*, "The parents of a child soldier helped me, now I help others"
NEPAL: Maoists using children in general strike
VIETNAM: Living with Agent Orange


EGYPT: Calls for minors to be kept out of political clashes

The involvement of children in violence during ongoing clashes between protesters and police in Egypt should be addressed because it is against international norms, say child rights activists. full report

YEMEN: Conflict generating more child soldiers
IRAQ: Finding hope for former child fighters
IRAQ: Insurgents using children to fight US-led forces

Theme (s): Children,


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