Child soldiers - and other children associated with armed forces and groups. Policy brief

International law outlaws the recruitment and use of children under 18 in armed conflict, yet an estimated 250,000 children are associated with armed forces and groups, some as young as seven.
The recruitment and use of children by armed groups is an acute problem in Africa, but children are or have been also involved in conflict in some Asian countries and in parts of Latin America.
Some armed forces and groups use violence to force children to join up, but a large number volunteer. For many child recruits, taking their chances with an armed group is preferable to living in poverty or in a camp for refugees or displaced people, where they have no chance of getting an education or of earning a living.
A concerted approach at a local, national and international level is needed to tackle both the immediate and root causes of recruitment of children.
This brief outlines:
• Why children are recruited by armed groups
• How to prevent the targeted recruitment and use of children
• How children affected by armed conflict can be reintegrated
• The actions that must be taken

Published 2010-04-08

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