Protection from War

Protection from War

Your rights under the UNCRC

UNCRC, Article 38: It’s your right to be protected and to be free from war. Children under 15 can’t be forced to go into the army, or to take part in war.

Did you know?

  • Ireland is an independent, neutral country. This means we don’t take sides in wars.
  • In some countries, there is a compulsory military service. This means when young people are 18, they need to spend some months in the army learning to be a soldier. There is no military service in Ireland.
  • In May 2000, the UN General Assembly put together the Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). This treaty aims to protect children from being recruited and used in war situations.
  • 165 countries, including Ireland, have signed this protocol. The countries that have signed up to this protocol say they will not recruit children and young people under 18 to send them into war. It also says that countries will give children who have been used in war situations the support they need to help them recover.
  • According to the 2016 annual report of the UN’s Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, over 8,000 former child soldiers were released in 2015.
  • Children may be sent into conflicts to fight as child soldiers. They may also be used in conflicts in other ways that put their lives in danger – for example as cooks, porters, messengers and spies
  • Millions of people, including children, have had to leave where they live because of conflict and fighting. They are afraid to return home because of war, or because it isn’t safe for them to be there. When they get to a safer country, they claim asylum (protection) and they become asylum seekers. If they can prove that it is unsafe for them to return home, asylum seekers get refugee status, which means they can stay in the country.
  • In Ireland, asylum seekers must live in Direct Provision centres until it is decided if they can stay in Ireland or not. There are 1,221 children living in Direct Provision in Ireland.
  • In June 2017, the government decided to increase the allowance that children in Direct Provision get from €9.60 a week to €15.60.
  • While children in direct provision can go to school, adults in Direct Provision in Ireland can’t work. However, in May 2017, a Supreme Court ruling said it was ‘unconstitutional’ to not allow people to work in Ireland. The court has allowed the government 6 months to change the laws to allow adults in direct provision to work.
  • Since April 2017 the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) can receive complaints about Direct Provision made by or for children living there.

Hear your right – read by Keeva Ní Bhaoill


As Gaelige

Tá sé de cheart agat cosaint a fháil agus a bheith saor ó chogadh. Níl cead iallach a chur ar leanaí faoi bhun 15 mbliana d’aois dul san arm ná a bheith páirteach i gcogadh.

Éist le do chearta – léite ag Luke Ó Murchú

What children and young people are saying

  • “I think the right to know your human rights are very important because human rights were made for a reason, to protect us children from war and stuff that’s happening now. Water and food are things that you’re supposed to have. The right to know your human rights is a thing that you’re supposed to have.” – Timi (12)

    “I didn’t exactly know that the right that children weren’t allowed to be in war was allowed because so many children have been killed in war and it’s absolutely horrible, I didn’t really know that that was there.” – Emily (9)

    “Children can get killed if they’re in that war situation, lots of them and they live in poverty and they don’t get their childhood, they have to look after their younger siblings and act like an adult from a very young age. The right to be protected from war is important” – Tara (12)

Find out more

  • Peace Direct – Take a look at what young people in different parts of the world are doing to build peace
  • Peace Doves- Play the Peace Doves game
  • Cartoons for Children’s Rights – A short cartoon about children’s right to protection in times of war, made for Unicef’s Cartoons for Children’s Rights initiative
  • Children and Armed Conflict - More information about children affected by armed conflict is on this website of the UN’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
  • Children, Not Soldiers – Find out about the UN’s Children, Not Soldiers initiative to stop the use of children as soldiers in armed conflict

Explore More – Resource materials for Teachers & Educators

  • United Nations – ‘War, peace and human rights’. In Teaching Human Rights: Practical Activities for Primary and Secondary Schools (2004), pp.52-56.
  • Council of Europe – ‘The Battle for the Orange’. Activity for 8-13 year olds about conflict and conflict resolution. In Compasito. Manual on Human Rights Education for Children (2009), pp.166-167.
  • Amnesty International & Irish Aid – ‘Ishmael’s Story’. A resource for primary schools with a case study and learning activities about child soldiers. In Human Rights Stories (2012), pp. 31-39.
  • UNA-UK – ‘Child Rights and Armed Conflict’. Information and suggested activity to support young people to explore the issue of children in armed conflict. In Learning about Human Rights isn’t Optional. It’s Vital. (2008), pp.7-8.
  • UNICEF – ‘Fresh start after life as a child solder in Somalia’. Video (00:59 secs), February 2016.
  • UNICEF – ‘The dangerous boat ride to Greece through the eyes of a Syrian refugee girl’. Video (03:15 mins), November 2015
  • BBC and The Open University - Exodus: Our Journey to Europe is a documentary series, which records the stories of people, including children and families, as they travel from Syria and other countries to seek a new life in Europe (2016).