MADRID – Non-governmental organizations and the United Nations showed their solidarity Monday in support of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.
Every year since Feb. 12, 2002, they have called on all states to end the forceful, often brutal, conscription of some 300,000 children worldwide as child soldiers.
“Sometimes they are forcefully recruited but others volunteer compelled to do so by hunger or after becoming war-orphans,” Pedro Puig, president of the Spanish NGO, Aldeas Infantiles SOS, told EFE.
Children are often used by warring factions in supporting roles such as couriers or informants but also as human bombs in terror attacks or as sex slaves, NGO’s have said.
Some 16 years ago, the “Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict” was signed in a bid to ban the use of children in some 30 global conflicts, also elevating the minimum recruitment age to 18 years.
On the other hand, the NGO World Vision reports that children are more often lured into recruitment by armed forces by simply lying to them with false promises of food, education and safety, at a time their young lives seem to offer no other option.
“We listen to how these children got involved in these conflicts and it’s heartbreaking: they are given false promises of free education, no more hunger or safety for their families and communities,” the NGO stated.
They narrate stories such as that of Hain, a former child soldier aged 16 who was told to either kill or be killed and forced to join a Myanmar armed group.
Or that of Ngalula, aged 12, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who confided to a girlfriend she either joined the militias or faced execution.
Among the guidelines seeking to eradicate this brutal activity is improved access to education in conflict areas, supporting the role of children in rebuilding peace and involving local religious and community leaders.
Some 167 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict seeking to set 18 years as the minimum recruitment age into armed forces and to ban children’s direct involvement in any armed conflict.