The recruitment and use of child soldiers remains a serious problem with tens of thousands of children recruited and used as soldiers in conflicts around the world. Since 2002, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has issued an annual report on children and armed conflict, listing violations committed against children during armed conflict. The most recent report, published in July 2019, found that 2018 was the worst year on record for children caught up in armed conflict.
The recruitment and use of children as soldiers is explicitly prohibited under international humanitarian law and human rights law. In 1999, the UN Security Council passed its first Resolution, UNSCR 1261, on the impact of armed conflict on children and condemned violations in that context. In the same year, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child entered into force. Article 22 of the Charter sets out a prohibition on the recruitment and direct participation in hostilities of any person under the age of 18 years.
Ever since, the Security Council has established important tools to strengthen child protection and to strengthen implementation of international standards, including the position of UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict who investigates and develops best practices to address the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Ireland remains committed to the eradication of the recruitment and use of child soldiers. In addition to the focus in our development programmes on addressing the socio-economic causes of conflict, Ireland supports more targeted interventions by working with organisations such as UNICEF, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.
In 2018, Ireland co-sponsored UN Resolution 2427, which states that children recruited by armed groups should be treated primarily as victims of violations of international law. In 2019, Ireland co-sponsored UN Resolution 2475, which contains important language on the specific needs of children with disabilities affected by armed conflict.
This year, Ireland also joined the Group of Friends of the Reintegration of Child Soldiers and is supportive of reintegration programmes which are fundamental to realising the Rights of the Child, ending the cycle of violence, and ensuring sustainable peace. Ireland is also a signatory to the Safe Schools Declaration, which is an inter-governmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools and universities from armed conflict.
Ireland is committed to working with our international partners to protect all children from aggression and violence.