Minimum age for recruitment into armed forces raised

  • Paul East
Defence

The Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Youth Affairs announced today that the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces had been raised from 16-and-a-half to 17 years.

"The situation of children in armed conflict is a very serious one and the New Zealand Government welcomes recent United Nations discussions of ways to strengthen the Convention on the Rights of the Child in this area," said the Ministers.

"To demonstrate our commitment to these efforts, we have taken the initiative to increase the minimum age for recruitment into the New Zealand armed forces from 16-and-a-half to 17 years of age. Although it is highly unlikely that a 16-and-a-half year old in the New Zealand Defence Force would be involved in armed conflict, an increase in the recruiting age will help ensure that this is the case. This will also make our practice consistent with other United Nations member countries," said Minister of Defence, Paul East.

"This initiative is consistent with work done by the Ministry of Youth Affairs to rationalise legal ages. I am also pleased that we are able to make this announcement at the same time as our delegation is presenting New Zealand's report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Geneva," said Minister of Youth Affairs, Deborah Morris.

A United Nations working group was established in 1994 to draft an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The protocol will improve the situation of children caught up in hostilities. The working group has begun its final two week session in Geneva.

"New Zealand will continue to play an active role in ongoing negotiations to strengthen the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have no doubt that a well-drafted international document could play an important role in preventing the recruitment of child soldiers and their participation in hostilities," said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Don McKinnon.