Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (12 February) to mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers:
Children are not soldiers, they are the key to success of emerging societies. The illegal recruitment of children, as well as the deployment of child soldiers are therefore utterly despicable.
Even in 2018, the year in which the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) comes of age, conflicts are still having a disastrous impact on the development and lives of far too many children.
The ratification and rigorous implementation of the Optional Protocol and the vital protection it provides for children who already have to grow up under difficult conditions is therefore just as crucial today as it was 18 years ago.
I call on all states which have not yet signed or ratified the Optional Protocol to do so now, thus sending a key message about the importance of the rights and protection of children. The onus is on all countries to draw attention to this irresponsible conduct and to actively work to end the perfidious practice of using child soldiers.
We also expressly offer whatever help is necessary to free and reintegrate children into a normal life with a future.
Millions of children around the world are affected by conflict. That is why the UN Secretary-General appointed a Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Among other things, she works to prevent state armed forces from recruiting children. There are still seven countries on a UN blacklist for this crime. Other parties to conflicts are listed when they kill or maim children, engage in sexual violence or attack schools and hospitals. Schools and hospitals are mentioned separately thanks to a German initiative while it last had a seat on the Security Council (2011 2012).
The Federal Foreign Office, together with the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), is again organising an international workshop on children and armed conflict as well as women, peace and security on 12 and 13 February.
The Optional Protocol supplements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has been ratified by 166 countries to date. Among other things, the Protocol stipulates that young people under the age of eighteen may not be compulsorily recruited into a country’s armed forces. Germany ratified the Optional Protocol in 2004 and has been working hard since then to ensure its implementation.