The use of child soldiers by the Chadian armed forces may have ended but children continue to risk being recruited and used for military purposes.

A report published by Child Soldiers International finds that many of the conditions that made children vulnerable to military exploitation during the armed conflict are unchanged and that the recent, stark reduction in the number of child soldiers could simply be attributable to the end of hostilities. Thus, if security conditions were to deteriorate, unchecked recruitment and use of under-18s would almost certainly resume.

The report, Better Than Cure: Preventing the recruitment and use of children in the Chadian national army (ANT), highlights in particular key difficulties in the organization of Chad’s armed forces, the verification of the age of new recruits, the persistence of informal recruitment and lack accountability for members of the armed forces.

“While it is positive that hostilities have ended, this is not the moment to let the issue drop off the agenda. On the contrary, now is the time to invest resources in putting in place safeguards against future child recruitment and end the problem once and for all,” says Richard Clarke, Director of Child Soldiers International.

In June 2011, the UN and the government signed an Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of children and thereby pledged to adopt a series of measures with regard to protection and prevention.

In December 2011, Child Soldiers International met Chadian government and military officials as well as UN representatives in Chad to discuss the practical implementation of the plan and suggest further measures to complement it. However, little progress had been made six months after the signature of the document. It was also apparent that at that time the UN Country Team lacked the capacity – financial and logistical – to follow through on the commitments made in the plan.

A reform of the ground army is currently underway aimed at downsizing and professionalizing the ANT and make it more accountable. Child Soldiers International is concerned that this process is failing to meaningfully address shortcomings in army recruitment procedures, notably age verification, in order to prevent the future, unlawful recruitment of under-18s. Child protection agencies should be consulted and brought in to the reform process. Donor support for free and compulsory birth registration is also essential – so that the age of new recruits can be reliably established.

“The government has made public commitments and taken welcome measures to prevent the recruitment of children into the army,” says Richard Clarke. “However, unless these are scrupulously and comprehensively implemented and followed up over a sufficient period of time, and with all concerned stakeholders, children in Chad will remain at risk of being involved in armed conflict.”