EU policy on child soldiers is set out in Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict, first adopted in 2003 and revised in 2008. These aim to persuade governments and organisations around the world to fully respect international humanitarian law and human rights law that protects children from armed conflict. The Guidelines commit the EU to address the impact of armed conflict on children and fight against impunity for those who are involved in the recruitment of child soldiers.
In 1999, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1261 on the impact of armed conflict on children. Since then, the Security Council has established tools to strengthen child protection and to support international standards, including a systematic and comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism.
In December 1996, the UN General Assembly created the mandate of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to advocate for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict and develop best practices to address the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Secretary-General of the UN also issues an annual report on children and armed conflict which examines both trends and specific country situations, listing all armed groups – both state and non-state – that recruit and use children.
Ireland continues to combat the use of child soldiers through our development programme, Irish Aid, with a focus on addressing the socio-economic causes that contribute to this situation, through providing access to education, skills and livelihood opportunities, a priority also reflected in our development policy A Better World.