Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Child Soldiers: 2008 Global Report

On February 12, 2002, – the date on which the future President Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 – the “Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict” achieved the required number of ratifications by Member States to become part of the international law. Almost two years had elapsed since the UN General Assembly’s approval of the Protocol, following which the measure went to UN States Parties for ratification or accession.

Yesterday, the 2008 version of the Global Report on Child Soldiers, the first since 2004, became public. In the four years between the last Global Report and the 2008 publication, 21 conflicts involved child soldiers on one more sides. With the peace agreements in Nepal and in Aceh, Indonesia, that number now is 19. While this was progress, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers noted that the drop in the number of government armed forces still using child soldiers was only one – from ten to nine.

Two other points deserve special mention. The Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) contains provisions declaring that the recruitment or coercion of anyone under the age of 15 is a war crime. The first trial before the ICC involving sucj an incident is scheduled to start this June

The second point is the realization by those opposed to the use of child soldiers that this practice will stop only when fighting stops.. Even so, the temptation will always be there for governments and armed opposition groups to recruit, kidnap, or otherwise coerce children – those under 18 – to engage in war.

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