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NZ triggers UN Treaty to ban child soldiers


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

14 November 2001

New Zealand triggers entry into force of UN Treaty to ban child soldiers

New Zealand has been the catalyst for the United Nations ‘child soldiers’ treaty gaining enough support for it to come into force, said Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

Mr Goff deposited the Instrument of Ratification with the UN in New York yesterday. Ten countries are required to ratify the ‘UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict’ to bring it into force. New Zealand became the tenth county to do so.

The Protocol aims to prohibit child soldiers, eighteen years and under, from participating directly in armed conflicts and hostilities. It also establishes a minimum age for compulsory and voluntary recruitment into the armed forces.

“This will hopefully be the beginning of the end to the appalling exploitation of children as soldiers. Children as young as seven-years-old are being used in armed conflict.

“Child soldiers are a notorious feature of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan, as well as conflicts in Sudan and Sierra Leone,” Mr Goff said.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 children under the age of eighteen are actively fighting as members of various armed forces in more than 30 countries.

New Zealand prohibits those members of the armed forces under eighteen years of age from active service. There is no conscription in New Zealand while voluntary recruits for the armed forces must be over seventeen years of age.

The Protocol will take effect from 12 February 2002.

ENDS

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