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Child Soldiers Protocol

New Treaty Protocol in Force

The Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) enters into force in February 2002. This Optional Protocol, or amendment to the UN children?s right treaty, bans the use of children under the age of 18 in armed conflicts while recognizing the right of nations to voluntarily recruit 16 and 17 year olds into military service. The treaty includes provisions for the demilitarization of children and their rehabilitation into society.

The countries, which have ratified the Child Soldier Optional Protocol so far, are Andorra, Bangladesh, Canada, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Holy See, Iceland, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Romania and Sri Lanka.

Basics on Child Soldiers
Warring nations, paramilitaries and guerilla groups use children under the age of 18 as soldiers. There are approximately 300,000 children in over 40 countries currently in military conflict. At times, the military service by children is involuntary and accompanied by kidnapping, violence to the children?s family members, sexual exploitation and forced drug abuse. Afghanistan is just one example of where military involvement by children was an expectation of the military leaders. A teacher in a madrasas (boys? Islamic school) spoke of preparing his students to fight for the Taliban and "insisted that while students he taught were as young as eight, they aged 20 or above when sent to war." (Source: Child Soldiers newsletter, issue 2, December 2001).

United States' Position
The United States, which is one of only two countries which has yet to ratify the Children?s Rights Convention, is eligible to sign, ratify and implement the Optional Protocol without ratifying the CRC.

President Clinton signed the Optional Protocol on Child Soldiers and forwarded it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2000. This is the first step of the treaty ratification process in the United States. To date, that committee has taken no action on the Child Soldier Protocol or on the other CRC Optional Protocol signed by President Clinton, the Sex Trafficking Protocol.

United States military policy was changed in 2000 and is now compatible with the Child Soldier Protocol. Eighteen is the minimum age for involvement in military conflict, while voluntary recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds continues.

For more information, contact the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers at