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The European Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, held in Berlin, Germany, from 18 to 20 October 1999:


Appalled that more than 300,000 children under 18 years of age are currently participating in armed conflicts worldwide, including thousands in Europe;


Recalling the principles of the best interests of the child, non-discrimination and comprehensive protection promoted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 191 states, including all the states in Europe;


Welcoming UN Security Council resolution 1261 and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to prohibit the recruitment and use of children as soldiers;


Welcoming the UN Secretary-General's recommendation to the Security Council that the minimum age for recruitment and participation in hostilities should be 18 years, as well as his decision that UN peacekeepers should be at least 21 years and in no case less than 18 years;


Welcoming the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court which makes the conscripting or enlisting of children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities a war crime, both in international and internal armed conflict and whether by armed forces or armed groups;


Welcoming the inclusion of forced or compulsory recruitment of children under 18 for use in armed conflict as one of the worst forms of child labour in the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (182);


Welcoming the Maputo (April 1999) and Montevideo (July 1999) Declarations on the Use of Children as Soldiers;


Welcoming the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the UN Working Group in 1998, that "national legislation should not be presented as an obstacle to the elaboration of more advanced international standards."


Encouraged by the changes in recruitment and deployment practices by some countries;


Welcoming the Declaration by the Nordic Foreign Ministers against the use of child soldiers (Reykjavik, Iceland, August 1999);


Concerned by the difficulties of peacekeeping operations in situations where child soldiers are present;


Recalling that all parties to an armed conflict are bound by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the prohibition on the recruitment and use in hostilities of children under 15 years;


Determined to put an end to the use of children under 18 in armed conflicts and internal strife:


1) Solemnly declares their commitment to establish international standards that prohibit all participation in armed conflict of persons under 18 years;


Respect and implementation of existing international law


2) Call on European States:

(i) to ratify and implement the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Victims of War and their two Additional Protocols, the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and 1967 Protocol, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Statute of the International Criminal Court, and ILO Convention 182, and that the relevant national authorities consider designating all recruitment and use in hostilities of under-18s as "work likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children" under Article 3(d) of that Convention;
(ii) to provide encouragement and technical assistance to other states to ratify and implement these standards and relevant regional standards;
(iii) to support the wide dissemination within their own countries and elsewhere of these standards;


(iv) who currently recruit under-18s to consider raising their recruitment age to at least 18 years and in the meantime to give priority to the oldest in accordance with Article 38(3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(v) to take steps to protect child soldiers from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment by any party to the conflict;
(vi) to ensure that neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age;
(vii) to ensure that any emergency legislation restricting civil liberties provides under-18s with adequate protections compatible with international standards on juvenile justice;

3) Encourages all relevant United Nations human rights mechanisms to work, within their mandate, with the issue of children in armed conflict.


Development of and adherence to new standards


4) Agrees that States shall ensure that no person under 18 years, within their armed forces, participates in armed conflict;


5) Calls on all European Governments:

(i) to take measures to ensure that children under their jurisdiction are protected against recruitment by non-state actors;
(ii) to train members of all peacekeeping forces in child rights and issues relating to child soldiers such as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration;
(iii) to implement the UN Secretary-General's minimum age limits for UN Peacekeepers in all peacekeeping operations;

Programmatic issues


6) Recommends that an international conference be held during the year 2000 to address all programmatic and implementation issues related to war affected children.


7) Calls on European Governments and appropriate regional organisations to provide assistance with:


(i) adopting early-warning mechanisms to enable advanced monitoring of any attempts to recruit or use children in armed conflict from vulnerable sectors of the population;
(ii) creating an international monitoring mechanism, which can provide yearly updates and national analysis on the legal standards on recruitment and deployment of children and the actual use of children in armed conflict;
(iii) adopting and implementing national plans to end recruitment of children under the age of 18, as well as their use in armed conflict;
(iv) promoting prevention programmes for children under 18 years who have participated in hostilities, focusing on
  • risk analysis
  • awareness raising
  • advocacy
  • providing alternatives such as education/vocational training/leisure activities
  • birth registration
  • incorporating the local community and the family in prevention work
  • understanding the local cultural, economic, social and political context of the region and taking it into full consideration in the planning and implementation of programmes benefitting children in armed conflict
  • family reunification in cases of separation
  • providing food and security to the children living in refugee camps and in conflict areas
  • relocating refugee camps away from conflict areas;


    (v) supporting information and awareness campaigns on the Convention on the Rights of the Child aimed at civil society, the armed forces, armed groups and peacekeeping forces focusing on the negative consequences that recruitment and deployment of children have on their development;
    (vi) recognising the link between the availability of small arms and child soldiers, urging governments and the EU to use political and economic influence on trade of small arms to prevent the use of child soldiers;
    (vii) carrying out effective international dialogue on the use of children as soldiers and the implementation of international standards;
    (viii) using development aid as means of protection of children in armed conflict.
    (ix) underlining the need to secure financial assistance to programmes for children in armed conflict, on a long term basis as well as an integral part of emergency responses;
    (x) ensuring that peace agreements recognise and make appropriate provision for the demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers, in the context of the programmes covering the needs of all war-affected children; in particular, that demobilised child soldiers are exempted from any future requirement to undertake compulsory military service, and that sensitive and gender-specific provision is made for girl soldiers.
    8) Calls on European Governments, in their external relations, to bring pressure to bear to prevent the recruitment of children and to bring about the demobilisation into safety of child soldiers, including during on-going conflict.


    9) Calls on all participants to disseminate this Declaration widely and to draw it to the attention of the relevant decision-makers, including OSCE, Council of Europe and European Union.


    10) Encourages States to support the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, the OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, the components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other humanitarian and human rights organisations and mechanisms with regard to children in armed conflict.


    Optional Protocol


    11) Urges all States to support and actively participate in the work of the UN working Group drafting the optional protocol on involvement of children in armed conflicts, with the aim of finalizing a strong and effective protocol in accordance with the principles of this declaration and applicable to both international and internal armed conflicts.




    12) Thanks all those who have enabled this conference to take place, including ECHO, UNICEF and other donors.


    13) Express their warm appreciation to the Government of Germany for hosting this Conference.


    Adopted in Berlin, 20 October 1999

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