Child Soldiers International (formerly the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers) works to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilisation and to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
When the Armed Forces Bill was in Parliament in 2011, Child Soldiers International together with a number of leading children’s rights organizations called on Parliament to amend Article 323(2)(c) of the 2006 Armed Forces Act in order to implement a total prohibition on the enlistment of any person below the age of 18. At present, Article 323(2)(c) allows under-18s to enlist if they have the consent of a parent or legal guardian. The prohibition on under-18 recruitment could be implemented in phases to allow for adaptations if necessary.
Catch 16-22: Recruitment and retention of minors in the British Armed Forces
This report, published by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "challenges the status quo currently surrounding the situation of young people in the UK armed forces today. It questions the ethics and legality of the restrictions on young recruits’ rights of discharge, their minimum period of service, and their exposure to the risk of hostilities. The report also makes the case for a considered review and debate on the minimum recruitment age. It highlights the evidence that not only is the experience of recruits in the 16 – 18 age bracket adversely affected by their relative lack of maturity, but that their high drop-out rate results in millions of pounds in wasted expenditure."
Mind the Gap: Education for minors in the British armed forces
The minimum recruitment age for the British armed forces – 16 years – is one of the lowest in the world. The Ministry of Defence has traditionally justified recruiting from this age group by asserting that 16 years reflects the minimum statutory school leaving age.
This report concludes that the impact of recruitment below the age of 18 opens up a number of gaps that have long term significance, not only for the armed forces but also for the young people that they recruit. At a time of considerable downsizing of the army in particular, the large gap between the cost of training minors (who cannot be deployed operationally) and adults (who can) is difficult to sustain. But perhaps the most significant cost is in the detrimental impact that the gaps identified have on the future prospects of minors recruited by our armed forces.
Download the report
Child Soldiers International also publishes the Child Soldiers Global Report. In the 2008 survey of under 18s in the UK military, the report stated that:
"The UK appeared to intensify its efforts to recruit under-18s with a range of recruitment methods during the reporting period, at the same time strengthening safeguards for their protection."
Read the UK report