London, 25 June 2013 - Child Soldiers International welcomes the Chadian Government’s renewed commitment to implement the “Action Plan on children associated with armed forces and groups in Chad” (Action Plan) in the context of the ‘re-hatting’ of Chadian troops in Mali. In order to put a definitive end to the recruitment and use of children by the Chadian armed forces, this commitment must be followed by immediate and tangible actions, while the UN provides sustained and meaningful support as well as long-term oversight and monitoring of the implementation process.

Troops in the Chadian army (Armée nationale tchadienne/ANT) are likely to contribute to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) – the UN peacekeeping operation approved by the Security Council in April 2013 and which is expected to take over from the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) on 1 July. However, the ANT continues to be listed in the Secretary-General’s reports on children and armed conflict as a party that recruits and uses children.

This continued listing is a direct consequence of Chad’s failure to fulfill the majority of the pledges made in the Action Plan two years ago, as noted in Child Soldiers International’s Briefing in May 2013.

As a result, effective prevention against underage recruitment is not yet in place: over 30 children were officially enlisted in the ANT in 2012 and serious flaws in the way the screening was conducted suggest that other children could still be present in its ranks. In addition, child protection training for the military – foreseen in the Action Plan – was never carried out. This may explain recent reports that children associated with armed groups in Mali were detained and interrogated by Chadian troops, in violation of international child protection standards.

Since the beginning of Chad’s military involvement in Mali in early 2013, Child Soldiers International has been raising these concerns with the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF and members of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, including France.

Child Soldiers International commends the intense, concerted diplomatic efforts displayed by these parties in the last few months to address child protection issues related to the 're-hatting' of Chadian troops into blue helmets in Mali. As a result, the Chadian Government adopted a new 10-point Roadmap, including time-bound benchmarks, to accelerate the implementation of the main Action Plan commitments. However, Child Soldiers International remains concerned that a listed party could be allowed to participate in a UN Peacekeeping mission. This would set a negative precedent by sending the wrong signal to parties that have signed Action Plans. It also puts an additional burden on the UN to ensure that children are not among the troops contributing to MINUSMA.

It is therefore imperative for the UN (in the short-term) to ensure that the ANT meets UN standards of child protection for troops contributing to UN Peacekeeping operations, including by conducting a thorough, UN-led verification of contributing troops to ensure full adherence to the UN policy not to accept under-18s in UN Peacekeeping operations. In addition, Chadian troops and all other contributing troops should be given child protection training and equipped with clear orders as well as procedures for the reception, care and handover of children captured or separated during military operations in Mali.

In parallel, the Chadian government must promptly act on all its Action Plan and Roadmap commitments in order to put in place effective prevention mechanisms against child recruitment and use. The UN must capitalise on Chad’s renewed efforts to be delisted: it must invest the necessary time and resources to closely monitor the implementation of the current Roadmap without losing sight of the longer-term process towards durable prevention. There should be no delisting without full and meaningful implementation of all Action Plan commitments.

Background information

Today, the UN Security Council will be briefed by the head of MINUSMA and is expected to authorise the transfer of authority from AFISMA to MINUSMA as of 1 July 2013.

The 12th Report of the Secretary-General on Children and armed conflict (A/67/845–S/2013/245) published on 15 May 2013 lists the ANT among the parties that recruit or use children in hostilities, (page 49).

Child Soldiers International’s Briefing on the status of implementation of the June 2011 Action Plan on children associated with armed forces and groups in Chad, published in May 2013 provides an assessment of the implementation of the main Action Plan commitments, as well as a series of recommendations to strengthen recruitment procedures, monitoring and accountability.

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict’s Where are they…? The situation of children and armed conflict in Mali, published in June 2013 provides more information on the Chadian army’s treatment of children associated with armed groups in Mali, (page 40).