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Children in Armed Conflict

The legislation governing the protection of children in armed conflict


The international community has adopted conventions at various levels in order to protect children and young people from war, violence and exploitation.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Girl holding up a slate. Class room in a school in the Ivory Coast. Copyright: BPA / KühlerThe Optional Pro­to­col to the UN Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child on the in­volve­ment of chil­dren in armed con­flict entered into force in Feb­ru­ary 2002. It pro­hi­bits the deploy­ment of chil­dren and young people under the age of 18 years in hosti­li­ties. This is an im­por­tant step forward, for the Con­ven­tion itself put this age limit at 15 years. Ger­many has signed and rati­fied this Optio­nal Pro­to­col – as have the major­ity of the 192 UN mem­ber states. One pro­blem affec­ting imple­men­ta­tion, how­ever, is posed by the many non-state actors in­volved in con­flicts: they often do not feel obliged to up­hold inter­national con­ventions.

In February 2007, Germany took part in the "Free Children from War" Conference co-hosted by France and the United Nations’ Childrens Fund, UNICEF. The conference participants adopted the "Paris Principles", committing to disarm child combatants and return them to civilian life, and prosecute those who recruited them.

Germany actively supports the Office of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the work of the International Criminal Court.

EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict

The European Union adopted its Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict in December 2003. The Guidelines advocate mainstreaming the rights of children in armed conflict throughout all relevant EU policies and actions, and aim to raise awareness of the needs of children in crisis regions in order to provide them with more effective assistance.

International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 1999. Within just five years, 150 out of 177 ILO members had ratified the Convention – an unprecedented success in the ILO's history. Article 3 of the Convention condemns "all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, (…) including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict".

In order to make child rights a reality, the BMZ supports the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), which works with governments on developing and implementing strategies to eradicate child labour. Germany has so far made funds totalling some 54 million euros available to the IPEC since the early 1990s.

BMZ glossary

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