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

  • Population:
    – total: 4,702,000
    – under-18s: 2,127,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 4,400
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: unknown
  • Child Soldiers: unknown in government and opposition forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC
  • It is not known if there are under-18s in the government armed forces due to insufficient information about the minimum age for voluntary recruitment. Under-18s fought with an armed opposition group during a secessionist war on Bougainville.


The 1998 peace accord between the Papua New Guinea Government and armed secessionist Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) continued to hold amidst continued tensions. It is estimated that 20,000 people were killed during the conflict and up to 40,000 forced to flee their homes during fighting since 1998. An armed Peace Monitoring Group drawn remains in place.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 43 of the 1975 Constitution states that: "1. No person shall be required to perform forced labour. 2. In Subsection (1), 'forced labour' does not include: (f) labour of reasonable amount of kind (including the case of compulsory military service, labour required as an alternative to such service in case of a person who has conscientious objections to military service) that is required in the national interest by an Organic Law that complies with Section 38." However, Papua New Guinea has no conscription in practice.1460 No information has been obtained on legislation governing voluntary recruitment. Some sources claim that some recruits in the governmental armed forces are under 18 years of age, but no further information is available.1461 PNG is heavily influenced by Australia and New Zealand in military affairs, both of which recruit at 17.

According to a 1999 White Paper, the Government decided to "reactivate the Volunteer Rifles as a reserve force capable of assisting the Government in Law and order and internal security situations." It was also been decided to "reactivate the School Cadet Scheme beginning in the year 2000." The same document indicated that "women should be offered full employment in non-combat trades of the PNGDF."

In April 2001, PNGDF soldiers mutinied in Port Moresby in protest at plans to halve the size of the army as part of an economic restructuring package. The reduction in military expenditure would cut the PNGDF's personnel levels by approximately 2000.


Child Recruitment

The BRA which fought a long secessionist conflict with government forces on the island of Bougainville has admitted having children under 18 years in its ranks. There had been reports of BRA recruitment of children as young as 13 and 14 years old.1462 During an international conference on the use of children as soldiers, organised by the Australian Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in Melbourne in September 1999, a BRA representative claimed that while the BRA never had a policy to involve children, "there were incidents where they could not be stopped. In such instances, every BRA Commander was strictly advised not to have these young boys in the frontline fighting, but could be used as ammunition carriers, messengers, food carriers and cooks, and even sometimes as spies."1463 The BRA subsequently announced that it would review its own recruitment practices and ensure that in the future no person below the age of 18 would either be recruited into their forces or participate in armed conflict.

1460 Report of the Secretary General, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1997/99 op. cit.

1461 RB,; Brett and McCallin op. cit.

1462 Information provided by Worldvision Australia, 16/9/99.

1463 Asotau, R., "The 'Pragmatics' of Guerilla Fighting", One word, one world: stop child soldiers, conference on the Use of Child Soldiers, Australian Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Melbourne, 1999.


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