Children’s rights in conflict are often violated; their rights to be protected from violence, sexual abuse, terror and loss are disrupted. Under such conditions, practically all the necessary factors for child development are seriously disrupted, and the psychological damages for these children can be long-lasting.

More than 5000 children are, on a daily basis, displaced due to armed conflicts somewhere in the world. Many of these are able to run away from the violence together with their families, but an increasing number may look track of their loved ones and find themselves alone in a threatening situation. Among these, some will be recruited into armed groups. Whereas some children have been abducted and forcedly separated from their families, others have been driven to volunteer as a result of social exclusion, and family breakdown, or after witnessing atrocities

Children, both girls and boys, even under the age of 15 are cynically included and used as cheap and expendable tools of war, and too many are also exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation in the context of armed groups. Over the past decade we have seen the number of child soldiers increasing. And as small arms and light weapons become more accessible the children are readily armed, forming part of the ongoing violent conflicts in the different and often forgotten corners of the world. Despite strong international focus on preventing and bringing to halt, the active participation of children in war, there is a long way to go. And at the same time, the work to help the children out of this, to provide them with safety, education, rehabilitation and social networks represent an extremely important and complex endeavour. In the following, practical work and experiences, along with international conventions and regulations are presented in order to inspire and strengthen this necessary work among children and young persons who have been exposed to loss, violence and lost childhoods.

A number of international conventions and laws have come into effect since early 1970s (some going back to the Geneva Convention in 1949), in the effort to try to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts. Yet are also these laws and conventions not without conflict and discussion, because they partly show difficulties to define the group of children between 15 and 18 years old in some way: are they “old enough” to take part directly in armed conflicts? If not defined so, there is the interpretation that they can be used f.e.to deliver information at least (not “directly” taking part).

Nevertheless the use of children in military forces, and the active participation in armed conflicts is still widespread.

Convention on the Rights of the Child
OHCHR  Entry into force 09/1990

Legal text from the UN, concerning children`s rights, to be implemented nationally. It is proclaimed that “State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.” However minors who are over the age of 15 but still remain under the age of 18 are still voluntarily able to take part in combat as soldiers.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
OHCHR  Entry into force 02/2002

This represents an optional protocol/ supplement to the convention mentioned above, concerning especially the involvement of children in armed conflict. States are required to demobilize children within their jurisdiction who have been recruited or used in hostilities, and to provide assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.

Guide to the optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
UNICEF 2003

This is a detailed guide (74 p.) which describes the protocol, with focus on key provisions, ratification and accession, monitoring and reporting, implementation, taking action.

UN resolution 1261
UN 08/1999
This resolution from the UN Security Council was the first to address the topic, the Council condemned the targeting of children in armed conflict including the recruitment and use of child soldier.

UN Resolution 1612
UN Security Council, 07/2005
This resolution implements a monitoring and reporting mechanism regarding the use of child soldiers. It is reaffirming several former UN-resolutions, all contributing to comprehensive framework for addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict.

Security Council Resolution 1882
The SCR 1882 was adopted to expand the gateway for parties to be listed by the Secretary General, and requesting action plans for sexual violence against children in armed conflict and killing & maiming of children in armed conflict.

Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions from 1949 (art. 77.2)
ICRC, 2010

The additional protocol of the Geneva Convention from 1949 was adopted in 1977, relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. “The Parties to the conflict shall take all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the Parties to the conflict shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest” (see page 56).

Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention
International Labour Organization, adopted 06/1999

The Convention C 182 defines the worst forms of slavery, and the use of children in armed conflicts is equated with slavery in art.3/a: “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery…..including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.”

The Capetown Principles – Child and Young Adult Soldiers – International Guidelines for Policy Decisions
GINIE and UNESCO, 1997

Here we find a good collection and a quite complete overview about existing laws and conventions (with links), as well as the “Capetown Principles” and ARC project.

Children and Armed Conflict
United Nations/UNICEF 2003

This compendium (60 p.) collects relevant treaties and instruments on the protection of children affected by armed conflict rendering easier dissemination as well as providing the reference point for a more systematic monitoring and reporting.

The Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups
UN/OSRSG CAC 2007

This is a declaration (partly recalling the Capetown Principles etc) made in Paris, were the participants agree on necessity to strengthen childrens rights.

Guiding Principles for the Domestic Implementation of a Comprehensive System of Protection for Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups,
IRCR 2009
The Guiding Principles suggest a number of practical, regulatory and legal measures as means to encourage States to improve such protection. They are based mainly on binding international rules (taking into account the specific obligations of all relevant treaties and of customary law). They also refer to widely accepted instruments of a non-binding character (“soft law”). A checklist of the main obligations regarding children associated with armed forces and armed groups is provided in Annex IV.

Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children – Impact of Armed Conflict on Children
UN 1996

This report (78 p.) presents a solid, historical study on the impact of armed conflict on children. It highlightens the topics of child soldiers, refugees, as well as sexual exploitation, landmines and promoting psychological recovery and integration.

