European Union External Action

Children's Rights: Children belong in schools, not frontlines

12/02/2018 - 15:23

February 12 marks International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers. Tens of thousands of boys and girls are associated with armed forces and groups in conflicts in over 20 countries around the world. The EU consistently condemns the use of child soldiers and manages and funds dozens of projects to support children affected by conflict.

child soldiers, human rights,
© Stefanie Glinski / AFP


Child soldiers are vulnerable victims forced into combat, exposed to high levels of violence. They are witnesses, victims or forced to commit acts of brutality, and are often rejected when they finally manage to get back to their communities.

Over 100,000 child soldiers have been released since 2000. The European Union and the United Nations continue to support efforts to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.

EU projects funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument support children associated with armed forces and groups, and children impacted by armed violence, including Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sudan, the Syrian Crisis, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen.


When the EU received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012, it decided to use the prize money (just under 1€ million) to create the EU Children of Peace initiative to fund humanitarian projects for children in crisis-affected regions. EU-funded projects in this area have provided children with access to schools where they can learn in a safe environment and receive psychological support to deal with their traumatic war experiences.

The EU's commitment to funding projects in the area of 'education in emergencies' did not stop with the Nobel Peace Prize. Every year since the launch of the EU Children of Peace initiative, the European Commission has increased its funding allocation for this sector. In 2016, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides decided to boost this funding to 4% of the annual humanitarian budget of the Commission (roughly €50 million).

Peace initiative, education


Education is one of the best tools to help girls and boys build a peaceful and prosperous future. It is crucial for both the development and protection of children affected by conflict. Educational activities provide girls and boys with psycho-social support and help create at least some sense of normality.

Despite continued progress, children growing up in countries affected by conflict are confronted to ever-more complex crises. It is essential to keep building and protecting the peace, even in the midst of crises, through services such as reintegration, education and health.

Children deserve a chance to get a good education and a place in society. Depriving a child of its rights is depriving a society of its future.