A law unto themselves? Confronting the recruitment of children by armed groups

The recruitment of children and their use in hostilities by non-state armed groups has been a serious problem for decades. Despite the scale of the problem, few sustained national and international efforts have been concentrated on tackling this serious concern. In its report A law unto themselves? Confronting the recruitment of children by armed groups, Child Soldiers International examines progress made so far in engagement with armed groups, demonstrating that since 1999 over 60 armed groups have made unilateral or bilateral commitments to reduce and end the recruitment and use of children.

The report argues that while implementation is typically inconsistent, these commitments signal a growing recognition on the part of armed groups of the need to protect children from military use. These positive developments have resulted from efforts made by the UN and humanitarian and human rights organisations seeking dialogue with armed groups to enhance the protection of children.

The report recommends that the distinct advantages of different stakeholders’ methods in engaging different armed groups must be exploited more fully; greater coordination between different actors is vital to enhance engagement; sustained pressure is needed on governments that block access to armed groups; and greater attention should be given to child protection concerns in peace processes. There can be no monopoly on this process. The safe release and reintegration of children associated with armed groups is a collaborative effort that requires involvement and support of a wide range of actors and long-term funding.

Download this report here.