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 harmed, and children may experience short- and/or long-term physical and/or psychological consequences.
Worldwide, more than 5000 children are, on a daily basis, displaced due to armed conflict. Many of these children are able to run away from violence together with their families, but an increasing number may loose 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 forcefully 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 the active participation of children in war to halt, there is a long way to go. And at the same time, the work to help children out of this, to provide them with safety, education, rehabilitation and social networks, represent an extremely important and complex endeavor. 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 the early 1970s (some going back to the Geneva Convention in 1949), in the effort to try to limit the participation of children in armed conflict. There have been discussions about those between 15 and 18 years of age, whether they are “old enough” to take an active part in armed conflict or whether they should be included in the conventions and laws prohibiting their participation.
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
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
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)
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 – An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers
Child Soldiers International 2012
Here we find best practice on the prevention of recruitment of children into the armed forces and demobilization and social reintegration of child soldiers in Africa.
Children and Armed Conflict
This report 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: Consolidated version
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,
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.
Safe Schools Declaration
Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, 2019
In December 2014, the final Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict were unveiled at a meeting hosted by the Missions of Norway and Argentina at the UN in Geneva. Throughout the first half of 2015, Norway and Argentina led consultations to develop the Safe Schools Declaration, through which states express political support and commitment to protect education in armed conflict, including by endorsing and committing to implement the Guidelines. The Safe Schools Declaration was opened for endorsement at an international conference in Oslo on May 29, 2015. See the list of endorsing states here.
Stop the War on Children: Protecting Children in 21st Century Conflict
Save the Children, 2019
“The nature of conflict has changed, putting children in the frontline in new and terrible ways. Wars are lasting longer. They are more likely to be fought in urban areas amongst civilian populationsleading to deaths and life-changing injuries, and laying waste to the infrastructure needed to guarantee access to food and water. Attacks on schools and hospitals are up. The denial of humanitarian aid is used as yet another weapon of war. The international rules and basic standards of conduct that exist to protect civilians in conflict are being flouted with impunity. Children are disproportionately suffering the consequences of these brutal trends; almost one fifth of children worldwide are now living in areas affected by armed conflict. It should shame us all that last year saw the number of recorded grave violations against children in conflict rise yet again. We are living in the age of a war on children” – From the foreword by Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Chief Executive, Save the Children International
Child Soldiers International Annual Report 2017-18
Child Soldiers International
Protecting children in conflict is one of the most urgent human rights issues of our time. Around the world more than 240 million children are living in countries affected by conflict. Many of them face violence, displacement, hunger and exploitation by armed forces and groups. Child Soldiers International’s World Index – an online database mapping child recruitment practices worldwide – highlights the participation of children in at least 18 conflicts during the last year.
Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children – Impact of Armed Conflict on Children
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
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
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 an 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. The 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.
Tug-of-War: Children in armed groups in DRC
War Child, 2018
A study on the push and pull factors influencing children to join armed groups ‘voluntarily’ in North and South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is a tendency in the literature and in policy debates to discuss children joining armed groups almost exclusively in terms of forced recruitment. Yet, some are joining voluntarily. How does it happen? Why does it happen? Who are the children more prone to make this choice? Is it really a choice?
Too Small to be Fighting in Anyone`s War
Good overview over the topic, with solid information on background, effects of war on the children especially on girls.
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
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.
The term “Children born of war” commonly refers to children who have one parent (usually the mother) that is a member of the local community and the other parent (usually the father) that is part of a foreign army or peacekeeping force (Grieg 2001, 6; Mochmann 2006, 198-9, in Mochmann, I. C. (2017). The last two decades, humanitarian practitioners, researchers and others have paid increasing attention to the topic. It is urgent that these children are being protected appropriately, as they are an especially vulnerable group of conflict survivors. Below, we have included an article that summarizes the main discussions, developments and achievements obtained during the past decade of international and interdisciplinary research on the issue (Mochmann, I. C. (2017), an LSE report by Joanne Neenan (2017) addressing the protection needs and unique vulnerabilities of these children, a paper presenting findings from consultations with humanitarian practitioners in the period December 2004 – March 2005, and lastly the link to the website of the International Network for Interdisciplinary Research on Children Born of War (INIRC-CBOW).
Children Born of War – A Decade of International and Interdisciplinary Research
Mochmann, I. C. (2017). Children Born of War – A Decade of International and Interdisciplinary Research. Historical Social Research, 42(1), 320-346.
“Children Born of War” (CBOW) commonly refers to children who have one parent (usually the mother) that is a member of the local community and the other parent (usually the father) that is part of a foreign army or peacekeeping force (Grieg 2001, 6; Mochmann 2006, 198-9). These children have been born as a result of armed conflicts throughout history, are presently being born in ongoing conflicts and are likely to be born also in future (Mochmann 2014; Mochmann and Kleinau 2016). Although still a taboo in many countries and regions, the topic has obtained increasing attention both in academia and in the public over the past few decades (Kleinau and Mochmann 2015, 34). (…) This finally led to the establishment of the research area of Children Born of War in 2006. This article summarizes the main discussions, developments and achievements obtained during the past decade (…)” (p. 321).
