• BAAG welcomes Child Soldiers International to its membership

BAAG welcomes Child Soldiers International to its membership

19 April 2016

Child Soldiers International has joined the membership of BAAG, boosting the current number of full and observer members to 29.

Child Soldiers International was established in 1998 and began conducting research in Afghanistan in 2015. They seek to end the military recruitment and the use in hostilities, in any capacity, of any person under the age of 18 by state armed forces or non-state armed groups. Child Soldiers International advocate for the release of unlawfully recruited children, promote their successful reintegration into civilian life, and call for accountability for those who unlawfully recruit or use them.

Children are among the worst affected by the war in Afghanistan, amounting to almost a third of the 1943 civilian casualties recorded by the UN in the first quarter of 2016. After decades of conflict, severe poverty and a lack of other opportunities, children are being driven into the fighting on both sides.

According to Child Soldiers International, ‘recruitment and use of children in Afghanistan is triggered by a complex set of reasons including duty to the family, patriotism, honour and economic difficulties. Inadequate age verification procedures, low levels of birth registration and an easy ability to falsify identify documents facilitate recruitment into armed forces.’

Child Soldiers International is working to end the recruitment and use of children by all parties to the conflict. Through field research and advocacy, they aim to strengthen the government’s compliance with its commitments under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and the Joint Action Plan it signed with the UN in 2011. This includes working with Afghanistan’s partners to ensure that international support strengthens, rather than undermines, child protection initiatives.

Charu Lata Hogg is the Policy and Advocacy Director at Child Soldiers International: “We wanted to join BAAG due to the breadth of the organisation’s collective expertise, and the many opportunities the network offers for sharing knowledge and insights gained from members’ work in the country.”

Child Soldiers International has produced vital reports on the situation for Afghan children caught in the conflict, which are used by policy makers and rights experts as they try to understand and respond to their needs.  These include their March 2016 briefing on Ongoing Recruitment and Use of Children by Parties to the Armed Conflict in Afghanistan.

“I welcome Child Soldiers International's inclusion in our network,” says BAAG’s Director, Jawed Nader. “Sadly, the war between the pro and anti-government forces in Afghanistan has increased in recent years, with greater risks to children. Reports show that children are victimised in various forms. They are increasingly used by the belligerent groups as a weapon of war. Working with Child Soldiers International, BAAG will strive to reduce the dangers of war on Afghan children.”