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Child Solidiers

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Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello)

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Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello)

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Snippet Contents:

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 89 to 91 together.
The recruitment and use of child soldiers continues to be a serious problem and a matter of grave concern to Ireland and indeed the international community. The involvement of child soldiers has been reported in most recent armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world over the last two decades. Each year, the United Nations Secretary-General issues a report on children and armed conflict which lists all armed groups – both state and non-state – that recruit and use children. The most recent list includes 52 state and non-state armed groups operating across three continents. It is estimated that up to 300,000 children continue to be involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide, including, notably, in a number of internal and regional conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Against this background, international legal efforts to curb the practice of using children in armed conflict have been stepped up significantly. In 1996, the UN General Assembly voted to establish the post of Special-Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, tasked to serve as an independent advocate for the protection and well-being of boys and girls affected by armed conflict. In 1999, the UN Security Council passed its first Resolution highlighting the impact of armed conflict on children and condemning violations carried out in that context. With the adoption of nine Resolutions and several Presidential statements since then, the Security Council has developed important tools to strengthen child protection and to promote compliance with international standards.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 May 2000 and entered into force in 2002. It is considered the core international human rights treaty on child soldiers: It lays out clear standards relating to the recruitment and use of under-18s by state armed forces as well as non-state armed groups which, if fully implemented, provide a strong foundation for long-term prevention of unlawful recruitment and use of children, and for assisting those who have already became involved in armed conflict.
Ireland has engaged on this issue in various ways including, crucially, through the core work of our aid programme in addressing poverty and under-development – major root causes of this problem. Ireland has also supported more targeted and specific interventions from supporting agencies such as UNICEF and the International Criminal Court, to designing interventions in our bilateral programmes that address the needs of children affected by conflict.
We remain deeply committed to addressing this issue, as has been recently reflected in Ireland’s new Policy for International Development, ‘One World, One Future’, where we have pledged to increase our engagement on the issue of child soldiers and children in armed conflict. We are actively examining options for strengthened action in this area. We are also actively exploring ways in which we can use our membership at the UN Human Rights Council to support ongoing international efforts on this important issue.