Involving children in armed conflict: 20 years after the adoption of the OPAC – world

Joint statement by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, the European Parliament Intergroup on the Rights of the Child and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). In this context, the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, SEM Petit Chergui and the co-chair of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Rights of the Child *, Mr. David Lega * add their voices to the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict *, Ms. Virginia Gamba * to urge all member states to sign and ratify the OPAC and to keep the promise made to children two decades ago that they would not be involved in armed conflict. The adoption of the OPAC was a milestone and over the past 20 years has helped free over 145,000 boys and girls from armed forces and armed groups and prevent the recruitment and use of over millions. of children.

Since its adoption, the Optional Protocol has become a beacon to guide the efforts of States to end and prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict and to counter the lasting effects of conflict on children. “* As we celebrate this anniversary, we need to pause and remember what the world was like before the passage of OPAC *,” the three officials said. “* We must also take the time to note his remarkable accomplishments and his enormous potential for the next decade. Indeed, the Decade of Action calls for accelerating lasting solutions to the world’s greatest challenges; eradicating the recruitment and use of children allows * countries to focus on the real needs of children such as education, health care and future livelihood opportunities.

While the OPAC has paved the way for countries to ensure that children do not participate in hostilities, its relevance and implementation in today’s world remains essential, especially as countries seek to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The protection of children affected by conflict must be an active part of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus to ensure that children’s vulnerability is taken into account before, during and after conflicts. Ending and preventing the recruitment and use of children is only the first step: supporting the sustainable reintegration of released boys and girls into their communities is essential for their future, but also for the future of the whole community. company.

“* As we mark the 20th anniversary of the OPAC, we urge those Member States that are not yet party to the OPAC to become one, and to do so on behalf of their children and their future countries *” , said the three officials. “* We also urge states parties that have ratified the OPAC to implement the obligations contained in this treaty and ensure that they do not go unheeded. By ratifying the OPAC, member states commit to align their legal frameworks with international standards, pursue accountability for violations of children’s fundamental rights, and prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. With only 17 member states yet to become party to this important treaty, it is evident that universal ratification is more achievable than before * ”, they said.

“* The next twenty years must reflect the translation of OPAC’s commitments into concrete actions. We must ensure that children are not only freed from the threat of recruitment and use, but also have the opportunity to enjoy a better future and are not left without support and sustenance; children affected by conflict need our support in all aspects of their growth. The Optional Protocol must therefore remain our beacon and serves to remind us that if children are not allowed to be children and forced to participate in hostilities, not only have we disappointed them, but we have betrayed our own hopes for a future. better.* “

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Note to editors:

Adopted by the General Assembly on May 25, 2000, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002 and constitutes a commitment that States will not recruit or enlist children. under 18 to take part in hostilities.

As we speak, 170 states have become parties to the optional protocol; 17 countries have not ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol, while 10 have signed it but not ratified it.

Learn more about the Optional Protocol here: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/tools-for-action/opac/

List of States Parties to the Optional Protocol: https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-b&chapter=4&clang=_en

List of countries which have not signed or ratified: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/tools-for-action/opac/

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For more information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+ 1-212-963-5986 (office) / + 1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / [email protected]

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