Areas of Work

Child Soldiers

In the 1970s, QUNO worked to raise public awareness about the issue of child soldiers, its causes and consequences, and to develop international standards to prohibit the military recruitment and use in combat of people under 18 years of age, whether in government armed forces or in other armed groups.

In the 1980s, QUNO’s child soldiers work focused more heavily on girl soldiers and on why children volunteer as soldiers.

QUNO's activities included working towards the adoption of:

  • the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (adopted in 2000) and
  • the prohibition of military use of children in the International Labour Organisation’s Worst  Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182) (adopted in 1999).

In support of these efforts, QUNO carried out research on child soldiers, including for the UN Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (known as the Machel Study).

In 1998 QUNO helped to found the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and served on its Steering Committee for many years. With the creation of the Coalition, QUNO laid down its Child Soldiers work.

More information about the past work of the Coalition and its successor Child Soldiers International, which was closed by 2019, can be found at .
See also Rachel Brett & Margaret McCallin: Children the Invisible Soldiers (Stockholm, Rädda Barnen, 1996, 2nd ed. 1998).  Rachel Brett & Irma Specht: Young Soldiers: Why They Choose to Fight (ILO/Lynne Rienner, 2004).

Recent Timeline Events

May 2012

Swarthmore Lecture by Rachel Brett

Rachel Brett delivered the Swarthmore lecture at Britain Yearly Meeting on 26 May. Entitled Snakes and Ladders, it described Quaker work on human rights at the United Nations.

This work has brought real change for many, including conscientious objectors and child soldiers. The Swarthmore Lectureship, established in 1907, provides for the publication of a book as well as the public lecture. For information about the book and how to order it please email us at

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