all towns are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
Home > Human Rights & Humanitarian Law > Humanitarian Laws of Armed Conflict > Child Soldiers and the Law> Cape Town Principles and Best Practice on the Prevention of Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces, 1997
Child Soldiers and the Law
on the Prevention of Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces
and Demobilization and Social Integration of Child Soldiers in Africa
From the pamphlet "Capetown Principles and Best Practices"
Adopted by the participants in the Symposium on the Prevention of Recruitment of Children into the Armed Forces and Demobilization and Social Reintegration of Child Soldiers in Africa, organized by UNICEF in cooperation with the NGO Sub-group of the NGO Working Group on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Cape Town, 30 April 1997
“Child soldier” in this document means any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to cooks, porters, messengers, and those accompanying such groups, other than purely as family members. It includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and forced marriage. It does not, therefore, only refer to a child who is carrying or has carried arms.
“Recruitment” encompasses compulsory, forced and voluntary recruitment into any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group.
“Demobilization” means the formal and controlled discharge of child soldiers from the army or from an armed group.
The term “psycho-social” underlines the close relationship between the psychological and social effects of armed conflict, the one type of effect continually influencing the other. By “psychological effects” is meant those experiences which affect emotions, behaviour, thoughts, memory and learning ability and how a situation may be perceived and understood. By “social effects” is meant how the diverse experiences of war alter people’s relationships to each other, in that such experiences change people, but also through death, separation, estrangement and other losses. “Social” may be extended to include an economic dimension, many individuals and families becoming destitute through the material and economic devastation of war, thus losing their social status and place in their familiar social network.
PREVENTION OF CHILD RECRUITMENT
1. Establish 18 as the minimum age for any participation in hostilities and for all forms of recruitment into all armed forces and armed groups.
2. Governments should adopt and ratify an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child raising the minimum ages from 15 to 18.
3. Governments should ratify and implement pertinent regional and international treaties and incorporate them into national law, namely:
a. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which upon entry into force will establish 18 as the minimum age for recruitment and participation;
4. Governments should adopt national legislation on voluntary and compulsory recruitment with a minimum age of 18 years and should establish proper recruitment procedures and the means to enforce them. Those responsible for illegally recruiting children should be brought to justice. These recruitment procedures must include:
a. Requirement of proof of age;5. A permanent International Criminal Court should be established whose jurisdiction would cover, inter alia, the illegal recruitment of children.
6. Written agreements between or with all parties to the conflict which include a commitment on the minimum age of recruitment should be concluded. The SPLM/Operation Lifeline Sudan Agreement on Ground Rules (July 1995) is a useful example.
7. Monitoring, documentation and advocacy are fundamental to eliminating child recruitment and to informing programmes to this end. Community efforts to prevent recruitment should be developed and supported.
a. Local human rights organisations, the media, former child soldiers, and teachers, health workers, church leaders and other community leaders can play an important advocacy role.
8. Programmes to prevent recruitment of children should be developed in response to the expressed needs and aspirations of the children.
9. In programmes for children, particular attention should be paid to those most at risk of recruitment: children in conflict zones, children (especially adolescents) separated from or without families, including children in institutions; other marginalized groups (e.g. street children, certain minorities, refugees and the internally displaced); economically and socially deprived children.
a. Risk mapping can be helpful to identify the groups at risk in particular situations, including such issues as areas of concentration of fighting, the age and type of children being militarized and the main agents of militarization;
10. All efforts should be made to keep or reunite children with their families or to place them within a family structure.
a. This can be done for example through warnings (e.g. by radio or posters) of the need to avoid separation, or through attaching identification to young children, except where this would expose them to additional risk. For further ideas, see “Unaccompanied Minors: Priority Action Handbook for UNICEF/UNHCR Field Staff”.
11. Ensure birth registration, including for refugees and internally displaced children, and the provision of identity documents to all children, particularly those most at risk of recruitment.
12. Access to education, including secondary education and vocational training, should be promoted for all children, including refugee and internally displaced children.
a. Adequate economic provision or opportunities also need to be considered for children or their families.
13. Special protection measures are needed to prevent recruitment of children in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.
a. Refugee camps should be established at a reasonable distance from the border, wherever possible;
15. Controls should be imposed on the manufacture and transfer of arms, especially small arms. No arms should be supplied to parties to an armed conflict who are recruiting children or allowing them to take part in hostilities.
