London, 20 November 2014 - On Universal Children’s Day, Child Soldiers International reaffirms the need for global action to protect children from use in armed conflict.

Universal Children’s Day marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Since then, 194 countries have become party to it, thereby pledging to protect and uphold the rights of children in their countries. Yet, tens of thousands of children are still involved in armed conflicts across the globe, many of them in non-state armed groups.

In fact when conflict erupts children are almost always involved. Tricked, bribed, coerced or cajoled, children are drawn into fighting forces, often at the local level. Separated from their families and communities, they are used in many ways: to fight, to lay explosives, to serve as guards, spies and messengers and to carry out camp duties like cooking. Girls and boys can be used as sex slaves while in the ranks, and beatings and other abuses are a daily reality for many. The abuse doesn’t always end when children return to their communities, as they can face rejection and further hardship.

In today’s world the plight of child soldiers is often overlooked or neglected. Yet solutions do exist and the rights of children can be upheld. Our research in war-torn countries provides evidence to support our campaigns for lasting change – locally, nationally and globally. We work closely with activists and communities in conflict zones to achieve our goals and to protect children from the reality or the risk of being used in war.

Please join us in remembering the world’s child soldiers on Universal Children’s Day and support our work to end this abuse of children. For thousands of children in the world, war is still on the agenda. Do not forget them.

Background information

The CRC defines a child as any person below the age of 18. It recognises that because they are in their formative years children need special safeguards and care. It states that children’s “best interests” should be paramount in all matters relating to their welfare. With this in mind, the CRC sets out the rights that will enable every child to grow and develop, to live in peace and security and to realise her or his full potential. These rights apply to every child without discrimination.

The Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted in 2000, was designed to strengthen the CRC, in part by prohibiting the use of children to directly participate in hostilities. More than 150 governments have pledged to abide by it and have adopted laws to prevent the use of child soldiers. The Optional Protocol has resulted in a major reduction in the formal recruitment or use of children by government armies.

On the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, Child Soldiers International, in partnership with the Jesuit Refugee Service, issued a statement calling on the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to fully implement the CRC and its optional protocols, in order to better protect children from armed conflict. Meanwhile, Univerbal, a partner organisation in France that also works in the DRC, have launched a campaign that aims to raise public awareness of the plight of child soldiers. Through creative visuals and a thought-provoking video, they aim to make you ask “what if this was my child?” Check out their campaign and learn more about their project The New Grain – an eco-farm project to support the recovery and reintegration of former child soldiers in the DRC – by visiting their website atwww.univerbal.org.