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Child Soldiers and the Law

Paris Principles
Paris Conference on Child Soldiers Concludes with Commitment to Stop the Recruitment of Children [into Non-State Groups], 6 February 2007

Representatives of 58 countries meeting in Paris on 6 February committed themselves to putting an end to the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.

The Paris conference, hosted by the Government of France and UNICEF, brought together both countries affected by the use of child soldiers as well as donor nations to tackle the recruitment of children and to harness the political will to confront it.

�What this conference has shown is that there is a great deal of political commitment to ending the unlawful recruitment of children,� said Rima Salah, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. �What needs to be done now is to harness this commitment and turn it into concrete action on the ground that protects children from recruitment and supports those already recruited to overcome their experiences and reenter their communities.�

Among the commitments endorsed during the conference was for governments to spare no effort to end the unlawful recruitment and use of children by armed forces or groups in all regions of the world, and to ensure that conscription and enlistment procedures for recruitment into armed forces comply with applicable international law.

However, political and legal efforts are not enough on their own to end recruitment. They also need to be accompanied by effective social programmes that tackle the root causes of recruitment.

To address this, the Paris Principles were also unveiled at the conference. The Principles are a detailed set of guidelines for protecting children from recruitment and for providing effective assistance to those already involved with armed groups or forces.

�What we have learned in our years of experience, and what was discussed here in Paris, is that while it is critical to address global legal responses to the issue of child soldiers, these actions must be accompanied by social support for affected children,� Salah said. �Because you will never end recruitment if you do not address the social factors that lead to their recruitment in the first place.�

Governments at the conference also committed themselves to make every effort to uphold and apply the Paris Principles wherever possible in their political, diplomatic, humanitarian and funding roles.

�We are very excited to see so much political commitment to tackling this issue. We know it is a long road ahead of us and it will require long-term commitment and support. But we truly hope this marks the beginning of the end for the use of children in warfare,� Salah said.

Annexe to the Paris Commitments

International instruments :

(i) 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child
(ii) 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
(iii) Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977
(iv) 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol
(v) 1999 ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (182)
(vi)Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Regional instruments and initiatives:

(i) 1999 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the revised Arab Charter on Human Rights, which prohibits the exploitation of children in armed conflict
(ii) The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declaration on the Commitments for Children in ASEAN 2001
(iii) The adoption of �Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict� by the European Union in 2003 and the Implementation Strategy for the Guidelines agreed in January 2006
(iv) Resolution 1904 of the Organisation of American States in 2002
(v) Cape Town Principles and Best Practices on the prevention of recruitment into the armed forces and of demobilization and social reintegration of child soldiers in Africa in 1997

Standards, Principles and Codes of Conduct related to personnel:

Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, 1994;
The Sphere Handbook, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response;
Interagency Guiding Principles on Unaccompanied and Separated Children, ICRC 2004
An example of a code of conduct developed by a coalition of organisations is �Keeping Children Safe: A toolkit for child protection�, by the Keeping Children Safe Coalition, 2006. The Secretary General�s Bulletin and Code of Conduct



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