Protecting children in conflict is one of the most urgent human rights issues of our time. Around the world more than 240 million children are living in countries affected by conflict. Many of them face violence, displacement, hunger and exploitation by armed forces and groups. Child Soldiers International’s World Index – an online database mapping child recruitment practices worldwide – highlights the participation of children in at least 18 conflicts during the last year.
The scale of exploitation of children in war is startling. Boko Haram’s attacks continue across the Lake Chad Basin region, where the group has used an alarming number of children as “suicide bombers”. 203 cases in Nigeria and Cameroon were verified in 2017. More than 3,000 cases of recruitment by armed groups in DR Congo were reported in 2017. At least 19,000 under-18s are believed to be participating in the conflict in South Sudan, and we are seeing the recruitment of children spike in the Middle East.
We are fighting to end this. We envision a different life for children – one where they can grow up realising their full potential and enjoying all their human rights. This year has seen some notable progress. February 2018 marked the 18th anniversary of the adoption of OPAC – the international treaty which prohibits the use of children in conflict. In September 2017 Central African Republic was the latest country to make the treaty law, taking the total number of state parties to 167 out of 197 UN member states.
In 2017 the Congolese national army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines were removed from the UN list of parties guilty of child recruitment, after implementing measures to remove children from their ranks.
The government-backed Civilian Joint Task Force in Nigeria also signed a UN agreement to end child recruitment during the year. Globally, over 10,000 children were formally released from armed forces and groups during 2017, according to the UN Secretary- General’s latest annual report on children and armed conflict.
At the community level, Child Soldiers International is working to consolidate this progress – promoting best practice to ensure that children formerly associated with armed forces and groups have a safe and positive return home and strengthening community initiatives to prevent their recruitment in the first place.
We believe that by driving forward progress in law, and supporting these changes with practical, community-led initiatives, we can generate sustainable progress towards our goal: an end to child recruitment.
We offer our thanks to all those who have supported us in our mission over the last year. From governments, international law firms and charitable foundations, to the inspiring individuals, schools and community groups who have so generously donated their time and money to our cause. The progress we have made has only been possible with your support.