Louder than words

The report “Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers” is published to mark the tenth anniversary year of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It examines the record of states in protecting children from use in hostilities by their own forces and by state-allied armed groups. It finds that, while governments’ commitment to ending child soldier use is high, the gap between commitment and practice remains wide. Research for the report shows that child soldiers have been used in armed conflicts by 20 states since 2010, and that children are at risk of military use in many more.

The report argues that ending child soldier use by states is within reach but that achieving it requires improved analysis of “risk factors”, and greater investment in reducing these risks, before the military use of girls and boys becomes a fact. Real prevention means tackling risk where it begins – with the recruitment of under-18s. A global ban on the military recruitment of any person below the age of 18 years – long overdue – must be at the heart of prevention strategies, but to be meaningful it must be backed by enforcement measures that are applied to national armies and armed groups supported by states.

The report contains detailed analysis of the laws, policies and practices of over 100 “conflict” and “non-conflict” states providing examples of good practice and showing where flaws in protection put children at risk. It also shows how states can do more to end child soldier use globally via policies and practices on arms transfers and military assistance, and in the design of security sector reform programs. On the basis of this analysis a “10-Point Checklist” is included to assist states and other stakeholders in assessing risk and identifying the legal and practical measures needed to end child soldier use by government forces and state-allied armed groups.

Download this report here.

Download the 10-point checklist in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.