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Child Soldiers

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  1. Child Soldiers Dr SupriyaAkerkar

  2. In this lecture • Why are child soldiers a development issue? • Understand the complex factors that produce child soldiers • Understand the psyche of child soldiers • Understand the challenges to their re-integration into society

  3. Why talk about child soldiers? • ....... Because children have rights

  4. Children’s right to development.. • Child’s right ..... • to life, to safety, health, security and protection • to education, shelter and food, and • to dignity and respect. • (UN convention on rights of child 1989)

  5. Who is a child?... • The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989: describes a ‘child’ as someone under the age of 18 years • However, for the specific purpose of engagement in armed conflict, the Convention (article 38) defers to the Geneva Conventions and specifically uses the lower age of 15 years as the minimum for recruitment or engagement in any form of armed hostilities • The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2002: • providing expressly for 18 years as the minimum age for a child to be compulsorily recruited into armed groups, or for direct participation in armed conflict.

  6. Other International Statutes...... • The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998: • the Statute defines war crimes, providing for both state conduct as well as non-governmental internecine conflict. Under this definition, • article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) makes it a crime of war to conscript or enlist • ‘children under the age of 15 years into national armed forces’ or to use them ‘to participate actively in hostilities’. • The problem with this provision is its enforceability. • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1999: • The Charter does not make the distinction between people younger than 18 years and those younger than 15 years: • A child is simply anyone younger than 18 years. • Article 22(2) provides: 39 State parties to the present Charter shall take all necessary measures to ensure that no child shall take a direct part in hostilities and refrain, in particular, from recruiting any child.

  7. Most governments, including UK and USA, recruit children below 18 years - namely the age group 16-18 years – into their military activities... Source: Child Soldiers Global Report 2008

  8. the loss of their childhood...... • 300,000 children work as child soldiers risking their lives in a state of extreme insecurity... • 120,0000 in Africa alone • Why? • Source: (2007) 7 AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAW JOURNAL • Picture source: Factsheet on Child Soldiers, US State Department

  9. African countries in conflict with the worst record on use of child soldiers • Angola, Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Uganda. Source: 1.The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 2.Child Soldiers in Africa: Solutions to a Complex Dilemma;by Martin A. Kalis 3.Picture source:

  10. Understanding child soldiers..... • Are child soldiers victims or perpetrators of crime? • Two perspectives: • Forcible entry into being child soldiers • Volunteering to become child soldiers

  11. Sierra Leone: forced child recruitment.... • Abduction in village raids • 'socialisation into violence‘ • Luring with cash • made to commit various atrocities against their own communities, friends and family. • The armed groups compel such actions as a means of ensuring that the children are effectively stigmatised and unable to return to their homes and communities

  12. Sierra Leone: why children volunteer.... • desire to seek revenge for lost parents and destruction of their environment • to safeguard their survival in the long term and for the commodities they were offered in the short term • military life provided a surrogate family • collapse of the state and the demise of traditional family coping structures have left a gaping social void • power and prestige • “I like it in the army be cause we could do anything we liked to do. When some civilian had something I liked, I just took it without him doing anything to me. We used to rape women. Anything I wanted to do I did. I was free” • Source: Rodriuez O (2011) ‘Diamonds are not girls best friend: the use of child soldiers in Sierra Leone’s civil war’, The child survival journal, spring, Roosevelt Institute, Washington

  13. Child rights activists say...... • child soldiers can never be seen as ‘voluntary recruits’, as they argue.... that when the only options are survival or death/poverty, the choices of the children can hardly be called free and fair.

  14. From the perspective of the child soldier... • Children of war: Sierra Leone •

  15. A lost childhood? • ‘A long way gone’ written by Ismael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.... •

  16. Other structural factors... • Arms Industry? • Class? • Gender?

  17. The arms industry • The increased availability of small arms has allowed even the youngest of individuals to engage in direct combat. • Very little effort and training is required for a 10-year-old to use an automatic weapon that weighs only a few pounds • Source: Child Soldiers in Africa: Solutions to a Complex Dilemma;by Martin A. Kalis • Currently, it is estimated that of all small arms entering the African continent, approximately 21 percent are from China, 18 percent from Russia, and 14 percent from Western European countries, including Great Britain and France • source: CNN World View, CNN TV 2000.

  18. Class • 'Street children' have provided an important pool of recruitment of child soldiers. • Source: Zack-Williams: 2001 Child Soldiers in the Civil War in Sierra Leone; Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 28, No. 87 pp. 73-82 • UNICEF notes: • Rich parents can afford to send their offspring away from the areas of conflict, but children from poorer families are far more vulnerable. Indeed, 'recruiters prefer to concentrate on those who can resist least effectively‘.

  19. Gender..... • Young girls have frequently been treated as 'sex slaves', and have either been 'married off ' to commanders or subjected to sexual assaults, thus running the risk of being infected with HIV. • One third of all the child soldiers in Sierra leone were girls.

  20. Why children?? • 'they are ideal soldiers. They have no responsibilities and they obey orders'. • Cheap resource. They can be paid less and also eat less and are regarded as more expendable than adult soldiers. • Vulnerability and emotional and physical immaturity. Children are generally less demanding, more malleable and obedient than adults. • Children are often also described as ‘fearless soldiers’ • Younger children are used as cooks, spies, porters, scouts, messengers and look-outs.

  21. The real question .... • What does the future hold for child soldiers? • Can they be rehabilitated and reintegrated in society?

  22. Challenges of rehabilitation • Problem of being accepted back as a normal child in society • Community members fear the children or treat them with wariness, believing that they could easily take up arms again and threaten the stability of the community • Source: (2007) AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAW JOURNAL vol 7 p 214 • For those children who are accepted back into the community, many experience difficulties fitting in with their peers. • When they are re-introduced to the schooling system, they have to be placed in grades lower than their age and peer groups.

  23. Return to fighting after demobilisation.... • A Human Rights Watch report indicates that ‘[a]fter Liberia’s civil war ended in 2003, some 101 000 combatants — including 11 000 children — were disarmed and demobilised under a United Nations-sponsored program’. However, many of the child soldiers were approached to join the fighting mission in Coˆte d’Ivoire. The reason repeatedly presented for their reversion to armed activity was often traceable back to economic desperation. • In most cases, the already few opportunities to earn a living are aggravated by the social suspicion and exclusion that follows them. • Reverting to soldiering where they have a place to stay and food is sometimes the only alternative. • Source: (2007) AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAW JOURNAL, Vol 7 p223

  24. Challenges of reintegration •

  25. Thank you.....