According to the Paris Principles on children associated with armed forces or groups, a child soldier is anyone under age 18 “who is or who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity”, which includes any non-combat roles.
Last Sunday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC agreed to release all soldiers under the age of 15. The announcement to end child recruitment was done on February, but until now it wasn't clear what would happen to the already recruited children.
FARC is Colombian largest guerrilla group, and since 2012 they are in talks with the government leas by Juan Manuel Santos to stop the five-decade war that has left more than 220,000 deaths and where at least 6,000 children have been recruited.
Minors will be recognized as victims and their reintegration to society, the acknowledgement of their rights and integrity will be prioritized. More so, children under 14 won't be held responsible for crimes as long as there is no impediment by the Colombian law.
The agreement obliges FARC to stop all recruitment for people under 18, release information about all minors under 15 in their command and release the children after a protocol for their reintegration to civilian life is established.
“UNICEF stands ready to support the release of all children and their reintegration into their families and communities, in accordance with national and international law,” the UN agency's representative to Colombia, Roberto de Bernardi, said in a statement.
Both parts agreed on UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration OIM to follow the process.
But armed groups are not the only responsible for child recruitment, some state militaries recruit children too. According to an IRIN's article in Britain, Yemen, South Sudan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo children are still recruited.
Army can recruit children 16+ as long as they have a parental consent. In the Gulf war in 1991, 17 years old were deployed, as well as in Kosovo during 1999, but army subsequently barred anyone under 18 from combat. According to Child Soldiers International the recruitment process doesn't guarantee the consent has been given.
In 2014 Yemen signed an UN action plan to end child recruitment by their armed forces. Unfortunately, the last 13 months of war have put the plan on hold and the number of children involved in the conflict has increased.
UNICEF estimates one third of people fighting in Yemen are children, both for Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. According to Human Right's Watch in the last year the Houthis have intensified their use of children as fighters, runners, scouts and guards.
When the country entered into civil war in December 2013 child recruitment began anew despite being considered as illegal even before the country split from Sudan. According to UNICEF as much as 16,000 children have been used by government and rebel forces. In a 2015 report, Human Rights Watch named more than 15 commanders and officials from both sides using child soldiers.
In 2012 the military signed a joint action with the UN to demobilize all child soldiers. They've been sporadically released over the last four years, most recently in March. It is a difficult task as many family send their children to the military for financial reasons. Also, recruitment may continue in remote areas despite there being a hotline for reporting child soldiers. The UN has listed 7 non state groups in the country that use child soldiers.
The Democratic Republic of Congo:
More than 30,000 children were released from the National Army between 2004 and 2006 as part of a military reform process following a 2002 peace agreement. The war didn't end, and measures were unsuccessful. Recruitment continues today and children are serving both in the armed forces and rebel groups, according to Child Soldiers International.