Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 54/263 of 25 May 2000
entry into force 12 February 2002
The States Parties to the present Protocol,
Encouraged by the overwhelming support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
demonstrating the widespread commitment that exists to strive for the promotion and protection of
the rights of the child,
Reaffirming that the rights of children require special protection, and calling for continuous
improvement of the situation of children without distinction, as well as for their development and
education in conditions of peace and security,
Disturbed by the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on children and the long-term
consequences it has for durable peace, security and development,
Condemning the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict and direct attacks on objects
protected under international law, including places that generally have a significant presence of
children, such as schools and hospitals,
Noting the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, in particular, the
inclusion therein as a war crime, of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or
using them to participate actively in hostilities in both international and non-international armed
Considering therefore that to strengthen further the implementation of rights recognized in the
Convention on the Rights of the Child there is a need to increase the protection of children from
involvement in armed conflict,
Noting that article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that, for the purposes of
that Convention, a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law
applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier,
Convinced that an optional protocol to the Convention that raises the age of possible recruitment of
persons into armed forces and their participation in hostilities will contribute effectively to the
implementation of the principle that the best interests of the child are to be a primary consideration
in all actions concerning children,
Noting that the twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in
December 1995 recommended, inter alia, that parties to conflict take every feasible step to ensure
that children below the age of 18 years do not take part in hostilities,
Welcoming the unanimous adoption, in June 1999, of International Labour Organization
Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst
Forms of Child Labour, which prohibits, inter alia, forced or compulsory recruitment of children
for use in armed conflict,
Condemning with the gravest concern the recruitment, training and use within and across national
borders of children in hostilities by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a State, and
recognizing the responsibility of those who recruit, train and use children in this regard,
Recalling the obligation of each party to an armed conflict to abide by the provisions of
international humanitarian law,
Stressing that the present Protocol is without prejudice to the purposes and principles contained in
the Charter of the United Nations, including Article 51, and relevant norms of humanitarian law,
Bearing in mind that conditions of peace and security based on full respect of the purposes and
principles contained in the Charter and observance of applicable human rights instruments are
indispensable for the full protection of children, in particular during armed conflicts and foreign
Recognizing the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or
use in hostilities contrary to the present Protocol owing to their economic or social status or
Mindful of the necessity of taking into consideration the economic, social and political root causes
of the involvement of children in armed conflicts,
Convinced of the need to strengthen international cooperation in the implementation of the present
Protocol, as well as the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of
children who are victims of armed conflict,
Encouraging the participation of the community and, in particular, children and child victims in the
dissemination of informational and educational programmes concerning the implementation of the
Have agreed as follows:
States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who
have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.
States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not
compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.
1. States Parties shall raise the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons into their
national armed forces from that set out in article 38, paragraph 3, of the Convention on the Rights
of the Child, taking account of the principles contained in that article and recognizing that under the
Convention persons under the age of 18 years are entitled to special protection.
2. Each State Party shall deposit a binding declaration upon ratification of or accession to the
present Protocol that sets forth the minimum age at which it will permit voluntary recruitment into
its national armed forces and a description of the safeguards it has adopted to ensure that such
recruitment is not forced or coerced.
3. States Parties that permit voluntary recruitment into their national armed forces under the age of
18 years shall maintain safeguards to ensure, as a minimum, that:
(a) Such recruitment is genuinely voluntary;
4. Each State Party may strengthen its declaration at any time by notification to that effect
addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall inform all States Parties. Such
notification shall take effect on the date on which it is received by the Secretary-General.
(b) Such recruitment is carried out with the informed consent of the person's parents or
(c) Such persons are fully informed of the duties involved in such military service;
(d) Such persons provide reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into national military
5. The requirement to raise the age in paragraph 1 of the present article does not apply to schools
operated by or under the control of the armed forces of the States Parties, in keeping with articles
28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
1. Armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State should not, under any
circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.
2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the
adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices.
