Suspended / abolished in 2007. However, Latvia introduced a new kind of project, called “Total Defence” in 2017.

  Conscientious objection:


First recognised by the Law on Substitute Service of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.













No conscription

Voluntary enlistment:




According to the reply of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia to the Questionnaire about EBCO’s Annual Report 2020 (e-mail on 08/01/2021):

The Parliament of the Republic of Latvia passed on 3 December 2020 a new law on the National Defence Course and Cadet Force. This law came into force on 5 January 2021.

The National Defence Course is an integral part of the secondary education curriculum. The main document specifying its content is the State education standard. The State education standard is developed by the Ministry of Education and Science and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. Currently, in the State education standard the National Defence Course is categorized as a special course, meaning that it is voluntary course, but starting from 2024-25 school year this course will be mandatory for all secondary school students.

At the moment each secondary school voluntarily decided on introducing the National Defence Course in their curricula. Up till now, the National Defence Course is taught in 69 secondary schools. The number of schools depends on the availability of teachers that are qualifies to teach the National Defence Course. To qualify for teaching the National Defence Course, the teacher has to fulfill additional requirements, including specific requirements for education and professional qualification.

Additionally to higher pedagogical education, all teachers who teach the National Defence Course must have also basic military training.

Teachers are employed by the Cadet Force Centre, a civil institution under the Ministry of Defence, nevertheless, they engage very actively in school’s activities and coordinate topics with teachers of other subjects.

The content of the National Defence Course was developed by the Cadet Force Centre in close collaboration with the National Centre for Education, an institution under the Ministry of Education and Science. The content is publicly available both on the webpage of the National Centre for Education and on the webpage of Cadet Force Center. Additionally, the Cadet Force Center provides the teachers with detailed plan, instructions and guidelines for every single lesson.

The National Defence Course consists of several modules where students are taught a range of theoretical and practical skills. Those modules are: 1) Security and defence of a nation-state, role of civil society and civic engagement; 2) Resilience in crises, leadership and command; and 3) Skills and competencies for defence. Additionally, students can engage in extracurricular activities (summer camps). Participation in those camps is voluntary.

The course has been developed for students in 10th and 11th grade (or 2nd and 3rd study year in vocational education). Usually, students in those grades are 16-18 years old. Secondary education is not compulsory in Latvia, although the proportion of the population who complete it is high.

The National Defence Course is 140 academic hours long. The course is implemented in 2 years.

Module "Skills and competences for defence" includes the topic "Safe handling of weapons, shooting with a pneumatic weapon". The time allocated for this topic altogether is 31 academic hours. During those lessons students learn about different uses of weapons, development of weapons through history, operating principles of weapons, moral responsibility using weapons and safety rules. To acquire practical skills students try out shooting with a pneumatical weapon (a weapon that fires using air pressure).

The law on the National Defence Course and Cadet Force states that for students who, due to their religious or philosophical beliefs or due to other objective circumstances, are unable to participate in particular activities that are a part of the National Defence Course, the teacher provides alternative study topics and individually adjusts the study process. There are no other consequences.

The objectives and content of the National Defence Course is in line with values and ideals embedded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child especially emphasizes that a child’s education should help their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. It should also build their respect for other people and the world around them and they should respect the values of their own country. Education should prepare children for responsible life in free society.

The purpose of the new law is to guarantee an opportunity for a child or a young person to acquire knowledge, skills and abilities suitable for their age and interests.

The activities included in the National Defence Course don't lead to any obligations regarding National Armed Forces.

According to the political party "Progresīvie" of Latvia (article on 14/12/2020 [1]) and the reply of Lelde Vaivode, Secretary General of Progresīvie to EBCO (e-mail on 30/12/2020), the political party Progresīvie has urged returning the law for reconsideration, in large part due to a lack of extensive discussion and consultation with relevant NGOs and the public, which it says is necessary for such legislation to be in line with the principles of good governance. The party says that the law also introduces a curriculum, which, in its current revision, is incongruent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Constitution of Latvia. Progresīvie also states that the law does not afford enough attention to civil defence and overall security. Dace Kavasa, board member of the political party "Progresīvie" says that it is unacceptable that the curriculum has been developed without the necessary inclusion of the civil society, as well as ignoring the recommendations made by the Ministry of Education and Science: “To develop a quality proposal for a State Defence course curriculum, it should be coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Science, involving the State institutions responsible for civil protection (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health), as well as institutions responsible for the protection of children' s rights, including the Ombudsman. It is ironic that the development of the law has not followed the principles of good governance, as these principles are to be taught as part of the State Defence course.” The party has also criticized that in the process of developing the proposed law, numerous entities (such as youth organisations) that should have been consulted have either not been approached or their positions and recommendations have been ignored. Progresīvie also states that a mandatory course that is mostly military training, is essentially recruitment: “Although the Ministry of Defence holds responsibility for military education, a mandatory State Defence course cannot be military education, as this contradicts the Convention on the Rights of the Child and, implicitly, the Constitution of Latvia (the article referring to protection of children's rights), as well as the UNICEF Paris Principles. The aforementioned regulation states that persons under the age of 18 must not be forcibly recruited in armed forces and that the involvement of children in armed forces must be decreased, protecting children from propaganda and active recruitment within schools.”