Together to end use of children in conflict

PRESS RELEASEOn 10th anniversary of Paris Commitments leaders renew the call to end use of children in conflict. At least 65,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups in the past 10 years, UNICEF said today as leaders from around the world gather in Paris on the anniversary of the Paris Commitments to end the use of children in conflict.

65,000 children released from armed forces and groups across the world

Ten years ago the world made a commitment to the children of war and matched it with action – action that has helped give 65,000 children a new chance for a better life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “But today’s meeting is not only about looking back at what has been accomplished — but looking forward to the work that remains to be done to support the children of war.

Exact data on the number of children used and recruited in armed conflict are difficult to confirm because of the unlawful nature of child recruitment. However, UNICEF estimates that tens of thousands of boys and girls under the age of 18 are used in conflicts worldwide:

  • Since 2013, an estimated 17,000 children have been recruited in South Sudan and up to 10,000 have been recruited in the Central African Republic.
  • In Nigeria and neighbouring countries, data verified by the United Nations and its partners indicate that nearly 2,000 children were recruited by Boko Haram in 2016 alone.
  • In Yemen, the UN has documented nearly 1,500 cases of child recruitment since the conflict escalated in March 2015.

The number of countries that have endorsed the Paris Commitments nearly doubled in 10 years, from 58 countries in 2007 to 105 at present, signaling an increasing global commitment to end the use of children in conflict.

Estimates show that of the 65,000 children who have been released in the past 10 years, more than 20,000 were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nearly 9,000 in the Central African Republic, and over 1,600 children in Chad.

The Paris International Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflicts will look at ways to build on this momentum. These include calling for the unconditional release of all children, without exception, and putting an end to child recruitment; increased resources to help reintegrate and educate children who have been released; and urgent action to protect internally displaced children, child refugees and migrants.

As long as children are still affected by the fighting, we cannot give up the fight for the children,” Lake said.

Use of children by militias in DRC

Facing the use of children by militias in the Kasai, Central Kasai, East Kasai, and Tanganyika provinces, UNICEF issued a statement expressing its deep concern about this growing trend and its dramatic consequences on the physical and psychological integrity of children and their schooling. UNICEF calls on all these militias to immediately cease this practice. UNICEF also calls on the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) to a strict and proportionate use of force. The children recruited by these militias are often in the front line and thus directly exposed and are the primary victims of clashes between the militias and the Armed Forces. Under the Child Protection Act of 2009, it is the State’s prime responsibility to ensure the protection, education, and provision of necessary care for children during armed conflicts, civil strife, and civil unrest.

On 28 July 2016, the DRC signed the Oslo Safe Schools Declaration. By endorsing the Declaration, the DRC committed to promoting and protecting the right to education in armed conflict. This commitment is all the more timely given that several schools have been occupied or destroyed, teachers threatened, and many children deprived of education in the areas affected by these disturbances.

More generally, and beyond the condemnation of the use of children in conflict, since 2004, UNICEF has been supporting the Government of the DRC in the implementation of the “child” component in the National Program for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). UNICEF and its partners have also developed, since the end of 2013, a strategy for the reintegration of children who left armed forces and groups focusing on access to education, vocational training, and economic support. Nearly 7,000 children have benefited from this support for reintegration. During the transitional period, children within transitional structures benefit from a package of psychosocial, educational, and rehabilitation support activities.

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Photo: UNICEF DRC 2011 Asselin

Note about the DRC translated from French by Dorsaf James

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Yves Willemot

Yves Willemot est le chef de l’Équipe InfoCom de l’UNICEF RDC. Plus que tout, ce qui est important pour lui c'est d'être "tous ensemble pour les enfants".

Yves Willemot is Head of the UNICEF DRC InfoCom Team. More than anything, he believes that the most important is to "be together for the children".

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