Children’s rights

France’s actions for children’s rights

At the international level

France is a signatory of all international texts which protect and promote children’s rights, first and foremost the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (PDF 52.9 KB), which it signed and ratified in 1990, as well as its two Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2000) and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (PDF 2.27 MB) (2000).

On 7 January 2016, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, France ratified the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention. This Protocol allows children, whether represented or not, to submit communications to the Committee on the Rights of the Child when they believe that their rights, which are recognized by the Convention and its Protocols, have been violated.

In September 2012, France submitted its fifth periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the dedicated Committee. During the review of the report in January 2016, the Committee especially highlighted the constructive nature of the dialogue with the French delegation. In its conclusions, the Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomes the ratification of many international instruments, as well as the adoption of internal legislative measures to provide greater protection to children.

At European level

France played an active part in the adoption of the EU Guidelines on the Rights of the Child (2007) and of the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict (2003, revised in 2008).

It also helped launch the Council of Europe campaign to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse and was among the first signatories of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which came into force on 1 July 2010.

Protecting children in armed conflict

UNICEF has reported that 246 million children are living in countries or areas which are experiencing armed conflict, of whom 15 million are directly affected by combat and 13 million can no longer go to school due to conflicts in the Middle East region alone. Since 1999, the Security Council has adopted nine thematic resolutions addressing the plight of children in armed conflict. In particular, Resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005), adopted upon France’s initiative, create a monitoring and reporting mechanism for six types of violations against children’s rights and a Security Council working group responsible for monitoring these violations. These resolutions call on the parties to the conflicts who recruit children to their armed forces to draw up action plans to release and reintegrate these children. In June 2015, Security Council Resolution 2225, condemning the abduction of children, was adopted.

France chaired the Security Council working group on children and armed conflict from its creation in November 2005 until December 2008.

Ten years ago, in February 2007, in partnership with UNICEF, France organized the “Free Children from War” conference. Following this event, the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles, guidelines for combating the recruitment of children to armed forces, were adopted. Since then, they have been endorsed by 105 States.

  • Since 2000, 115,000 child soldiers have been freed, including 57,600 children between 2007 and 2015.
  • Over 8,000 children were freed in 2015.
To go further, on 21 February 2017, with UNICEF, France organized a ministerial conference on “Protecting Children from War” in order to assess the work carried out and relaunch international mobilization on this issue. Three new States endorsed the Paris Commitments and Principles upon the conclusion of this conference.

France supports the campaign “Children, Not Soldiers” launched by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and conducted with UNICEF.

  • Launched in March 2014 to work with the eight national security forces listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s annual report (Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen).
  • All these countries have signed action plans with the United Nations to put an end to and prevent the recruitment and use of children.
  • Chad fulfilled the requirements of its action plan and was removed from the list of annexes in the Secretary-General’s annual report in July 2014.

In practice, the French commitment has been reflected in concrete actions for the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers:

  • Over the 2008-2012 period, a €2 million multi-year cooperation programme to increase the protection of children in armed conflict in the African Great Lakes region helped about 13,000 children and demobilized some 2,000 child soldiers.

Through UNICEF and local NGOs (Kizito and Don Bosco), France has been supporting projects to help child soldiers in the Central African Republic since 2015:

  • In 2016-2017, reintegration projects for 125 children were financed by France in view of developing services for child soldiers, investing in their upbringing and vocational training, and encouraging their professional integration through specific support.
  • In 2017, France will also support a UNICEF project for “community protection for the children of Vakaga, including children associated with armed groups and other vulnerable children”, valued at €100,000, to strengthen children’s protection and supervision mechanisms and promote alternative opportunities to taking up arms for children associated with armed groups.

Over the 2014-2016 period, the Ministry’s Crisis and Support Centre provided €401,335 to UNICEF action to reintegrate child soldiers, as well as €84,092 to support local NGOs Bosco and Kizito.

Updated on : February 2017

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