It has been almost one year since Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, launched the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign. This two year effort “seeks to galvanize support to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by national security forces” in countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Yemen. Unfortunately, 2014 was a particularly devastating year for the millions of children around the world affected by violent conflict. As events in the Middle East, Ukraine and beyond amply demonstrate, protracted crises continue to uproot families, destroy homes and schools, and leave countless children vulnerable to armed violence.
One consequence of these conditions has been the increased recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed forces and militant groups. In 2013, the United Nations documented and verified more than 4,000 cases of child combatants worldwide. UNICEF also estimated that, as of December 2013, 6,000 child soldiers were actively involved in the armed conflict that continues to plague the Central African Republic (CAR). Consequently, children in some of the most fragile parts of the world remain vulnerable to forcible recruitment into national armies, paramilitaries, and militant groups. In this respect, the recruitment and use of child soldiers is tied to conflict and convenience, and even the most modest estimates suggest that tens of thousands of children are actively used as child soldiers today.
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