nature of war; increased internal conflicts in developing nations and the prevalence of terrorism, children are increasingly being used as “weapons of war”
. An estimated300,000 children have been recruited and used as soldiers in thirty different conflictsaround the world. Although some children “volunteer” themselves for the armed forcesdue to pressure from their families or due to the desperation of the hunger and poverty inwhich they live, the majority of child soldiers have been conscripted, abducted and forcedinto combat, years before their time. The international community has devised a number of policy responses in order to tackle the issue of the recruitment and use of children assoldiers in armed conflict. The initial standards prohibiting child recruitment wereoutlined over thirty years ago by the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Four GenevaConventions of 1949. They were further enhanced by the Convention on the Rights of theChild 1989 which was ratified almost universally, excluding six countries; the Cook Islands, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Switzerland and the United States of America. These standards established 15 years as the minimum age of recruitment anduse in armed conflict.
In response to the mounting problem of the use of children inarmed conflict, there was an advocacy to raise the minimum age to 18 in the 1990s.Given the almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adraft for an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armedconflict was proposed to focus specifically on the involvement of children in armedconflict. In 1994 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights formed aworking group to draft the Optional Protocol and, six years later, it was formally adopted
Human Rights Watch World Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed; “Children as Weaponsof War”,
(New York, 2004).
Guide to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; UNICEF and Coalitionto Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, December 2003; available fromwww.unicef.org/emerg/index_childsoldiers.html; accessed 20/11/08