Child Soldier

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The Cape Town Principles define a child solider as “any person under 18 years who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force in any capacity.” This definition does not only refer to a child that carries or has carried a gun or arms. Cooks, porters, messengers, and anyone accompanying such groups other than family members are included in this definition. Also included are girls and boys recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage[1]. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict from 2000 sets 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for recruitment into armed groups, and for compulsory recruitment by governments. States may accept volunteers from the age of 16 but must deposit a binding declaration at the time of ratification or accession, setting out their minimum voluntary recruitment age and outlining certain safeguards for such recruitment.[2]


The use of children as soldiers is today common in almost every armed conflict worldwide. Each year, an estimated 300,000 children worldwide are actively deployed in wars and this number grows every year.[3] [4]Though child soldiers are often forcibly recruited, Poverty, propaganda and alienation contributes them being driven into armies, paramilitaries and militias. Many child soldiers have experienced abuses against their families and communities and are thus more ready to use violence in return. Research evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of child soldiers worldwide come from the poorest, least educated and most marginalized sections of society. Children separated from their families or having lost them are most likely to be recruited. This includes refugees and the displaced children.

Children are used in wars taking place in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Sudan and Myanmar.[5]

See also

Child Labour


  1. Cape Town Principles and Best Practices on the Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces and on Demobilization and Social Reintegration of Child Soldiers in Africa. Cape Town, 27-30 April 1997.
  2. UNICEF, Children and armed conflict. Retrieved on June 16, 2011 from:
  3. BBC World Service, “Children of Conflict”. Retrieved on June 16, 2011 from:
  4. UNICEF, “Factsheet: Child Soldiers”. Retrieved on June, 17, 2011 from:
  5. BBC World Service, “Children of Conflict”. Retrieved on June 16, 2011 from:

External links

Girl Child Soldiers

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

UNICEF on Children and armed conflict