News / Africa

UN Campaigns To End Recruitment of Child Soldiers

FILE - U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, June 2005.
FILE - U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, June 2005.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations is launching a campaign to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by 2016.  It says eight governments on a Security Council list of child recruiters have agreed to sign an "action plan" to end these violations and to prevent them from occurring in the future.
The United Nations has a list of 55 parties that recruit child soldiers.  Among them are 46 non-state actors and eight governments, including those of Afghanistan, Burma, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.
The U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, is spearheading this campaign jointly with the U.N. Children’s Fund.  She says the outlook is promising because nations are unanimous that using children to fight in war is unacceptable and must end.
“No government in the world is telling us, 'I have the right to recruit children to send them to fight.  It is not your business.'  No one is telling us this," said Zerrougui. "Out of the eight listed, six already signed the action plan with the United Nations and the two remaining are in the process of finalizing their action plan.”
Yemen and Sudan have yet to sign the agreement, but say they are committed to stop the use of child soldiers.  They presently are in negotiations with the United Nations to make this happen.  
The U.N. Action Plan obliges governments to ban their military from drafting and using child soldiers.  It promises to release children from service and to reintegrate them into civilian life.

It also calls upon states to criminalize this practice and ensure that no child under 18 is drafted.
In the presentation of her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Zerrougui spoke about the disproportionate and intolerable impact that conflicts around the world have on children.  She noted armed conflict has intensified in several countries, most notably in Syria, South Sudan, and Central African Republic.  She added that in other countries, thousands of children also are recruited, killed, maimed, raped and kidnapped.  
The special representative spent four years serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She says she was deeply affected by the terrible stories boys and girls told her about how they had been abducted, recruited, indoctrinated, and used as sex slaves.    
"Not only girls - girls and boys.  That is what happened to them in the bush," Zerrougui said. "They serve as cooks, they serve as porters, they serve as sex slaves and they are also human shields.  That is the reality…You even cannot reintegrate them in their community when they return… because you cut the link with the community and the family.  It is terrible what happens to these children.  That is why we have all to be united and to work and to make sure that these children will not - and never ever be recruited and those who are doing this have to pay a price."
Globally, the number of children recruited as soldiers is estimated between 250,000 and 300,000.  
Zerrougui says governments are more aware of the harm done to child soldiers and of the shame attached to their recruitment.  She says governments do not want to remain on the list of recruiters.  They want to make sure their ranks are free of children.  

And this, she says, is what gives her hope that the "Children, Not Soldiers" campaign can ultimately succeed.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs