Child Soldiers and the
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights
of the Child
on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and
accession by General Assembly resolution A/RES/54/263 of 25 May 2000
entered into force on 12 February 2002
[see also International
Convention on the Rights of the Child and
Child Soldiers and the Law]
The States Parties to the present Protocol,
Encouraged by the overwhelming support for the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, demonstrating the widespread
commitment that exists to strive for the promotion and protection of the
rights of the child,
Reaffirming that the rights of children require special protection, and
calling for continuous improvement of the situation of children without
distinction, as well as for their development and education in
conditions of peace and security,
Disturbed by the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on
children and the long-term consequences it has for durable peace,
security and development,
Condemning the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict and
direct attacks on objects protected under international law, including
places that generally have a significant presence of children, such as
schools and hospitals,
Noting the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal
Court, in particular, the inclusion therein as a war crime, of
conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or using
them to participate actively in hostilities in both international and
non-international armed conflicts,
Considering therefore that to strengthen further the implementation of
rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child there is
a need to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed
Noting that article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
specifies that, for the purposes of that Convention, a child means every
human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable
to the child, majority is attained earlier,
Convinced that an optional protocol to the Convention that raises the
age of possible recruitment of persons into armed forces and their
participation in hostilities will contribute effectively to the
implementation of the principle that the best interests of the child are
to be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children,
Noting that the twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross
and Red Crescent in December 1995 recommended, inter alia, that parties
to conflict take every feasible step to ensure that children below the
age of 18 years do not take part in hostilities,
Welcoming the unanimous adoption, in June 1999, of International Labour
Organization Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action
for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which prohibits,
inter alia, forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in
Condemning with the gravest concern the recruitment, training and use
within and across national borders of children in hostilities by armed
groups distinct from the armed forces of a State, and recognizing the
responsibility of those who recruit, train and use children in this
Recalling the obligation of each party to an armed conflict to abide by
the provisions of international humanitarian law,
Stressing that the present Protocol is without prejudice to the purposes
and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, including
Article 51, and relevant norms of humanitarian law,
Bearing in mind that conditions of peace and security based on full
respect of the purposes and principles contained in the Charter and
observance of applicable human rights instruments are indispensable for
the full protection of children, in particular during armed conflicts
and foreign occupation,
Recognizing the special needs of those children who are particularly
vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities contrary to the present
Protocol owing to their economic or social status or gender,
Mindful of the necessity of taking into consideration the economic,
social and political root causes of the involvement of children in armed
Convinced of the need to strengthen international cooperation in the
implementation of the present Protocol, as well as the physical and
psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are
victims of armed conflict,
Encouraging the participation of the community and, in particular,
children and child victims in the dissemination of informational and
educational programmes concerning the implementation of the Protocol,
Have agreed as follows:
States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members
of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not
take a direct part in hostilities.
States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age
of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.
1. States Parties shall raise the minimum age for the voluntary
recruitment of persons into their national armed forces from that set
out in article 38, paragraph 3, of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, taking account of the principles contained in that article and
recognizing that under the Convention persons under the age of 18 years
are entitled to special protection.
2. Each State Party shall deposit a binding declaration upon
ratification of or accession to the present Protocol that sets forth the
minimum age at which it will permit voluntary recruitment into its
national armed forces and a description of the safeguards it has adopted
to ensure that such recruitment is not forced or coerced.
3. States Parties that
permit voluntary recruitment into their national armed forces under the
age of 18 years shall maintain safeguards to ensure, as a minimum, that:
(a) Such recruitment is genuinely voluntary;
(b) Such recruitment is carried out with the informed consent of the
person's parents or legal guardians;
(c) Such persons are fully informed of the duties involved in such
(d) Such persons provide reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into
national military service.
4. Each State Party may strengthen its declaration at any time by
notification to that effect addressed to the Secretary-General of the
United Nations, who shall inform all States Parties. Such notification
shall take effect on the date on which it is received by the
5. The requirement to raise the age in paragraph 1 of the present
article does not apply to schools operated by or under the control of
the armed forces of the States Parties, in keeping with articles 28 and
29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
1. Armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State
should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities
persons under the age of 18 years.
2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to prevent such
recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary
to prohibit and criminalize such practices.
3. The application of the present article shall not affect the legal
status of any party to an armed conflict.
Nothing in the present Protocol shall be construed as precluding
provisions in the law of a State Party or in international instruments
and international humanitarian law that are more conducive to the
realization of the rights of the child.
1. Each State Party shall take all necessary legal, administrative and
other measures to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of
the provisions of the present Protocol within its jurisdiction.
2. States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the
present Protocol widely known and promoted by appropriate means, to
adults and children alike.
3. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that
persons within their jurisdiction recruited or used in hostilities
contrary to the present Protocol are demobilized or otherwise released
from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to such
persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological
recovery and their social reintegration.
1. States Parties shall cooperate in the implementation of the present
Protocol, including in the prevention of any activity contrary thereto
and in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons who are
victims of acts contrary thereto, including through technical
cooperation and financial assistance. Such assistance and cooperation
will be undertaken in consultation with the States Parties concerned and
the relevant international organizations.
2. States Parties in a position to do so shall provide such assistance
through existing multilateral, bilateral or other programmes or, inter
alia, through a voluntary fund established in accordance with the rules
of the General Assembly.
1. Each State Party shall, within two years following the entry into
force of the present Protocol for that State Party, submit a report to
the Committee on the Rights of the Child providing comprehensive
information on the measures it has taken to implement the provisions of
the Protocol, including the measures taken to implement the provisions
on participation and recruitment.
2. Following the submission of the comprehensive report, each State
Party shall include in the reports it submits to the Committee on the
Rights of the Child, in accordance with article 44 of the Convention,
any further information with respect to the implementation of the
Protocol. Other States Parties to the Protocol shall submit a report
every five years.
3. The Committee on the Rights of the Child may request from States
Parties further information relevant to the implementation of the
1. The present Protocol is open for signature by any State that is a
party to the Convention or has signed it.
2. The present Protocol is subject to ratification and is open to
accession by any State. Instruments of ratification or accession shall
be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
3. The Secretary-General, in his capacity as depositary of the
Convention and the Protocol, shall inform all States Parties to the
Convention and all States that have signed the Convention of each
instrument of declaration pursuant to article 3.
1. The present Protocol shall enter into force three months after the
deposit of the tenth instrument of ratification or accession.
2. For each State ratifying the present Protocol or acceding to it after
its entry into force, the Protocol shall enter into force one month
after the date of the deposit of its own instrument of ratification or
1. Any State Party may denounce the present Protocol at any time by
written notification to the Secretary- General of the United Nations,
who shall thereafter inform the other States Parties to the Convention
and all States that have signed the Convention. The denunciation shall
take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification by
the Secretary-General. If, however, on the expiry of that year the
denouncing State Party is engaged in armed conflict, the denunciation
shall not take effect before the end of the armed conflict.
2. Such a denunciation shall not have the effect of releasing the State
Party from its obligations under the present Protocol in regard to any
act that occurs prior to the date on which the denunciation becomes
effective. Nor shall such a denunciation prejudice in any way the
continued consideration of any matter that is already under
consideration by the Committee on the Rights of the Child prior to the
date on which the denunciation becomes effective.
1. Any State Party may propose an amendment and file it with the
Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Secretary-General shall
thereupon communicate the proposed amendment to States Parties with a
request that they indicate whether they favour a conference of States
Parties for the purpose of considering and voting upon the proposals. In
the event that, within four months from the date of such communication,
at least one third of the States Parties favour such a conference, the
Secretary-General shall convene the conference under the auspices of the
United Nations. Any amendment adopted by a majority of States Parties
present and voting at the conference shall be submitted to the General
Assembly of the United Nations for approval.
2. An amendment adopted in accordance with paragraph 1 of the present
article shall enter into force when it has been approved by the General
Assembly and accepted by a two-thirds majority of States Parties.
3. When an amendment enters into force, it shall be binding on those
States Parties that have accepted it, other States Parties still being
bound by the provisions of the present Protocol and any earlier
amendments they have accepted.
1. The present Protocol, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French,
Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in
the archives of the United Nations.
2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit certified
copies of the present Protocol to all States Parties to the Convention
and all States that have signed the Convention.