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UNHCR welcomes Optional Protocol on child soldiers

Briefing notes

UNHCR welcomes Optional Protocol on child soldiers

12 February 2002

UNHCR joins other agencies and organizations today in welcoming the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children under 18 in armed conflict. Refugee children are among those at highest risk of illegal recruitment. Most are adolescents, but some are even below the age of 10. UNHCR was actively involved in advocacy work during the drafting process that led to the adoption of the Optional Protocol.

While the Optional Protocol sets a new international standard for the protection of refugee children from the scourge of military recruitment, our work is not finished. UNHCR continues to advocate wider ratification, as well as actual implementation in the field by those who have ratified it.

Refugee children and adolescents have the same rights and needs as other children. They deserve a fair chance, including rehabilitation and reintegration for former child soldiers. Refugee children must have access to food, education and other essentials so that they do not feel forced to join armed groups in order to meet basic needs.