3. The application of the present article shall not affect the legal status of any party to an armed
Nothing in the present Protocol shall be construed as precluding provisions in the law of a State
Party or in international instruments and international humanitarian law that are more conducive to
the realization of the rights of the child.
1. Each State Party shall take all necessary legal, administrative and other measures to ensure the
effective implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the present Protocol within its
2. States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the present Protocol widely
known and promoted by appropriate means, to adults and children alike.
3. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons within their jurisdiction
recruited or used in hostilities contrary to the present Protocol are demobilized or otherwise
released from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to such persons all appropriate
assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.
1. States Parties shall cooperate in the implementation of the present Protocol, including in the
prevention of any activity contrary thereto and in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of
persons who are victims of acts contrary thereto, including through technical cooperation and
financial assistance. Such assistance and cooperation will be undertaken in consultation with the
States Parties concerned and the relevant international organizations.
2. States Parties in a position to do so shall provide such assistance through existing multilateral,
bilateral or other programmes or, inter alia, through a voluntary fund established in accordance
with the rules of the General Assembly.
1. Each State Party shall, within two years following the entry into force of the present Protocol
for that State Party, submit a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child providing
comprehensive information on the measures it has taken to implement the provisions of the
Protocol, including the measures taken to implement the provisions on participation and
2. Following the submission of the comprehensive report, each State Party shall include in the
reports it submits to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in accordance with article 44 of the
Convention, any further information with respect to the implementation of the Protocol. Other
States Parties to the Protocol shall submit a report every five years.
3. The Committee on the Rights of the Child may request from States Parties further information
relevant to the implementation of the present Protocol.
1. The present Protocol is open for signature by any State that is a party to the Convention or has
2. The present Protocol is subject to ratification and is open to accession by any State. Instruments
of ratification or accession shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
3. The Secretary-General, in his capacity as depositary of the Convention and the Protocol, shall
inform all States Parties to the Convention and all States that have signed the Convention of each
instrument of declaration pursuant to article 3.
1. The present Protocol shall enter into force three months after the deposit of the tenth instrument
of ratification or accession.
2. For each State ratifying the present Protocol or acceding to it after its entry into force, the
Protocol shall enter into force one month after the date of the deposit of its own instrument of
ratification or accession.
1. Any State Party may denounce the present Protocol at any time by written notification to the
Secretary- General of the United Nations, who shall thereafter inform the other States Parties to the
Convention and all States that have signed the Convention. The denunciation shall take effect one
year after the date of receipt of the notification by the Secretary-General. If, however, on the
expiry of that year the denouncing State Party is engaged in armed conflict, the denunciation shall
not take effect before the end of the armed conflict.
2. Such a denunciation shall not have the effect of releasing the State Party from its obligations
under the present Protocol in regard to any act that occurs prior to the date on which the
denunciation becomes effective. Nor shall such a denunciation prejudice in any way the continued
consideration of any matter that is already under consideration by the Committee on the Rights of
the Child prior to the date on which the denunciation becomes effective.
1. Any State Party may propose an amendment and file it with the Secretary-General of the United
Nations. The Secretary-General shall thereupon communicate the proposed amendment to States
Parties with a request that they indicate whether they favour a conference of States Parties for the
purpose of considering and voting upon the proposals. In the event that, within four months from
the date of such communication, at least one third of the States Parties favour such a conference,
the Secretary-General shall convene the conference under the auspices of the United Nations. Any
amendment adopted by a majority of States Parties present and voting at the conference shall be
submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations for approval.
2. An amendment adopted in accordance with paragraph 1 of the present article shall enter into
force when it has been approved by the General Assembly and accepted by a two-thirds majority
of States Parties.
3. When an amendment enters into force, it shall be binding on those States Parties that have
accepted it, other States Parties still being bound by the provisions of the present Protocol and any
earlier amendments they have accepted.
1. The present Protocol, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts
are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations.
2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit certified copies of the present
Protocol to all States Parties to the Convention and all States that have signed the Convention.