The issues related to the recruitment of these children are set in various international instruments such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, entered into force in 2002, which ruled 18 the minimum age for recruitment into armed groups or by governments, and 16 the age for volunteer participation. In addition, the recruitment of children under the age of 15 into armed forces or armed groups is considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court.
DCI has a long history of advocating for the protection and the rights of children in armed conflict or affected by conflicts in general (internal strife, political conflicts, etc.). Over the past 20 years DCI has been actively promoting the protection and rights of children in armed conflicts at the national, regional and international levels. Some of DCI’s main tools in doing such range from the Graça Machel report of 1996, the Study on Violence Against Children in 2006, the work of different Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. DCI’s activities have been most visible, for example, in Palestine, Colombia, the Central African Republic, Yemen, and in the work related to Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. DCI is a founding member of this Working Group and was elected co-convener in 2017.
Interactive Dialogue – Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment EN
Oral statement on behalf of Yemen – General Debate on HC EN
Children in conflict situations should enjoy full protection and realisation of their human rights in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols (particularly OP on children in Armed Conflict) and other relevant international standards; and be enabled to develop their potential as fully-fledged responsible members of society while looking to be actors of change and peace during and post-conflict.
DCI worked closely with the former UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, concerning the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty and its chapter on children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict. Following Ms Virginia Gamba’s appointment in the spring of 2017, DCI-IS continued this collaboration.
DCI Sections working on children and armed conflict and in post conflict situations, such as DCI-Colombia, DCI-Central African Republic, DCI-Yemen, DCI-Somalia, DCI-Liberia and DCI-Sierra Leone.
Despite several decades of international attention on this issue and admittedly some progress, children continue to be subjected to the scourge of conflict in general. With the increase of conflicts nationally and across borders in many parts of the world, DCI reaffirms its commitment to advocate for the respect of the parameters settled by international law to protect children from the devastating impact of armed conflicts.
Some of DCI’s main tools include: the Graça Machel report of 1996, “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children;” the Study on Violence against Children in 2006; the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015; and, more recently, the UN Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty. DCI and its national section have been most active in Central African Republic in the conflict-affected regions of Bouca and Kaga-Bandoro, in Colombia where the rates of recruitment of children are increasing despite the peace agreements made, in Yemen where children have been affected by the political crisis since 2011, and in Palestine where children are brutally killed and maimed in the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
In addition, DCI partnered with nongovernmental organisations like Child Rights Connect to found the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and was elected its co-convener in 2017 and convener as of 2020. DCI is also an associated member of the Watchlist on Children Affected by Armed Conflict.
Over the past 20 years, we have been working relentlessly for the children in armed conflict at the national and regional levels.
DCI programmes dealing with children in conflict include:
- Promotion of laws and regulations in compliance with the international laws and mechanisms.
- Sensitization campaigns and development of capacity building materials.
- Rehabilitation and reintegration in communities of children associated with armed forces.
- Collaboration with providers of social services (education, health).
- Integrating programmes with those of justice for children, violence against children, children on the move
UN Global Study
We work closely with the UN Special Representatives of the Secretary General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba, concerning the UN Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty and its chapter on children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict. DCI- International Secretariat advocated for the development of the UN Global Study (launched in 2019) and, alongside with other organizations, promotes its implementation.
The UN Global Study states that there are at least in 16 countries in the world where authorities detain children in the context of armed conflict, most often for alleged association with armed groups. Furthermore, the study reveals that there are many cases of children detained as hostages because of alleged association of their family members, religion or ethnicity, for punishment or for sexual exploitation.
During and after armed conflict, thousands of children are deprived of their liberty in child facilities, prisons and camps. Particularly, in conflicts involving non-State armed groups, designated as terrorists, governments have become more likely to detain children than to reintegrate and rehabilitate them. More info: Children deprived of liberty and UN Global Study Website