A selection of news stories concerning child soldiers which have appeared in international media over the past month.

US diplomats accuse Tillerson of breaking child soldiers law

A group of US State Department officials formally accused Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of violating the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) in a ‘dissent’ memo first reported upon by Reuters.

The group of around a dozen employees sent the memo after Tillerson excluded Afghanistan, Iraq and Myanmar from the US 2017 CSPA list on countries who recruit child soldiers or support state-allied armed groups who do.

The memo says the decision is ‘inconsistent with US law’ and accuses Tillerson of ignoring ‘sufficient facts’ that child recruitment was present in all three countries during 2016.

The CSPA was created in 2008 by the US government to encourage countries to stop child recruitment by withholding military assistance funding for those guilty of the practice.

Iran’s child soldiers in Syria

Human Rights Watch reports on new video footage purporting to show an Iranian boy operating as a child soldier in Syria.

The boy describes himself as a ‘defender of the shrine’ - an expression used by Iran’s government for fighters it sends to Syria and Iraq.

The article follows an October HRW report detailing the recruitment of Afghan children by Iran’s government to fight in Syria.

Although Iran has signed the child soldier treaty outlawing the use of children under the age of 18 to participate in hostilities, its government has yet to ratify it in parliament.

HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far, said: “Iran should immediately end this practice, ratify the Optional Protocol, and ensure children are protected against recruitment. No country should be proud if its children leave schools to hold weapons.”

Vancouver Principles launch to improve PKO; prevent child recruitment

The Vancouver Principles, a new set of political commitments focused on peacekeeping operations and the prevention of child recruitment and use, launched in November.

They focus on raising standards among peacekeeping operations to help improve child protection practices and prevent recruitment of children in such contexts.

The 17 principles were conceived by the Canadian government and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soliders Initiative and developed along with the UN, UNICEF and several child protection actors.

58 UN member states have already endorsed the principles.

"We believe in peacekeeping,” Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told audiences at a launch for the new initiative. 

“We know there is no greater gift that we can leave our children than true and lasting peace. So let's be bold, let us innovate – let us try new things.”

Charity criticises British army campaign to recruit under-18s

The Guardian reported on our exclusive data detailing new recruitment figures revealing teenage applications to the British Army.

More than 19,000 under-18s applied to join the army between January, when the Army’s glossy This Is Belonging campaign began, and October. Of these, just over 500 have begun training.

The charity said it was concerned that the campaign had appealed to some of the youngest possible recruits.

Rachel Taylor, Child Soldiers International’s director of programmes, said the army wanted young people to sign up because they were “more psychologically malleable”.

You can read more about our UK campaign and efforts to raise the army recruitment age to 18 here.