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Abstract: This article offers a critique of the dominant approach to children’s disarmament,
demobilization and reintegration (DDR) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Drawing on narratives of young people who were formerly associated with armed groups, the
article highlights some of the mistaken assumptions of the discourse and practice of children’s
DDR, and shows how far removed they are from young people’s actual experience. I argue
that the global outrage against the “child recruitment” phenomenon is dangerously selective,
and that it obscures the entrenched structural violence, which deeply and negatively affects
the lives of young people in eastern DRC today.
Since the mid-1990s, the use and recruitment of children by armed groups is an issue that
has dominated international discourse on children’s experience of violent conflict. From the
1996 report by Graça Machel on the impact of conflict on children,1 to the 1998 adoption of
the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) codifying the use and
recruitment of children under the age of 15 years as a war crime, to the Optional Protocol to
the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
(OPAC), adopted in 2000, global attention has mobilized forcefully behind the “child soldier”
Abstract: In conflicts throughout the world, armed forces and groups recruit children to fight, maintain
their camps, perform labor and be used for sexual purposes. The experiences of children
associated with armed forces and groups (CAAFAG) are not uniform, nor can there be a uniform
approach to helping them when the conflict is over. This article examines the gendered
experiences of girls prior to recruitment, during their time with the fighting forces, through
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes, and in their communities
after formal DDR has ended. We also present some of the experiences of the Participatory
Action Research (PAR) Study with Young Mothers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Northern
Uganda—a study conducted predominantly with former CAAFAG which used a highly
participatory methodology to help participants attain community-based reintegration. In the
PAR study young mother participants took a central role in the design and implementation of
their reintegration process. A mixture of self-help style psychosocial support and livelihood
support were critical to their success. As this population had exceptionally low social status,
lacked confidence and self-respect, and did not have rudimentary economic skills at the
start, social support and community mobilization were critical in laying the groundwork for
livelihood activities and facilitating the sustainability of these activities.
Abstract: The past two decades have seen increased awareness, attention and action in response to the
plight of children affected by armed conflict. However, one issue that has not received much
attention, despite the regularity with which it occurs, is the phenomenon of military forces
and other armed groups using school buildings. Of particular concern is when armed groups
occupy and convert schools into military bases on a medium- or long-term basis.
This article discusses the military use of schools by armed forces, non-state armed groups and
paramilitaries, and the implications such occupations have on children’s safety and access to
education. It begins with a discussion on the scope of the problem around the world and
the negative consequences on children. The article concludes with four distinct and effective
examples of strategies that local actors have used for ending the military use of schools during
Abstract: The protection of children in armed conflict has always been high on the international political
agenda. The Security Council has a special working group which pays specific attention each
year to the most serious violations of children’s rights in armed conflict: the recruitment and
use of children by armed forces or armed groups, the killing and maiming of children, rape and
sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian
access by parties to armed conflict.
Abstract: The changing nature of armed conflict has been characterised by the use of children as
soldiers, and the reintegration of these children back into society has become a matter of
primary concern for post-conflict countries seeking to achieve sustainable peace and
security. While measures of reintegration have been similar in various post-conflict
peacebuilding initiatives, the experiences and outcomes differ widely from one country to
the other. Therefore, this paper focuses on comparative international experience with
reintegration programmes for former child soldiers. It discusses the aspects of
reintegration, how it is being practiced from one country to the other and the lesson
therein for Liberia.
Data for this work were derived from a fieldwork conducted in Liberia and from the results
of similar studies undertaken elsewhere, leading to the conclusion that it is important to
examine the social context of a society before adopting particular reintegration measures
and to encourage collaboration between relevant stakeholders so as to promote qualitative
reintegration. The mainstreaming of child rights by state actors, the enforcement of strict
measures against child recruiters, and the prioritization of child welfare would help to curb
the menace of child soldiering in the future.
Abstract: As the notion of child soldiering is in direct contradiction to how the West currently
understands childhood, the international community has declared child soldiering a grave
abuse of children’s rights. The issue of child soldiers and their reintegration is part of an
on-going debate between the universalism of children’s rights and a culturally sensitive
understanding of them. The universalist perspective believes that “childhood constitutes a
coherent group or a state defined by identical needs and desires, regardless of class, ethnic,
or racial differences”. Since children across the world are deemed to have the same needs,
universalists believe that the same support and protection mechanisms should be applied.
Therefore, the universalists favour strictly prohibiting and punishing the use of child soldiers.
Cultural relativists, however, argue that childhood is a social construction: “its meaning is
negotiated between different individuals and groups, often with conflicting interests. Thus,
childhood is relative”. Cultural relativists’ criticism of the universalist approach is that it fails to
take into account social, cultural and political diversity in what childhood means in different
cultures. What is required is a better understanding of the local conditions and dynamics
that define and shape the experiences of child soldiers as well as their perception of these
These contrasting perspectives influence the development and implementation of the
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration [DDR] programmes that are intended to meet
the needs of child soldiers. The following presents an overview of what the universalists and
cultural relativists argue are the main problems and difficulties of current DDR programmes for
Abstract: Acclaimed Pakistani filmmaker and journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Children of the Taliban) talks with us about the insidious tactics employed by the Taliban against women and children in Pakistan.
Abstract: The youth constituency in any country can be an active change agent as well as a force sustaining
the status quo or fomenting conflict. Nigeria, like other Africa states, has a large youth population
that often plays a key role in conflict, particularly violent ones. Is it possible to transform
the role of youths from one contributing to a culture of conflict to building a culture of peace?