Impact of Armed Conflict on Children – Twenty Years of Action Following the Publication of Graça Machel Report to the General Assembly
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict 2016
Twenty years ago, Graça Machel’s report “Impact of armed conflict on children”, asked the international community to come together to address the plight of children affected by war.For two years, Machel had travelled to conflict zones and met children, families, humanitarian workers and Government officials to better understand what boys and girls were going through.

Children and Conflict in a Changing World
UN/UNICEF 2009

This is a very solid and broad study (236 p.), meant as a follow-up after the UN-report from 1996 mentioned above. Graca Machel who was responsible for the first report, together with lots of other organizations and persons came up with a “10-year strategic review”, researching what has changed in the meantime. Quite useful and interesting.

Documents – Secretary-General of Children and Armed Conflict
UN 2010

This UN site provides with reports of the Secretary-General and conclusions, concerning children, their situation and involvement in armed conflicts sorted by geography/regions. Useful.

Child Soldiers – Global Report 2008
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, 2008

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers has published this report (3rd ed., 418 p.), in 2009, including the years 2004-07. It “details how a near global consensus that children should not be used as soldiers and strenuous international efforts have failed to protect tens of thousands of children from war. When armed conflict exists, children will almost inevitably become involved as soldiers”.

Child soldiers and Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration in West Africa
Coalition to stop the use of child soldiers, 2006

Study (31 p.) on the situation of Child Soldiers in West Africa, one of the regions in the world most seriously affected by the practice of child soldier recruitment.

Chance for Change – Ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar
Child soldiers 2013

Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, Myanmar?s military has been involved in armed conflict with over 35 armed groups seeking varying degrees of autonomy. Ethnic armed conflict in Myanmar has continued. The establishment of a civilian government in 2011 and the signing of ceasefire agreements with a number of armed groups followed by a process of dialogue have opened opportunities to resolve conflicts. This has to address the issue of underage recruitment and integration of armed groups into state security forces needs to be accompanied by measures to identify and demobilise children.

It is possible to approach the topic “child soldiers” under lots of detailed aspects (f.e. human rights, mental health, reconciliation). But there is quite good material which covers much more than just one topic, not least because many of these issues are complex and interwoven. Under this heading we have therefore collected some interesting wide ranging articles and overviews.

Too Small to be Fighting in Anyone`s War
IRIN 2011

Good overview over the topic, with solid information on background, effects of war on the children especially on girls.

Programs Help Child Soldiers Return Home
Child Soldiers International
The article reflects on the issues necessary for reintegrating child soldiers, discussing also the question whether it is helpful to focus on child soldiers as an “special” group in the aftermath of conflicts.

Child Soldiers – A National and Global Security Issue
Lisa Alfredson 2002

The most vulnerable and marginalized segments of society, a category which includes child soldiers, are also most at risk of becoming ‘displaced’—as refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) or asylum seekers.

Former girl child soldiers face hardships with reintegration in Uganda
WNN 2011
Approaching the topic under a gender view, the article based on an interview with a former girl soldier concludes that reintegration after armed conflicts is more difficult for girls. Beatrice Lamwaka.

Psychosocial Care Package Children 
HealthNet TPO 2012
This web-based resource package is an attempt to provide a care delivery framework to set up and provide community-based psychosocial care in such settings. It contains information that describes the rationale, content and step-by-step implementation of the separate components of a comprehensive psychosocial care package (such as a Classroom Based Intervention, Counseling, Clinical Supervision, Screening and Psycho-education). It includes theoretical backgrounds, specifically developed clinical and screening tools and outcomes of research conducted on these different modules of the care package.

Mental Health Status in former Child Soldiers
JAMA, august 2008
This study compares the mental health of former child soldiers in Nepal with a group never-conscripted Nepalese children. The authors are giving an account of the health problems former child soldiers are suffering with.

War-trauma and PTSD in former child soldiers, connected with openness to reconciliation
JAMA, august 2007
This study amongst former child soldiers in Uganda and the Dem. Rep. of Congo tries to elaborate in which way PTSD and trauma inflicts the capability to reconciliation.

Post-traumatic stress in former Ugandan child soldiers
The Lancet, Vol 363, 03/2004
The authors interviewed a group of former child soldiers, and are listing the most important symptoms these children are suffering with.

Mental States of Adolescents exposed to War in Uganda
Amone-P`Olak, Torture Vol 16, 2006
The article (15 p) describes the rehabilitation of formerly abducted adolescents exposed to war in Uganda, and tries to point out appropriate methods.

When children affected by war go home – Lessons learned from Liberia
Save The Children Fund, 2003
This study (9 p) provides a research in Liberia, where Save The Children UK undertook a study that tracked children associated with armed forces following the DDR process (disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation).

The Psychological Impact of Political Violence on Children
Wainryb and Pasupathi, 2007
Discussion (15 p.) how children are reacting and being affected by political violence.

The Voices of Girl Child Soldier
Keairns, 2002
This study (30 p) presents a solid research on the girls situation in armed conflicts, discussing experiences and future aspects in life.

