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In 2015, some 300,000 child soldiers are estimated to have been involved in armed conflict around the world, of whom around one-third were forcibly recruited. This entry reviews briefly how a child is defined in international agreements; discusses the individual, cultural, and structural reasons why children become soldiers; and summarizes their various roles and the issue of their criminal responsibility in court. It concludes with an overview of the economic aspects of using child soldiers.

A series of international conferences have defined a child as anyone under the age of 18, including the Optional Protocol of 2000 (on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict) to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1997, a symposium sponsored by the United Nations Children’s ...

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