Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Child soldiers: UN envoy urges universal ratification of treaty to end use of children in conflict

The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict today called for universal ratification of a treaty protocol that outlaws the use of minors to fight wars and encourages States to set 18 years as the minimum age for recruitment.

“So far, almost three fourths of the world has ratified this important treaty, but for a true universal moral consensus, we need the remaining 49 States to ratify,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement to mark the 10th anniversary of the coming into force of the protocol.

The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict of the Convention on the Rights of the Child also requires that States prevent individuals under the age of 18 from taking part directly in hostilities, and raises awareness of the obligation to criminalize recruitment and use of under-age girls and boys.

“Every country, big or small, with or without a standing army, at peace or in conflict, has a role to play in abolishing the inhumane practice of recruiting and using children in war,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy.

In an effort to strengthen international norms against child recruitment, Ms. Coomaraswamy jointly with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Special Representative on Violence against Children, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2010 launched the universal ratification campaign of the Optional Protocol.

Since the launch of the ‘Zero under 18 campaign,’ 16 signatures and ratifications have been made, with Grenada becoming the most recent party to the treaty.