Selected links on Children in Armed Conflicts

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.

Children in Armed Conflicts - International Conventions
Reports and studies about the situation for child soldiers in different regions
Child Soldiers – Various Aspects
Mental Health after Armed Conflict
Rehabilitation and Reintegration
Organisations working for and with (former) child soldiers or children and war

Children in Armed Conflicts - International Conventions

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 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
    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. - Entry into force 09/1990. OHCHR
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
    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. - Entry into force 02/2002, OHCHR
  • Guide to the optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
    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. - UNICEF 2003.
  • UN resolution 1261
    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 08/1999
  • UN Resolution 1612
    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. - UN Security Council, 07/2005.
  • 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)
    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”. – UN, 1972.
  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention
    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.” – Internat. Labour Organization, adopted 06/1999.
  • Child and Young Adult Soldiers – International Guidelines for Policy Decisions – The Capetown Principles
    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. – GINIE and UNESCO, 1999
  • Children and Armed Conflict
    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.- United Nations/UNICEF 2003.
  • The Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups
    This is a declaration (partly recalling the Capetown Principles etc) made in Paris, were the participants agree on necessity to strengthen childrens rights. - UN/OSRSG CAC 2007.
  • Guiding Principles for the Domestic Implementation of a Comprehensive System of Protection for Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups,
    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. (IRCR 2009, 60 pages, pdf).
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Reports and studies about the situation for child soldiers in different regions

  • Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children - Impact of Armed Conflict on Children
    This report (78 p.) presents a solid 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. – UN 1996.
  • Children and Conflict in a Changing World
    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. - UN/UNICEF 2009.
  • Documents – Secretary-General of Children and Armed Conflict
    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. – UN 2010.
  • Child Soldiers - Global Report 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”. - Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, 2008.
  • Child soldiers and Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration in West Africa
    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. - Coalition to stop the use of child soldiers, 2006.
  • Chance for Change - Ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar
    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. Child soldiers 2013
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Child Soldiers – Various Aspects

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.

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Mental Health after Armed Conflict

  • Psychosocial Care Package Children
    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. HealthNet TPO 2012
  • Mental Health Status in former Child Soldiers
    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.- JAMA, august 2008.
  • War-trauma and PTSD in former child soldiers, connected with openness to reconciliation
    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. JAMA, august 2007.
  • Post-traumatic stress in former Ugandan child soldiers
    The authors interviewed a group of former child soldiers, and are listing the most important symptoms these children are suffering with. – The Lancet, Vol 363, 03/2004.
  • Mental States of Adolescents exposed to War in Uganda
    The article (15 p) describes the rehabilitation of formerly abducted adolescents exposed to war in Uganda, and tries to point out appropriate methods. – K. Amone-P`Olak, Torture Vol 16, 2006.
  • When children affected by war go home - Lessons learned from Liberia
    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). – Save The Children Fund, 2003.
  • The Psychological Impact of Political Violence on Children
    Discussion (15 p.) how children are reacting and being affected by political violence. – Wainryb and Pasupathi, 2007.
  • The Voices of Girl Child Soldier
    This study (30 p) presents a solid research on the girls situation in armed conflicts, discussing experiences and future aspects in life. – Y.Keairns, 2002.
  • The Voices of Girl Child Soldiers Colombia
    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. – Y.Keairns, 2003
  • Psychological First Aid Field Operation Guide
    National Child Traumatic Stress Network - National Center for PTSD.
  • Easy Prey: Child Soldiers in Liberia
    Solid report on the situation of child soldiers in Liberia. - Human Rights Watch, 1994.
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Rehabilitation and Reintegration

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
    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. – Save the Children Federation, 2001.
  • Impact of Armed Conflict on Child Development
    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. - UNICEF 1996
  • Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP)
    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. – MRDP 2009
  • Interventions for Children Associated with Armed Group
    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. The World Bank, 2005.
  • Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers
    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. Child Soldiers International, 2012
  • Crossing bridges and negotiating rivers - Rehabilitation and reintegration of children associated with armed forces
    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, Save the children - Norway, 2005.
  • Reintegration of former child soldiers – a survey of programs
    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. – Ministry of foreign affairs, Japan, 2001.
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Organisations working for and with (former) child soldiers or children and war

There are many organizations working with child soldiers, 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 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
    The UN homepage for this undersection provides lots of interesting and useful material, articles, statistics on this topic. – UN 2010.
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