The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui briefed the Security Council yesterday on her latest global assessment of where children are being used as soldiers. In all, 55 armed groups operating in 21 countries were included in a “list of shame,” this includes new listings for armed groups in Syria and Mali.
On balance, though, the situation is actually getting better. The stigma against using child soldiers grows stronger by the day, and countries like the USA have legislation that prevents military assistance from going to governments that tolerate child soldiers. Armed groups are even being prosecuted by the ICC for using child soldiers.
“One of the key objectives of my mandate, the end of recruitment and use of children by armed forces, is finally within reach,” said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict as she presented the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict to the Security Council.
Important progress has been achieved in the past 18 months. There are eight Government armies listed for the recruitment and use of children and six of them have already committed to making their armies child-free. In 2012, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed action plans with the United Nations. The previous year, Afghanistan and Chad made similar commitments. Discussions initiated with the Governments of Yemen and Sudan are expected to lead to action plans in the near future.
Action plans signed with the United Nations are roadmaps to end and prevent violations against children. They allow the United Nations to support Governments or armed groups in identifying and releasing children present in the ranks of their armed forces. They also include trainings for military personnel as well as the development of programmes to reintegrate former child soldiers and prevent future recruitment.
Obviously one child soldier is one child soldier too many. But despite the setback of Syria and Mali, the overall situation is getting better.