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Statement on the Geneva Protocol on Child Soldiers

January 21, 2000

Today the United States joined a consensus in Geneva on the text of a protocol that addresses the problem of child soldiers. I am very pleased with the final result, and I look forward to the early adoption of the protocol by the United Nations.

The forcible recruitment of very young children—some no more than 9 or 10 years old— into an increasing number of civil wars and other conflicts shocks the conscience and shames humanity. By addressing forced recruitment and the conduct of armed rebel groups, this agreement strikes at the heart of the problem of child soldiers. Countries that become parties to the protocol would prohibit the use of soldiers under 18 by non-state forces and would cooperate in rehabilitating and reintegrating child soldiers into society.

The protocol also deals in a realistic and reasonable way with the issue of minimum ages for conscription, voluntary recruitment, and participation in hostilities by national armed forces. The protocol would establish an 18-year minimum age for compulsory recruitment; require parties to raise their minimum age for voluntary recruitment to an age above the current 15year international standard; and require parties to take all feasible measures to ensure that armed forces personnel who are not yet 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities.

This protocol is an important advance for human rights. At the same time, it fully protects the military recruitment and readiness requirements of the United States. I am committed to a speedy process of review and signature and to working with the Senate on this historic achievement to protect the world's children.

NOTE: The statement referred to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts, adopted on January 21 by a working group of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

William J. Clinton, Statement on the Geneva Protocol on Child Soldiers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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