On the occasion of the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, Belgium reaffirms its long-term commitment to promoting the protection of the rights of children in conflict.

The brutality of armed conflicts affects millions of children worldwide. Armed groups or government armies recruit them as child soldiers. In addition, tens of thousands of children are not only used as combatants, they are often abused by whoever deploys them. Many of them, especially girls, are also victims of sexual violence.

Combating the recruitment and the use of children in armed conflict has long been a priority of Belgian foreign policy. Belgium, under the leadership of Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, is making a global effort to set the problem high on the agenda.

“That children are involved in armed conflicts is unacceptable and avoidable. Children become embroiled in warfare because of conscious and unconscious decisions made by adults. The fight against the abuse and exploitation of children in armed conflicts requires sustained action and unrelenting political pressure. Belgium is committed to this, all over the world.”

Belgium is committed on several fronts in the fight against child rights violations. For example, Belgium is a member of a group of like-minded countries fighting against violations of children’s rights in armed conflict. In Geneva (Switzerland) and in Bamako (Mali), our country co-chairs that group, just as it did during its mandate in the UN Security Council in 2019 and 2020. During the UN General Assembly last September, Belgium also organized a high-level event on children in conflict.

Also within the European Union (EU) and NATO, Belgium is committed to promoting the rights of children in armed conflict. Belgium, together with the Netherlands and Luxembourg, has taken an initiative within the EU on promoting the protection of children’s rights in conflicts. These proposals are part of the implementation of the UN mandate Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) and the alignment of the objectives of this mandate on the European foreign policy to increase the protection of children in conflict.

Finally, our country makes a financial contribution to UNICEF’s so-called ‘monitoring and reporting mechanism’ (MRM), which collects information on child rights violations in armed conflict. Highlighting child rights violations and denouncing perpetrators are crucial steps in addressing the problem.