Human Rights Committee Background Statement

Issue: Child Soldiers in West Africa
Chair: Carl-Philip Majgaard
Across the globe children are exploited and used as combatants in armed conflict. These children are informally referred to as “child soldiers”. Children being used as soldiers comprise a serious issue that must be addressed, but for an issue to be addressed, it must be broken down into smaller pieces. Therefore this topic will specifically concern the use of child soldiers in West Africa. Recently in a United Nations report, the most frequent users of child soldiers were identified and listed. Every day children are kidnapped, brainwashed, and commonly used as frontline infantry. Children are primarily used for their fearlessness, and if they aren’t fearless enough they are often given drugs to “numb” and “cloud” their sense of judgment. “In Sierra Leone, for instance, a volatile mixture of cocaine and gunpowder was often given to children to make them fearless in battle” ("Children and Armed").

There has been high debate over the past years about the legal recruitment age for militaries. The United Nations has been highly involved on this issue. Children down to the ages of eleven are recruited for armed combat, and often return scarred for life. About 250,000 children under the age of 18 are believed to be deployed in conflicts and thousands more are members of armed forces who could be deployed into combat at any time. The majority of these kids are between the ages of thirteen and sixteen depending on where these children are in battle. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), children are used frequently to patrol areas. The Gen Nkunda rebel forces are said to be the largest child soldier using force in the Congo.

"One child told me that they are scared to go back to school for fear of being attacked. For these children, getting an education is their only hope for the future. If they can't go to school, they lose that hope." (Berger). These children are not given educational resources, nor rest and leisure. These two statements interfere with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UHDR). These children are being denied several rights stated in the UHDR, but are also under the official age of recruitment proclaimed by the UN which so happens to be fifteen. Not only are these children deprived of their childhood, but they are many times also sexually assaulted in effort to force them to take part the militias that kidnapped them.

Many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) as well as governments have made an effort to get the children released from their lives as forced combatants. Even though progress has been made by action plans to release child soldiers being made in a number of situations of concern, such as in in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda children are still being used as child soldiers and being mistreated in too many places across the globe. Children are rarely released from these dirty jobs until they become useless to the militia of military that they “work” for. Estimated numbers show that over 2 million children have been killed in armed conflicts, another 6 million have been left permanently disabled, and still 250,000 children continue to be exploited as child soldiers.

Camps sponsored by both UNICEF and Save the Children have been set up across the globe to aid the children who have been both mentally and physically wounded in battle. There, the children are provided food, shelter, education, and counseling to aid them and try to aid back into regular society where they can hopefully live a live without the memories of their grim experiences they had during their term of service. These camps have been of great aid to children who have been exposed to such violence as killing another human.

The main debate over this issue is not about who should be punished, it is about when children are at the right age for recruiting into an armed force. Also there is much debate over how these children should be released and if not, why? The legal recruitment age of 15 that has been set by various nations as a norm collides with cultural differences, such as when a boy becomes a man, and when a child should fight for a nation. Peace between two parties much be achieved to secure that the children are raised in a safe environment where they won’t be forced to get blood on their hands in order to improve the agenda of adults.

Questions to Consider:

1. Why might culture collide with law in this issue?
2. Should the legal recruiting age be changed?
3. Why might children be used instead of adults for such jobs?
4. Should NGO’s be allowed to take action to get the children released?
5. Who are the main users of child soldiers?

Works Cited

Berger, Sebastian. “Child Soldiers recrcuited during Congo fighting.” Telegraph. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2010.
“Children and Armed Conflict.” Children and Armed Conflict. The United Nations, n.d. Web. 24 May 2010. <>.
Children and Armed Conflict. New York: n.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2010. <>.
“Child Soldiers.” Amnesty USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2010. <
“Military Use of Children.” Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2010. <>.
Wessels, Mike. “Child Soldiers.” Street Children., n.d. Web. 5 May 2010. <>.