Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 08:34 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Finland

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Finland, 2001, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 5.165.000
    – under-18s: 1.144.000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 31,700
    – reserves: some 485,000
    – paramilitary: 3,400
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: none indicated
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 7 September 2000; supports "straight-18" position
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II; ICC; ILO 138; ILO 182
  • There are no indications of under-18s in government armed forces. Finland has recently changed its legislation to prohibit all recruitment of under 18-year-olds. The recruitment of children by armed groups and use of children in hostilities have been criminalised.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

The Defence Forces and their activities are governed by the Act on the Defence Forces, passed in 1974. In terms of national security as a whole, the key legislation comprises the Readiness Act and the State of Defence Act both passed in 1991.704 Article 75 of the 1919 Constitution states: "Every Finnish citizen shall be under an obligation to participate or assist in the defence of the country in the manner prescribed by Act of Parliament."705

According to a government statement in January 2001, provisions concerning minimum recruitment age in the Finnish Conscription Act were amended by an Act of Parliament in May 2000 which prohibited entry into military service before the age of 18, even on a voluntary basis. The same provisions are included in the Act on the Voluntary Military Service of Women. Previously, 17-year-olds were eligible for conscription although call-up usually took place at the age of age 19 or 20.706

The use of a person under 18 to participate in hostilities could be considered a war crime under the Finnish Penal Code. A person guilty of compulsory recruitment of persons under 18 could be convicted of an offence against freedom. The recruitment and use of children in hostilities by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a state may also be punished as illegal military action.

The length of service is between six and twelve months. Citizens of the Ahvenanmaa (Åland) Islands, a demilitarised area, are exempt from military service.707 Under current legislation, conscientious objectors serve a period of alternative civilian service which is more than twice as long; this alternative service was to be reviewed beginning in July 1999.708

Military Training and Military Schools

Voluntary national defence training, which started in 1991, has gained great popularity in Finland. At the start of 1999 voluntary national defence work and training were placed under the newly established National Defence Training Association. The task of this peacetime training organisation is to complement the training of conscripts, prepare men and women volunteers for the work of defence force and other organizations which would operate in times of crisis, and to provide information and skills relevant to such exceptional conditions for all Finnish citizen volunteers over the age of 15.709

Past Child Recruitment

The government reported that under previous legislation, less than 300 men under 18 served in the Defence Forces each year, or less than one per cent of recruits.710


International Standards

Finland signed on the CRC-OP-CAC on 7 September 200 and supports a "straight-18" position. A government bill for ratification was to be presented in spring 2001 and ratification was expected by European autumn 2001.711 During the negotiation of the CRC-OP-CAC, the government of Finland strongly supported 18 as the minimum age for all forms of recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict.712

In a statement made at a Coalition event in January 2001, Finland stated that it "... did not want to make a difference between compulsory and voluntary recruitment but was in favour of the minimum age of 18 for any recruitment. The text of the Optional Protocol, which was a compromise, remained far behind the objectives of the Finnish government. We had to agree on a compromise not only in respect of the Article on voluntary recruitment, but also in respect of the Article concerning participation in armed conflict, for which we would have favoured a stronger wording. Furthermore, Finland would have preferred a clause prohibiting any reservations to the Protocol".713

A declaration made by Nordic Foreign Ministers in August 1999 strongly supported the adoption of an Optional Protocol prohibiting all recruitment and deployment of under-18s.

704, Facts about the Finnish Defence Forces 2000-2001.

705 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

706 "Position of Finland and ratification of the Optional Protocol. received by CSC from Finnish government on the 30/1/01.

707 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

708, AI Report 2000.

709, Finish Military Defence 1999-2000, page 9.

710 Initial Report of Finland submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.22, 31 January 1995, para. 118.

711 Finnish government 30/1/01 op. cit.

712 Report of the Working Group on a draft Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1998/102, 23 March 1998, para. 61.

713 Finnish government, 30/1/01 op. cit.

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