• December 14, 2014


The Celtic League has written to Children’s Commissioners in the United Kingdom and to the Isle of Man Department of Education and Children regarding comments about military cadet forces made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in a recent (Country) report.

The Celtic League opposes the militarisation of children and at its AGM at Karez in Brittany in 2012 it adopted the following resolution:

“Aware of United Nations standards aimed at protecting young people from being militarised calls on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to investigate the operation by the United Kingdom of military cadet forces.”

Since that time we have campaigned domestically and internationally on the issue.

An example of the correspondence sent (in this instance to the Scottish Commissioner) is set out below:

‘Tam Baillie
Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People
Rosebery House
9 Haymarket Terrace
EH12 5EZ

12th December 2014

Dear Commissioner Baillie,

You will recall that we communicated with you some time ago regarding the operation of military cadet forces which involve children as young as 12 to engage in military training including the use of firearms.

You will also recall that on that occasion we indicated that we would be contacting the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) regarding the issue.

We became aware earlier this year that the CRC in a report on similar military cadet forces in Australia had set out some fairly firm reservations about the manner in which they operate and subsequently we wrote to the CRC to ask them to echo these views in relation to the United Kingdom.

A copy of the full text of our letter is set out below:

“The Secretariat

Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD)
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland)

8th December 2014

Dear Sir,

I understand that in its 72nd Session in May/June 2016 the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will consider a number of Country reports including one from the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. (UK)

I have studied the Fifth Periodic Report submitted to the CRC by the UK in May of this year ahead of the 72nd Session

I refer specifically to the section of the report which deals with the ‘Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict’ and note that nowhere within its submission does the UK refer to the operation by the countries of substantial military cadet forces which recruit children from the age of twelve to eighteen years.

We are aware that the UK Government claim that the cadets are a ‘National Youth Organisation’ sponsored by the UK Ministry of Defence and do not form part of the British Armed Forces or Reserves.

The CRC will be aware that this is an argument advanced by some countries including the UK to (in our view) deflect scrutiny from the militarisation of children.

The Celtic League believe that via the cadet scheme, children are exposed to military-like training activities, including drills, ceremonial parades and the use of firearms at an early age

The Celtic League has raised concerns previously about the operation of military cadet forces, enrolling children as young as twelve, with the Children’s Commissioners in various parts of the UK.

Recalling that at its 60th Session in May/June 2012 the CRC made the following comments in its Concluding Observations to the Government of Australia:

“Cadet scheme

19. While recognizing that members of the Australian Defence Force Cadets are not
members of the ADF, the Committee notes with concern that under the cadet scheme,
children are exposed to military-like training activities, including drills, ceremonial parades
and the use of firearms at an early age. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the
ADF active targeting of schools for recruits through ‘work experience programs’ may
unduly put pressure on young persons, especially from marginalized populations and from
different linguistic backgrounds to volunteer, without full informed consent.

20. The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Review the operations of its cadet scheme to ensure that activities in such
programmes are age appropriate, particularly with respect to military-like activities,
and establish clear guidelines on the age requirement for such activities, taking due
consideration of the mental and physical effects of such activities on the child;

(b) Ensure effective and independent monitoring of the cadet scheme to
safeguard the rights and welfare of the child enrolled in the cadet forces and ensure
that children, parents and other groups are adequately informed about the
recruitment process and are able to present concerns or complaints;

(c) Prohibit the handling and use of firearms and other explosives for all
children under the age of 18 years in line with the spirit of the Optional Protocol;

(d) Ensure that young persons from different linguistic backgrounds and/or
from marginalized populations are not overly targeted for recruitment and put in
place measures for informed consent;

(e) Include information on how the activities of the cadet forces fit with the
aims of education, as recognized in article 29 of the Convention and in the
Committee’s general comment No. 1 (2001) on the aims of education.”

Will the Committee address similar concerns to the UK as those which were directed to Australia so that some the principles set out in those Concluding Observations, particularly those set out in sections a-e (above); have to be considered by the UK government?

For information we will be reiterating our concerns to the Children’s Commissioners appointed in the various jurisdictions of the UK.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information”

I specifically draw your attention to (c) above relating a prohibition on the exposure of young people, below eighteen years of age, to both firearms and explosives.

Military cadet forces in the UK may breach this CRC guidance and we trust that you will articulate your disapproval of the exposure of children below the age of eighteen to military training involving firearms.

I also hope you will consider the full range of activities to which young people in military cadet forces are exposed so as to ensure (in the CRC’s words) that these ‘are age appropriate’.

In relation to (d) above you will be aware that sadly, some years ago, a number of cadets died on ‘exercises’ in Wales and more recently the Army Cadet Force was censured by the HSE following the death of a young person in Scotland. I trust therefore the CRC comments re the ‘welfare’ of young people are also considered by your Office.

We will be echoing the sentiments contained in this letter in similar correspondence to UK Children’s Commissioners the Isle of Man Department of Education and Children.

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information’

Related links here:



J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)
The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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