The Voices of Girl Child Soldiers Colombia 
Keairns, 2003
This report on the voices of girl child soldiers in Colombia is part of a larger study that carried out in-depth interviews with 23 girl soldiers from four different conflict areas around the world.

Psychological First Aid Field Operation Guide
National Child Traumatic Stress Network – National Center for PTSD.

Easy Prey: Child Soldiers in Liberia
Human Rights Watch, 1994
Solid report on the situation of child soldiers in Liberia.

It is very important to focus not only on how to prevent recruiting of child soldiers but also on demobilization and reintegration in the aftermath of armed conflicts. These programs are called DDR-programs (for Disarming, Demobilization,and Reintegration), and are very important to start a process of healing not only for these children but for the whole community they belong to.

Field Guide to Child Soldier Programs in Emergencies
Save the Children Federation, 2001
This Field Guide (84 p.)is meant to be useful for staff (of Child Soldier Programs)that have limited experience with child soldier programming and for experienced staff that wish to improve their understanding of particular aspects of child soldier programs (Target group: more experienced fieldworkers). The guide provides knowledge on this topic (legal framework f.e.), and discusses the components of the programming: prevention of recruitment, demobilization, and reintegration. Guidelines to set up a program following these topics.

Impact of Armed Conflict on Child Development
UNICEF 1996
This short overview discusses the importance of health and nutrition, psychological recovery and social reintegration, as well as aspects on education in the aftermath of conflicts for children.

Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP)
MRDP 2009
This
agency has operated from 2002 to 2009 to support the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants in the greater Great Lakes region of Central Africa. This web-site provides with reports and useful links on this topic specially concerning child soldiers and the needs of their reintegration.

Interventions for Children Associated with Armed Group
The World Bank, 2005
Some recommendations from the World Bank concerning what to look for most during a demobilization and reintegration process, and how one can ensure that children are especially included in this process.

Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers
Child Soldiers International, 2012
The report is published to mark the tenth anniversary year of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It examines the record of states in protecting children from use in hostilities by their own forces and by state-allied armed groups.

Crossing bridges and negotiating rivers – Rehabilitation and reintegration of children associated with armed forces
Save the children – Norway, 2005
Reflections (10 p.)by a clinical psychiatrist with long experience in that field, on the topics demobilization and reintegration for children. – Coalition to stop the use of child soldiers, Elisabeth Jareg.

Reintegration of former child soldiers – a survey of programs
Ministry of foreign affairs, Japan, 2001
The author has undertaken a research on the DDR(disarming, demobilization, reintegration)- programs exemplary on seven countries. The survey discusses difficulties, necessities, problems. Some aspects highlight mental support.

There are many organizations working with child soldiers and children in war and conflict, trying to prevent children from being used in armed conflicts and supporting them in the aftermath. Most of these children suffer of severe posttraumatic stress, and need extra help.

The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict
This “watchlist” strives to end violations against children in armed conflicts and to guarantee their rights. They strategically collect and disseminate information on violations against children in conflicts in order to influence key decision-makers to create and implement programs and policies that effectively protect children.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative
This organization has as a goal to support former child soldiers worldwide. Here we find a broad collection of articles (conc. For example laws, legal decisions and more), as well as links to movies, documentations, TV, and lots of important related organizations. Merged with Child Soldier Relief 2013.

The Children and War Foundation
The Children and War Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the lives of children after war and disasters by providing study-based coping strategies and supporting research proposals. Since its establishment in Bergen in 2000, CAW has developed measures which enable large groups of children to be reached after wars and disasters, and children at high risk to be identified quickly after a traumatic event.

War Child International Network
This site represents a network of independent organizations, working across the world helping children affected by war.

The Children and armed Conflict Unit
This Unit aims to keep the issue of the impact of armed conflict on children in the public and institutional eye through this web-site. Lots of information on conflicts, relevant international standards etc.

The Child Rights Information Network CRIN
This is a global network that disseminates information about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and child rights amongst non-governmental organisations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, inter-governmental organisation (IGOs), educational institutions, and other child rights experts.

Childsoldiers
Childsoldiers.net is the website of the Belgian organisation “Childsoldiers/ Kindsoldaten”, established by Belgian journalist Els De Temmerman in the year 2000. Its objective is to help ex-child soldiers in Uganda to re-enter mainstream society by means of a school-fee sponsoring programme.

UN’s webpage concerning children and armed conflict
A collection of relevant UN documents compiled by The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of Children and Armed Conflict

Child Soldiers International
This organization works to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilisation and to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Childwatch International Research Network
This network represents a global network of institutions that collaborate in child research for the purpose of promoting child rights and improving children`s well-being around the world.

UN Secretary-General for Children and armed Conflict
UN 2010

The UN homepage for this undersection provides lots of interesting and useful material, articles, statistics on this topic.

Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP)
MRDP 2009
This agency has operated from 2002 to 2009 to support the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants in the greater Great Lakes region of Central Africa. This web-site provides with reports and useful links on this topic specially concerning child soldiers and the needs of their reintegration.

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