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Measuring the Use of Force

Do Children Count?


Carr Center > Measurement & Human Rights > Projects > Do Children Count?


Measuring the Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers

Andrea Rossi, Director

Challenges of addressing the issue of children in armed conflict

Preventing child recruitment in armed forces and armed groups, demobilizing such forces, and reintegrating child soldiers into society are not simple tasks.

There are formidable challenges in implementing programs that aim to reintegrate children formerly associated with armed forces and groups in post-conflict states. Moreover, measuring the effectiveness of such programs poses difficult challenges.

For centuries, human beings have developed training programs and manuals detailing how exactly to train and make a soldier. But there is no manual on how to “unmake” a soldier.


Value of measurement

In order to address this challenge, policy makers need to understand the urgency and the complexity of dealing with such issues, and they need to base their policy decision on factual evidence and knowledge of impact and progress.


Since the The Graça Machel Report on the impact of armed conflict on children in 1996, the United Nations' Security Council has officially added the issue of children affected by war to its agenda and has adopted 6 resolutions. The Council also has approved and implemented an optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.


Recognition of urgency

Yet in order to implement these commitments, we need to understand and to believe that there is no "lost generation."

The capacity and resilience of the children, their families, and communities should not be underestimated, but instead should be built upon. Children who were associated with armed groups or forces can grow into positive members of their communities as in the cases in Africa, East Asia, and Central America. We have to work to make it happen in Iraq, in the Middle East, and everywhere where children are involved in armed conflicts.

As long as we all fulfill our duty to protect and assist children, this vision is not only necessary - it is possible.

(introduction to Ismael Beah's talk at the Harvard Kennedy School Forum)

In the News

June 6, 2008
Human Rights Watch

"US: Improve Treatment of Children in Armed Conflict"calls on the U.S. to amend its current practices towards former child soldiers. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child specifically criticizes the US for its lack of protections for former child soldiers and asks the government to employ several policy reforms.

read more >

May 20, 2008
The New York Times

"U.S. says it is holding 500 youths in Iraq" reports that the U.S. military is holding 500 youths in detention centers in Iraq. Several American civil liberties unions have criticized this practice which violates treaty obligations.

read more >

Key Documents
Past Activities

Measurement and Human Rights Colloquium
Friday, February 22, 2008
“Measuring the unmeasurable: Quantifying community reintegration of former child soldiers.”

View the Powerpoint presentation

HRM Forum Event
March 14, 2007
“I Was a Child Soldier”

Author of the best-selling book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah has become an outspoken international advocate for children affected by war.

A Carr Center Conversation with Ishmael Beah, author, and Professors Samantha Power and Jacqueline Bhabha. Introduced and organized by Andrea Rossi.

Watch the JFK Forum video

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