Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Norway

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Norway, 2004, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
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.

Kingdom of Norway

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 4.5 million (1.1 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 26,600
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18 (16 for Home Guard)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 23 September 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Norway amended its laws to exclude the voluntary or compulsory recruitment of under-18s to the armed forces. The age of admission to the Home Guard was 16. Asylum requests by two youths who said they had been child soldiers were refused.


A small contingent of Norwegian military personnel was present in the US-led occupation forces in Iraq; Norway also had a task force serving with KFOR in Kosovo and a force of just over 200 serving with the NATO operation in Afghanistan.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

According to the constitution, "as a general rule every citizen of the state is bound to serve in the defence of the country for a specific period, irrespective of birth or fortune" (Article 109).2 The 1953 Military Service Act and the 1953 Home Guard Act, as amended, provide the legal basis for military service. Under the Military Service Act, every male national is liable for military service from the beginning of the year in which he reaches 19 until the end of the year in which he turns 44.

In 2002 both Acts were amended to ban the forced recruitment of under-18s to any form of service in the armed forces, whether in times of war or peace. Previously, in wartime boys were liable for military service from 1 January of the year they were 17. The amendments also prohibited the voluntary recruitment of under-18s for training and participation in combat-related activities, and included specific provision to exempt volunteers under the age of 18 from military service in the event of war or imminent war. The amendments entered into force on 1 July

The age of admission to the Home Guard is 16 years. The Home Guard is responsible for territorial defence and providing support for armed forces operations and has a peacetime strength of around 600 including about 200 civilians.4 Such members "are not considered to be recruited", according to the Defence Ministry. They are not enrolled as members of the armed forces, subject to military discipline or mobilization, or permitted to take part in combat activities.5


In early 2004 the immigration authorities refused asylum to two youths who said they had been child soldiers in Eritrea where children are reported to serve in the armed forces illegally and are subjected to torture, arbitrary detention and forced labour for fleeing military service.6 UNHCR recommended that states refrain from all forced returns of rejected asylum seekers to Eritrea until further notice.7

International standards

Norway ratified the Optional Protocol on 23 September 2003, and affirmed in its declaration that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to the armed forces was 18.8

In 2003 Norway reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that amendments to the Compulsory Military Service Act and the Home Guard Act had ensured that children did not participate in armed conflict.9 On 20 January 2004 Norway's representative to the UN told the UN Security Council that Norway supported the listing of parties to armed conflict that recruit or use children in combat, and proposed expanding the list to cover other abuses against children in armed conflicts.10

1 Ministry of Defence press releases, May 2004,

2 Constitution,

3 Communication from Ministry of Defence, 1 April 2004.

4 Ministry of Defence, Norwegian Defence Facts and Figures 2003,

5 Communication from Ministry of Defence, op. cit.

6 Amnesty International, Eritrea: Arbitrary detention of government critics and journalists, 18 September 2002,

7 UNHCR, UNHCR Position on Return of Rejected Asylum Seekers to Eritrea, January 2004.

8 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol, (subscription required).

9 Third periodic report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,

10 Ambassador Johan Lovald, speaking at UN Security Council debate, January 2004, on the report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, UN Doc. A/58/546S/2003/1053, 10 November 2003.

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