Closing the protection gap for children born of war: Addressing stigmatisation and the intergenerational impact of sexual violence in conflict
Joanne Neenan, London School of Economics, 2017
“National and international policymakers have largely overlooked the protection needs – and indeed, existence – of children born of sexual violence in conflict. Despite a growing body of research exposing the unique vulnerabilities this group of victim-survivors face, there remains a critical policy and protection gap in addressing their needs. This gap constitutes a global protection and human rights failure.” (p. 8).
Protecting children born of sexual violence and exploitation in conflict zones: existing practice and knowledge gaps
GSPIA and Ford Institute for Human Security – Report on findings from consultations with humanitarian practitioners December 2004 – March 2005
“Generally, we found that humanitarian practitioners agreed that children born of wartime rape and exploitation are appropriately understood as particularly vulnerable in conflict-affected areas. The conversations echoed much of what is known anecdotally about the risks faced by children born of war. In particular, participants in the consultations discussed these children’s vulnerability to social exclusion and stigma from the societies into which they are born. This underlying risk factor is described as being connected to other sets of vulnerabilities: physical and psycho-social health, access to resources, risk of separation, abuse or neglect by caretakers, and early childhood mortality, including as a result of infanticide.” (p. 3).
Children born of war
International Network for Interdisciplinary Research on Children Born of War (INIRC-CBOW)
This is the site of ‘Children born of war’, an International Network for Interdisciplinary Research on Children Born of War (INIRC-CBOW). Their aim is collecting data and information on children born of war across time and nations and thereby expanding the evidence base; gathering research results, literature, on-going research on children born of war and promoting collaborative research projects on the topic; developing recommendations of best practices to secure the rights of children born of war in co-operation with NGO‘s & governmental organizations; and developing medical therapies focusing on the special needs of children born of war.
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.
Manuals helping children cope with their reactions to war and disasters
Children and War Foundation
The foundation has developed five manuals to help children cope with their reaction to war and disasters. To get access to the manuals, please contact the foundation directly.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: +47 920 00 920
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 symptoms among former child soldiers in Sierra Leone: follow-up study
Betancourt et al. 2016
The findings indicated improvement in PTSD symptoms among former child soldiers despite limited access to care. Family and community support played a vital part in promoting psychological adjustment
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
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
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.
Healing child soldiers
Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2009
A United Nations treaty prohibiting the use of children in hostilities has been ratified by 126 countries, but at least 250 000 child soldiers are currently involved in armed conflicts worldwide. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners struggle to repair the damage. Gary Humphreys reports.
Child Soldiers: From recruitment to reintegration
Alpaslan Özerdem & Sukanya Podder (editors), 2011
This volume is about the important processes involved in young
people’s participation in civil conflict. It seeks to define the trajectories of children’s lives in war zones, and highlights the interlinkages, connections and mediated impacts of recruitment into rebel
groups, in-group socialization, training and indoctrination. In particular, the authors show how these can influence post conflict return and reintegration outcomes for youth who live through conflict.
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
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.
Reintegration of former child soldiers – Rethink Child Soldiers
UNICEF 2018, War Child 2019
These reports discuss effective guiding principles of reintegration among child soldiers. The aim is to bring global attention to the challenges related to the reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups, and promote better policy, practice and funding in the future.
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.
Past horrors, present struggles: The role of stigma in the association between war experiences and psychosocial adjustment among former child soldiers in Sierra Leone
Betancourt, T. S. et al., Social science & medicine, 2010
Upon returning to their communities, children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups–commonly referred to as child soldiers–often confront significant community stigma. Much research on the reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers has focused on exposure to past war-related violence and mental health outcomes, yet no empirical work has yet examined the role that post-conflict stigma plays in shaping long-term psychosocial adjustment. Two waves of data are used in this paper from the first prospective study of male and female former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. We examined the role of stigma (manifest in discrimination as well as lower levels of community and family acceptance) in the relationship between war-related experiences and psychosocial adjustment (depression, anxiety, hostility and adaptive behaviors). Former child soldiers differ from one another with regard to their post-war experiences, and these differences profoundly shape their psychosocial adjustment over time. Consistent with social stress theory, we observed that post-conflict factors such as stigma can play an important role in shaping psychosocial adjustment in former child soldiers.
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 Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict serves as the leading UN advocate for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict. The mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict was created by General Assembly resolution A/RES/51/77 following the publication, in 1996, of the report by Graça Machel on the impact of armed conflict on children.
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 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 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.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.
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.
Children born of war
Children born of war’, an International Network for Interdisciplinary Research on Children Born of War (INIRC-CBOW). Their aim is collecting data and information on children born of war across time and nations and thereby expanding the evidence base; gathering research results, literature, on-going research on children born of war and promoting collaborative research projects on the topic; developing recommendations of best practices to secure the rights of children born of war in co-operation with NGO‘s & governmental organizations; and developing medical therapies focusing on the special needs of children born of war.
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