16. All persons under the age of 18 should be demobilized from any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group.
a. Direct and free access to all child soldiers should be granted to relevant authorities or organizations in charge of collecting information concerning their demobilization and of implementing specific programmes.
17. Children should be given priority in any demobilization process.
18. In anticipation of peace negotiations or as soon as they begin, preparations should be made to respond to children who will be demobilized.
a. Prepare initial situation analysis/needs assessment of children and their communities;19. The issue of demobilization of children should be included in the peace process from the beginning.
20. Where children have participated in armed conflict, peace agreements and related documents should acknowledge this fact.
21. The demobilization process should be designed as the first step in the social reintegration process.
22. The demobilization process should be as short as possible and take into account the human dignity of the child and the need for confidentiality.
a. Ensure adequate time and appropriate personnel to make children feel secure and comfortable so that they are able to receive information, including about their rights, and to share concerns;23. As soon as possible start establishing family tracing, contacts and reunification.
24. Health assessment and treatment should be priorities.
a. As soon as possible during the demobilization process, all children should undergo assessment of their physical health and receive treatment as necessary;
26. Children who leave any armed forces or groups during on-going hostilities have special needs for protection which must be addressed.
During on-going hostilities there is rarely any formal demobilization. However, children may leave the army, for example by escaping or as a result of being captured or wounded. This may compromise their security, protection and access to services. Despite difficulties in identifying such children, there must be recognition of their special needs for protection:
a. Efforts should be made for an early start to programmes and family tracing for unaccompanied children;
28. Special assistance and protection measures must be taken on behalf of children and those recruited as children. See for example “Basic Rights Recognized For the Angolan Under-aged Soldiers”.
29. Ensure to the extent possible that demobilized children return to their communities under conditions of safety.
30. Ensure that demobilized children are not discriminated against in services and benefits for demobilized soldiers.
31. Ensure that the rights of children involved in the demobilization process are respected by the media, researchers and others.
a. With specific regard to journalists, a code of conduct should be developed in order to prevent the exploitation of child soldiers by the media. Such a code should take account of inter alia the manner in which sensitive issues are raised, the child’s right to anonymity and the frequency of contacts with the media.
RETURN TO FAMILY AND COMMUNITY LIFE
32. Family reunification is the principal factor in effective social reintegration.
a. For family reunification to be successful, special attention must be paid to re-establishing the emotional link between the child and the family prior to and following return;
a. Programmes responding to the needs of the children should be developed. They should seek to enhance the self-esteem of children, promote their capacity to protect their own integrity and to construct a positive life. Activities must take into account the age and stage of development of the child and accommodate the particular requirements of girls and children with special needs;
a. Identify and support traditional resources and practices in the community which can support the psycho-social integration of children affected by war;
a. Whilst stressing that it is essential to normalize the life of child soldiers, it is important to recognize that all children in a community will have been affected to some degree by the conflict. Programmes for former child soldiers should therefore be integrated into efforts to address the situation of all children affected by the conflict, while ensuring the continuing implementation of specific rights and benefits of demobilized children;36. Provision should be made for educational activities which reflect: the loss of educational opportunities as a consequence of participation; the age and stage of development of the children; and their potential for promoting development of self-esteem.
37. Provision should be made for relevant vocational training and opportunities or (self-) employment, including for children with disabilities.
a. Upon completion of vocational skills training, trainees should be provided with the relevant tools and, where possible, with start-up loans to promote self-reliance.38. Recreational activities are essential for psycho-social well-being.
a. Recreational activities should be included in all reintegration programmes for war-affected children. These contribute to the children’s psycho-social well-being, facilitate the reconciliation process and form part of their rights as children.39. Programme development and implementation should incorporate the participation of the children and, with due regard for the context of reintegration, reflect their needs and concerns.
40. Psycho-social programmes should assist children to develop and build those capacities that will facilitate a re-attachment to families and communities.
41. Monitoring and follow-up of the children should take place to ensure reintegration and receipt of rights and benefits. Use community resources for this, e.g. catechists, teachers or others, depending on the situation.
42. In order to be successful, reintegration of the child within the community should be carried out in the framework of efforts towards national reconciliation.
43. Programmes to prevent, demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers should be jointly and constantly monitored and evaluated with communities.
Cape Town, 30 April 1997.