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Report: Conflicts using child soldiers declines

Associated Press

May 21, 2008

The number of conflicts in which child soldiers were involved dropped sharply from 27 in 2004 to 17 at the end of last year, according to a report by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

Despite the decline, the report said tens of thousands of children remain in the ranks of militias and other armed groups in at least 24 countries. It accused Myanmar of being the most persistent offender.

The report, released Tuesday, also said the number of governments that use children to fight fell only slightly from 10 in 2001-2004 to nine in 2004-2007.

Myanmar's armed forces, engaged in counterinsurgency operations against a range of armed ethnic groups, forcibly recruit boys under the age of 18 and contain thousands of children, some as young as 11 years old, the report said.

Children also took part in hostilities in government forces in other countries including Somalia, the Congo and Uganda, the report said.

But the report said the vast majority of child soldiers are in armed groups not connected to governments. It said tens of thousands of children were released from armies and armed groups during the 3 1/2-year period because long-running conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere ended.

Despite the international commitment to end child soldiering, "existing efforts are falling short," said the coalition's director, Victoria Forbes Adam.

The 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report documents military recruitment and use of child soldiers in 197 countries including their release and reintegration into society. It covers the period from April 2004 to October 2007 and considers anyone below the age of 18 in a government or nongovernment armed group a child soldier, whether or not an armed conflict exists.

Forbes Adams urged the international community to "make good on its pledge to end the use of children in armed conflict" by 2012, the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the international treaty on child soldiers.

The coalition was formed in 1998 by human rights and humanitarian organizations and its steering committee includes Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Save the Children Alliance, International Federation of the Rights of Man and Defense for Children International.

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