ARMED OPPOSITION GROUPS: Military forces that oppose the official government. They may operate openly, or secretly as guerrillas, and often hold a distinct political ideology or are identified with a particular geographic area, religion, or ethnic groups that their recruits do not necessarily share.
CHILD LABOUR: Work performed by children, often under hazardous or exploitative conditions. This does not include all work done by kids—children everywhere, for example, do chores to help their families. The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for protection "…against economic exploitation and against carrying out any job that might endanger well-being or educational opportunities, or that might be harmful to health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development" (CRC, Article 32).
CHILD SOLDIER: While there is no precise definition the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers considers a child soldier "... any person under 18 years of age who is a member of or attached to the armed forces or an armed group, whether or not there is an armed conflict. Child soldiers may perform tasks ranging from direct participation in combat; military activities such as scouting, spying, sabotage, acting as decoys, couriers or guards; training, drill and other preparations; support functions such as portering and domestic tasks; sexual slavery and forced labour."
(Child Soldiers Global Report, 2004, p.15)
See Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts for additional age limitations regarding the use of children as soldiers.
CONVENTION: Binding agreement between countries/States; used synonymously with treaty. Conventions are legally binding for the governments that have signed them. When the UN General Assembly adopts a convention, it creates international norms and standards. Once a convention is adopted by the UN General Assembly, Member States can then ratify the convention, promising to uphold it. Governments that violate the standards set forth in a convention can then be censured by the UN.
CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (CRC) (adopted 1989; entered into force 1990): Convention setting forth a full spectrum of civil, cultural, economic, social, and political rights for children.
DECLARATION: Sometimes States make "declarations" to clarify their interpretation of a particular phrase or section in a treaty. Unlike reservations, declarations merely clarify the State's position and do not claim to exclude or modify the legal effect of a treaty. Usually, declarations are deposited at the same time States deposit their Instrument of Ratification with the UN Secretary-General.
DEMOBILIZATION: The process by which participants in an armed conflict are released from the military and begin the transformation into civilian life. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that after completing the necessary process of documentation at the encampment site, child soldiers should be transferred as soon as possible to an interim care site under civilian control that is far from conflict zones in order to prevent renewed recruitment. Immediate separation from adult soldiers is the most efficient way to protect children from further abuse at the time of demobilization.
OPTIONAL PROTOCOL:A legal instrument that allows governments who have ratified a treaty to decide whether they wish to accept the amendments included in a protocol.
OPTIONAL PROTOCOL TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD ON THE INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICTS (OP) (adopted by the UN General Assembly 25 May 2000; entered into force 12 February 2002): Raises the minimum age from 15 to 18 years for compulsory recruitment and for any recruitment by non-governmental armed groups. Also requires governments to raise the minimum age for any voluntary military recruitment above 15 years and to implement safeguards for those under 18 years of age as part of the ratification process.
PARAMILITARY FORCES: Military groups usually operating outside the law, often with less organised training. They may be tolerated or even supported by official military or police forces.
PROTOCOL: A legal instrument that amends or modifies an existing treaty or convention. A protocol typically 1) adds new rights or modifies existing rights; 2) sets up or modifies implementation mechanisms.
RATIFICATION, RATIFY: The process of adopting a treaty whereby a State indicates its consent to be bound by the terms the treaty. In the case of multilateral treaties, the usual procedure includes: having the legislative body of a country/State confirm its government's action in signing a treaty; amending/adapting current national laws to reflect the articles of the treaty; depositing an Instrument of Ratification, Acceptance or Approval or an Instrument of Accession at the UN’s Secretary General’s office. Some treaties also allow countries to deposit Declarations and Reservations at the time of ratification. Each treaty sets a minimum number of States that must ratify it before it can enter into force.
RECRUITMENT: : "Refers to three different means by which persons become members of armed forces or armed groups: compulsory, voluntary, and forcible. …Compulsory recruitment is defined in national legislation and thus typically applies to regular conscript armed forces. Voluntary recruitment is usually regulated by law or policy and occurs without conscription or force. Forcible recruitment entails the use of force outside the law, for instance in the form of abduction or other duress. It is important to note that the lines between compulsory, voluntary, and forced recruitment are often blurred. Children may be subjected to various political and economic pressures that provide them with little alternative than to 'voluntarily' join armed forces of armed group." (Child Soldiers Global Report, 2004 p. 355)
REINTEGRATION: The process which allows ex-combatants and their families to adapt, economically and socially, to productive civilian life. When child combatants are demobilized, essential services such as health, counseling, and psychosocial support are provided at a civilian interim care site. One of the goals of reintegration is to help child soldiers reunite with their families. Girls or women who have suffered sexual abuse, have been forced to participate in violence, or have had to bear children to their victimizers may risk rejection by their communities. Special intervention measures are often needed to respond to the needs of girl soldiers. A minimum three-year commitment of resources and staff is generally necessary to ensure child-soldier reintegration.
RESERVATION: A statement made by a State by which it claims to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain parts of a treaty. It enables States to accept a multilateral treaty by giving it the possibility not to apply certain provisions with which it does not want to comply. However, reservations must not be incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty. Reservations can be deposited with the UN Secretary-General when a treaty is signed, ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to. Not all treaties allow reservations.
Any State that is party to a treaty has the right to accept, object, or oppose a reservation that is deposited by another State. When a State deposits a reservation, it is not legally bound by the treaty until at least one other State Party accepts its reservation.
TREATY: Formal agreement between countries/States that defines their mutual duties and obligations; used synonymously with convention. When conventions are adopted by the UN General Assembly, they create legally binding international obligations for the Member States who have ratified the treaty. When a national government ratifies a treaty, the articles of that treaty become part of its domestic legal obligations.
Adapted from Condé, H. Victor. A Handbook of International Human Rights Terminology. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
Mertus, Julie et. al. Local Action/Global Change. New York, NY: Center for Women's Global Leadership (Global Center) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), 1999.
United Nations Treaty Collection, “Definition of key terms used in the UN Treaty Collection,” http://untreaty.un.org/english/guide.asp
Felicity O. Yost. Source:
Marie, In the Shadow of the Lion, by Jerry Piasecki. ©
United Nations, 2001