Armed conflict

| Armed conflicts | Refugee children |

What are children’s rights in armed conflict? Why are they important? 

War has a horrific impact on individuals and communities all around the world. Put simply: armed conflicts kill people.

More and more civilians, including children, are being subjected to the violence of war and are being killed and severely injured, not to mention suffering the long term mental health scars that conflicts cause.

Armed conflicts can take over societies, cutting off access to healthcare and other vital infrastructure, preventing children from going to school and splitting up families.

Children around the world are still recruited into armed forces, and rape and sexual assault against children continue to be used as a ‘weapon’ of war.

The UN Security Council annually publishes a "naming and shaming" list of the worst State offenders when it comes to children’s rights in armed conflicts. Read more about the Security Council’s work on children in armed conflict.

War crimes tribunals, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC), play a key role in giving survivors of rights abuses in armed conflicts access to justice.

There is a specific UN treaty on the rights of children in armed conflicts, called the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Relevant articles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) dealing with armed conflict are:

  • Armed conflicts (article 38): States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that children under 15 years of age have no direct part in hostilities. No child below 15 shall be recruited into the armed forces. States shall also ensure the protection and care of children who are affected by armed conflict as described in relevant international law.
  • Refugee children (article 22): Special protection shall be granted to a refugee child or to a child seeking refugee status. It is the State's obligation to co- operate with competent organisations which provide such protection and assistance.

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