The Issue

Not Every Child Soldier Carries a Gun

In the Fight for the Frontline

Not Every Child Carries a Gun

The image of a young African boy holding a gun is often the first that comes to mind when we discuss the issue of child soldiers. However, not every child soldier carries a gun in the fight for the frontline. Unlike professional armies and soldiers, the roles that children will fill as child soldiers are not always clearly defined. Today they could be pushed into combat as a soldier at the front, while tomorrow they are expected to provide at the camp as cooks, porters or sex slaves.

#weaponsofwar aims to raise awareness about the large number of roles child soldiers undertake across the globe and breaks the common iconography that all child soldiers carry guns.

Why was 2014...

The Most Devastating Year for Children?

UNICEF at the conclusion of 2014 noted that the year had “been one of horror, fear and despair for millions of children, as worsening conflicts across the world saw them exposed to extreme violence and its consequences, forcibly recruited and deliberately targeted by warring groups”

“This has been a devastating year for millions of children. Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”


Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF

Key Stats from 2014 on the Affects of Armed Conflict on Children

The Scope

230 million children currently live in countries affected by armed conflict.

Affected By Armed Conflict

15 million of these children are directly affected by armed conflict in some capacity

Children Used as Child Soldiers

Children serve as child soldiers in 13 different countries and one region, by 7 state armies and 50 armed groups.

Who is a Child Soldier?

The Paris Principles on Children and Armed Conflict

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative defines a child soldier using the 2007 Paris Principal and Guidelines on Children Affected by Armed Conflict. Using the definition within the Paris Principles of a child used and associated with armed groups, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative defines a child soldier as:


“Any person below 18 years of age who is or has been recruited or used by an armed group in any capacity including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking part or has taken a direct part in direct hostilities”

Where are Child Soldiers Used?


Each year the Special Representative for the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC) releases its report on children and armed conflict. In 2015, the SRSG CAAC identified 13 countries and one region where child soldiers are used. In total, the SRSG identified 7 state armies, which use child soldiers along with 50 non-state armed actors.

While anecdotal evidence points to children used as child soldiers in other contexts, the SRSG CAAC report represents unequivocal evidence of children being used as weapons of war.

In addition to the annual report, the SRSG releases ongoing reports and conclusions for each state where child soldiers continue to be used and countries of interest. In 2014, the SRSG CAAC launched the campaign #childrennotsoldiers which aims to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by state armies by 2016. The Dallaire Initiative is an implementing partner of this campaign.


CS Use

The Current International Response

Why is it Falling Short?


The global response to this phenomenon has been largely reactive, focused on the disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers. The contemporary use of children as weapons of war continues to challenge the international community. Often left picking up the pieces after the child has served as a soldier, we have failed to protect the child, and ultimately prevent their recruitment and use as a child soldier in the first place. Tackled from a humanitarian approach, the security sector actor is not included in the international response or solution to the issue.
Through taking a security sector approach, we compliment international efforts, including child protection, international law, and demobilization, disarmament and reintegration programs. Through engaging with the security sector actors, who are often the first point of contact for child soldiers in the field, we can create a comprehensive international response that enables us to take a preventive approach to the issue of children used as weapons of war.