Child Soldiers International has a vision of a world where children are no longer used for military purposes. Our three-year strategy is informed by one overarching goal: to prevent all military recruitment of any child under the age of 18. This will be done by lobbying all states with armed forces to Declare18! by adopting 18 as the minimum age for military recruitment.

This is our chosen focus because preventing the recruitment of children is the only effective way to prevent them from being used in war. It is also the only way to protect children from the risks of premature involvement in military life. Exposure to military life is inherently harmful to children and adolescents, and undermines many of their fundamental rights, regardless of whether they are ever deployed in conflict.

Our strategy will be implemented through two long-term strategic aims:

I. All states ban child recruitment in law.

Our aim is for all states to ensure that the minimum age for enlistment into their armed forces is 18 or higher, so that all children are protected from involvement in armed conflict and the inherent harm inflicted by early exposure to military life. We will advocate for states to adopt this standard or (re)affirm their commitment to it, and Declare 18! as the minimum age for enlistment into armed forces. In support of Strategic Aim 1, we have identified the following two objectives:

Objective A: A straight-18 standard is established in key strategic countries

We have identified 44 states with armed forces that do not appear to have adopted the straight-18 position in national law or policy. We aim to establish national Declare18! campaigns in these countries that will work towards getting their government to raise the enlistment age to 18. We will provide expert advice, training and technical and material support to them, where needed and where we cannot establish effective national partnerships, we will lead national advocacy ourselves.

Objective B: The international community supports a global straight-18 standard

We aim to mobilise key influential actors at the international level to consolidate the straight-18 standard as the global norm. Key to this will be the organisation of a major event in New York in February 2018 to galvanise momentum to strengthen the implementation of the child soldier treaty (OPAC). We will also launch an online information hub on preventing child recruitment, as well as a new OPAC guide for child rights practitioners.

II. Child recruitment is prevented in practice.

For straight-18 prevention to be implemented in practice, all child protection actors (governmental and non-governmental) must be equipped with effective policy and programming guidance. In support of Strategic Aim 2, we have identified the following two objectives:

Objective C: State actors strengthen their practical implementation of the straight-18 standard

While three quarters of states (133) have committed to a straight-18 position in law or policy, many fail to implement the commitment effectively. We aim to ensure that national authorities in at least three states take concrete action to implement their straight-18 commitments.

Objective D: Child protection actors are better equipped to prevent child recruitment

Much effort has been put into the development of national and international programmatic guidance to end child recruitment. However, programmatic standards are not always easy to implement. In some cases, their meaning is unclear or they are not readily adaptable to specific contexts. The evolving nature of armed conflict also brings constant challenges to their application.

Activities will aim to strengthen the practical implementation of existing programmatic standards to end child recruitment, where this is needed. We will conduct research to adapt and operationalise this guidance into appropriate tools at the national or local levels. This work will generally be more focused on prevention at the community level with in-country partners.

Download our full three-year (2017-20) strategy here.

As a small international human rights organisation and a former coalition with a longstanding focus on children and armed conflict, we are uniquely positioned to foster alliances and mobilise parties to action. To see how our activities all lead towards an end to the military exploitation of children, please see our theory of change.

We are committed to a set of core values, which guide all our work. 

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