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The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concerns with regard to military education of minors in the Netherlands, especially with regard to the vocational programmes VeVa (“Veiligheid en Vakmanschap”). This practice has been questioned by the Dutch Coalition of Children’s Rights in their OPAC report, published September 2014. As a result of this report, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child has drafted a “list of issues”.

VeVa students during exercise (picture by Vrij Nederland)

VeVa students during exercise (picture by Vrij Nederland)

This list of issues consists of ten points for which the Dutch government has to answer to the committee, before march 2015. The third issue, on the military vocational military education VeVa, is extensive; the Dutch government is asked to provide information on, amongst others, the content of the program, the military internships and the suitability of the guidelines used for children.

There are approximately 2500 students currently in the VeVa program, of whom most are under age 18. The Dutch children’s rights coalition has expressed concerns on these issues in the OPAC report. They are especially concerned with the military self-defense and mental training courses, for which the teacher’s manuals are the ones used for military training of both adults and minors. Research conducted by the coalition raised suspicion that these practices are regularly unsuited for minors.

veva student story
The issues has already raised some concerns among the Dutch community and received some media coverage. Whether the expressed concerns by children’s rights organizations and the UN will have some effect on Dutch government policy is still uncertain. The issue will hopefully not be disregarded by the Dutch Ministry of Defence, but rather be seen as an opportunity to improve the military education programs. The OPAC report does conclude, after all, that there are certain benefits to this kind of educational program, provided that it does not have an adult military character.

The issue is a direct result of Marieke Hopman’s Research on Childhood and Children’s Rights.