Children forced ‘to choose’ to become soldiers, new research suggests

Children forced ‘to choose’ to become soldiers, new research suggests 

  • New report finds many children are driven by desperation to join armed groups
  • Aid agency calls on governments to start with the right laws, refuse to tolerate the practice, and fund proven interventions such as education and peacebuilding to end the use of child soldiers
  • 13 of the world’s 20 wealthiest countries still recruit children into their armed forces

February 12 – New research from World Vision, released today, delves into where, why and how children are still being recruited into armed groups and conflict.

“It takes a world to end this practice, and we all have a part to play,” says Andrew Hassett, World Vision’s global campaigns director. “Thirty years after countries around the world committed to children’s rights through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we want to see more action taken to implement laws and practices that recognise children do not belong in armed groups, no matter what or where. In places where children are being forced to fight in adult wars, we want to see adequate resourcing of and increased priority given to prevention and response so children can have hope that a better life is possible.”   

World Vision’s new report, No Choice; It takes a world to end the use of child soldiers, based on research in Central African Republic and Colombia, explores what can be done to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. 

“We found that for so many children, there is no real choice. They are promised education, protection, a future, income for their families—things they can only dream of. They are lured with the idea of hope, of belonging. Once they are involved, escaping is difficult and fraught with danger,” says Hassett. 

“It is alarming to realise we live in a world where children sometimes see their best chance in life is joining an armed group. These children grow up invisible and ignored. 

“But we believe this is not inevitable. Our new research looks at ways governments can invest in preventing children being forced to join armed groups, in the hope that together we can end the recruitment of child soldiers. And our work with former child soldiers illustrates that there is hope for children who are forced into these situations.” 

An overview of the recruitment policies around the world also paints a disturbing picture. 

“Governments in 79 countries still allow for recruitment of children. The harshest offenders in 18 countries continue to recruit and use children in conflict, or fail to protect children from recruitment by non-state groups,” says Hassett. 

“Every day, we see first-hand the impact and extent of recruiting and using child soldiers, and we continue to advocate for an end to this.”

The organisation is calling for more attention and funding to be put into understanding this issue. 

“With tens or even hundreds of thousands of children being forced to join armed groups and forces every year, understanding where and how children are being recruited, why they feel they have no choice to join, and how we can end this particularly devastating form of violence against children is more important than ever,” says Hassett. 

Last year, more than 10,000 children were helped, by World Vision and others, after leaving armed groups, but as today’s research illustrates, more priority and resources need to be given to preventing their recruitment in the first place.


Notes to editors:

  • On Red Hand Day/International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, February 12 each year, World Vision joins partners around the world to advocate for an end to the use and abuse of children in conflict
  • The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), also known as the Child Soldier Treaty, is a multilateral agreement in which states agree to: 1) prohibit the conscription into the military of children under the age of 18; 2) ensure that military recruits are no younger than 16; and 3) prevent recruits aged 16 or 17 from taking a direct part in hostilities. The treaty also forbids non-state armed groups from recruiting anyone under the age of 18 for any purpose.
  • World Vision works around the wold toprevent the recruitment of child soldiers, and rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers.
  • World Vison believes no child (below the age of 18) should be recruited, including through conscription or voluntary enlistment, into either state or non-state armed forces, nor should they take any direct or indirect part in hostilities. It takes a world to end violence against children, and this includes an end to the use of children in armed forces. 

About World Vision

World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.