'Non-state armed groups' are any military or paramilitary organisations that are not official institutions of a state. They are usually fighting in opposition to state forces but in some cases they are unofficially state-allied and receive government support.

The issue

Dozens of non-state armed groups exploit children in conflicts around the world. Efforts to bring such groups into compliance with international standards on child recruitment are complicated by the varying political and social contexts in which they operate, a lack of accountability, and limited routes for diplomatic dialogue. However, progress can be made: since 1999 more than 60 armed groups have made commitments to end the recruitment and use of children.

Our impact

Child Soldiers International works with communities, local organisations, armed groups and governments worldwide to tackle child recruitment.

In Democratic Republic of Congo Child Soldiers International works with local partner organisations to inform armed groups about their obligations under international law, which has led to the release of children from these groups.

In Chad, we have worked with communities displaced by conflict to educate children about their rights in order to reduce recruitment.

In India, we successfully campaigned for the government to make recruitment and use of children by armed groups unlawful through the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015.

What can be done?

Our most up-to-date research on armed groups, A law unto themselves? argues for better coordinated, more vigorous international efforts to work with armed groups towards the safe release and reintegration of children from their ranks, and to prevent future recruitment.

Alongside international action, strengthening community resistance continues to be an essential factor in ending armed groups’ exploitation of children. Child Soldiers International is expanding its work in this area with a new youth engagement programme in the Middle East.