Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - New Zealand

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - New Zealand, 2004, available at: [accessed 19 January 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.

New Zealand

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 3.8 million (1.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 8,610
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 17
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 12 November 2001
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 182

The minimum voluntary recruitment age was 17. Some one hundred and fifty 17 year olds were recruited to the armed forces between February 2002 and May 2003.


New Zealand has actively participated in various UN peacekeeping missions including in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste. It participated in the Australian-led intervention to end civil conflict in the Solomon Islands, launched in July 2003. An engineer group was deployed to Iraq under UN Security Council Resolution 1483 to undertake humanitarian and reconstruction tasks but was not involved in security operations.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

There is no conscription. The 1990 Defence Act, amended in 2001, states that "no person serving in the Armed Forces who is under 18 years shall be liable for active service" (Section 37).2 In order to implement the Optional Protocol, the Defence Act 1990 was amended to prohibit the direct participation of children under 18 years of age in active duties.3

New Zealand's declaration, deposited on ratifying the Optional Protocol in November 2001, states that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 17 years. It sets out certain safeguards adopted by the government to ensure that the recruitment is not forced or coerced.4 Under-18s who are not married must have the consent of a parent or guardian, who must acknowledge that the recruit will be liable for active service at 18. Recruits must be fully informed of the duties involved in military service before taking an oath of allegiance, must undergo full medical, fitness and aptitude tests, and provide a birth certificate as reliable proof of age.5

The New Zealand Defence Force Orders for Administration of 15 February 2002 set out, among other things, armed forces policy on the recruitment and deployment of under-18s. They set the minimum age for voluntary recruitment at 17 and state that service members are not to be posted on active or operational service overseas unless they are 18 or over. Human rights organizations have pointed out that, since the minimum recruitment age is set by the Orders and not by the Defence Act, there is no legislative barrier to the Chief of Defence Staff lowering the age of recruitment.6

In July 2003 New Zealand reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that reasons for retaining 17 as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment included the "inverse relationship between the age of enlistment and retention after five years of service". The government said that raising the minimum recruitment age might increase the difficulty in attracting recruits to technical positions, and that an environment in which all recruits started on an equal footing had traditionally offered opportunities of success to recruits from lower socio-economic groups, particularly those who left school at 17.7

Child recruitment and deployment

The government reported that 131 under-18s were recruited into the armed forces in the 15-month period between February 2002 and May 2003.8

Military training and military schools

There are no military schools run by the armed forces.9

The New Zealand Cadet Force, comprising cadets in the cadet corps, the sea cadet corps and air training corps, is "a voluntary, disciplined, uniformed training organization" for young people aged between 13 and 18, according to the 1990 Defence Act. It aims to promote training programs or courses similar to those undertaken by the armed forces, appreciation among cadets of the function and operations of the armed forces, and the development of good citizenship (Section 77). Cadets are not members of the armed forces (Section 2).10


The New Zealand Agency for International Development has supported disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs in Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. New Zealand submitted its first report on implementation of the Optional Protocol in July 2003.11

1 New Zealand Army, Peace Support Operations,

2 Defence Act, (Statutes).

3 Report of New Zealand to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/NZL/1, 30 July 2003,

4 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

5 Report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

6 Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, Response to the New Zealand Government's report on Compliance with the Optional Protocol on children involved in armed conflict, September 2003.

7 Report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

8 Report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

9 Report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

10 Defence Act, op. cit.; see also unofficial cadet corps website,

11 Report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

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