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Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Netherlands

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Netherlands, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 16 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.

Population: 16.3 million (3.6 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 53,100
Compulsary Recruitment Age: conscription suspended
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 17
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: signed 7 September 2000
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was 17 and, although conscription was suspended, all males continued to be required to register for military service at 17.


National recruitment legislation and practice

Although conscription was suspended in 1997 with the introduction of fully volunteer armed forces, the Dutch constitution of 1989 stated that "All Dutch nationals who are capable of doing so shall have a duty to co-operate in maintaining the independence of the state and defending its territory.... This duty may also be imposed on residents of the Netherlands who are not Dutch nationals" (Article 97). The constitution emphasized that "To protect its interests, the State shall maintain Armed Forces consisting of volunteers and conscripts.... Compulsory service in the armed forces shall be regulated by Act of Parliament" (Article 98). Under the terms of the 1997 Law on Conscription, all men continued to register for military service at the age of 17, although this did not involve any medical examination or actual military service. The registration procedure did not allow an individual to indicate a conscientious objection to military service. In a time of war or other emergency, the law allowed for the reintroduction of conscription and the possible compulsory recruitment of all those registered up to the age of 45.1 Under the Military Personnel Law the current minimum age for voluntary recruitment to the armed forces was 17. Seventeen-year-old recruits were required to have the consent of a parent or guardian before enlistment, and were excluded from all active combat operations or direct involvement in hostilities. There were also restrictions on the use of weapons by 17-year-old volunteers.2 In 2005 there were 4,038 applicants for enrolment in the armed forces by 17-year-olds, and 997 men and women aged 17 actually enlisted.3

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR):

In its 2007 report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the government recorded its financial contributions to several international projects working with war-affected children, including a UNICEF vocational training project in displaced persons camps in Uganda, a project dealing with children who had disappeared in El Salvador and a demobilization and reintegration project in Colombia. The Netherlands also contributed specifically to the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.4


The Netherlands signed the Optional Protocol in September 2000, but had not yet ratified it. In its 2007 report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Dutch government stated that "the process of ratifying the Optional Protocol (OP) on the involvement of children in armed conflict is almost complete. The OP is currently before the Senate, and the ratification process will be rounded off in the near future. The OP raises the minimum age for forced recruitment [sic] from 15 to 18. The Dutch government will thereby be obliged to take all possible measures to prevent the involvement of minors in armed conflicts as part of the armed forces."5

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, the Netherlands and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

1 Quaker Council for European Affairs, The Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, April 2005,

2 Confidential sources, September 2007.

3 Information from the defence and naval attaché, embassy of the Netherlands, London, October 2007.

4 Third periodic report of the Netherlands on implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. AVT07/BZ85984 A, 2007.

5 Ibid.

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