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
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
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
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)
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.
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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.
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