Youths face many societal challenges that affect their behavior. Making youths stakeholders creates
opportunities for peacebuilding by making them participants in the national project. A sense
of positive stakeholding in nation building is essential to making them agents of peace.
Abstract: The use of children as soldiers was a dominant feature of the civil war in Liberia that lasted from 1989
until 2003. In the postwar period, reintegrating these children into society became the responsibility
of a number of stakeholders, including local and international nongovernmental organizations.
The engagement of these agencies has been beneficial, but fieldwork in this area found that improvement
of the status quo requires better funding to support them in their capacity building.
Abstract: Conflict in Central Africa appears to have declined
remarkably in recent years. The remaining instability
and violence, which predominantly affect the Eastern
DRC, seem to be increasingly the result of criminal
acts in a context of persistent lawlessness and weak
state institutions, rather than the product of war.
This context makes it difficult to provide the criminal
justice response that crimes such as murder, rape and
trafficking in children require.
Although political grievances remain, much of the
current instability and lawlessness is tied to activities
such as trafficking in minerals and other forms of
contraband. Those profiting include members of illegal
armed groups and corrupt elements in the military,
who have an economic interest in maintaining the
current situation. Militant organizations may have
had political origins, but today, many could be better
described as criminal groups.
The largest source of finance for these groups is the
minerals trade. Other sources of illegal income include trafficking in cannabis, illicit timber and elephant ivory.
Unless the flows of contraband are addressed,
incentives for armed groups to perpetuate instability,
lawlessness and violence will persist and it will be
extremely difficult to build state capacity in this region.
The current approach to tackling the instability in
the Eastern DRC has focused heavily on the military.
Fighting insurgencies requires soldiers, but fighting
crime requires a functional and accessible criminal
justice system. Building law enforcement capacity in
the region requires capacity-building and reform in the
police, courts and prisons. In parallel to this long-term effort, immediate responses
are needed to undercut the financing of armed groups.
Abstract: The six grave violations against children during times of conflict, enumerated by the Security
Council in its resolutions, form the basis of the Council’s architecture in protecting children during
war. Monitoring and Reporting mechanisms set up around the world use this framework to gather
evidence of grave violations against children in reporting to the Council. This Working Paper
attempts to analyse the six grave violations more deeply, exploring their basis in international law.
In doing so, we hope to bring clarity to the issues concerned and to strengthen the arguments of
child protection partners as they confront these violations in their field of work.
This is the first in a series of Working Papers developed by the Office of the Special Representative
for Children and Armed Conflict to assist the community of practice working on the protection of
children affected by armed conflict We hope this effort will assist in bringing conceptual clarity to
our work and strengthen our advocacy with member states, sub-national governments, parties to
conflict and civil society groups.
Abstract: The Human Security Brief 2006 updates the 2005 Human Security Report's conflict trend data and analyzes the findings of two recently released datasets that track trends in war terminations and organized violence against civilians.
The new data indicate that the post-Cold War decline in armed conflicts and related fatalities reported last year has continued, with Sub-Saharan Africa seeing the greatest decrease in political violence.
Other encouraging trends include continuing declines in the number of genocides and other mass slaughters of civilians, and a drop in refugee numbers and military coups.
But some of the other findings are far from positive. Four of the world's six regions have experienced increased numbers of conflicts since 2002, the last five years have seen a huge spike in the estimated death toll from terrorism, while negotiated settlements, which are responsible for an increasing proportion of conflict terminations, have worryingly high failure rates.
Abstract: This at-a-glance guide to global security issues provides a wealth of information on armed conflicts since 1946. It maps political violence, the links between poverty and conflict, assaults on human rights - including the use of child soldiers - and the causes of war and peace. Extraordinary changes have taken place since the end of the Cold War. Despite the escalating violence in Iraq, and the widening war in Darfur, there has been a decline in armed conflict worldwide. The number of battle-deaths, genocides and refugees has also decreased. Many of these changes can be attributed to international activism - spearheaded by the UN - that seeks to stop ongoing wars, help negotiate peace settlements, support post-conflict reconstruction, and prevent old wars from flaring up again. Specially designed to show detailed information on a small scale, the miniAtlas of Human Security is a succinct introduction to today's most pressing security challenges.
Abstract: Since the beginning of Al Aqsa Intifada, Palestinian children and adults living in the occupied Palestinian territory have been exposed to stressful events on a daily basis. As a result, some individuals develop severe and chronic reactive psychological syndromes. The nongovernmental organisation Médecins Sans Frontières provides medical and psychological support to them, using psychodynamic psychotherapy adapted to the Palestinian culture and to the low intensity conflict context. This article presents data from 1773 children and adults who received treatment by psychotherapists between November 2000 and January 2006, in the Gaza strip and the West Bank. Nearly half of the patients were children between 4 and 14 years. The three main diagnoses were a) anxiety disorder other than posttraumatic stress disorder or acute stress, b) mood disorder, and c) PTSD. The psychotherapy included a median of six sessions over a period of around 11 weeks. At the evaluation at the end of therapy almost 80% of all patients had improved. These observations suggest that brief psychodynamic psychotherapy could have positive effects on the psychological wellbeing of Palestinians, even in difficult circumstances i.e. war context and within an Arab culture. The authors argue that this type of individual psychological support can be a useful complement to a psychosocial approach at the community level.
Abstract: Children with disabilities are more vulnerable to violence, as well as more likely to experience psychosocial problems in situations of armed conflict than children with no disabilities. All children who live in conflict affected areas have the same rights to psychosocial support, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the case of disabled children, additionally the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, children with disabilities are often overlooked in psychosocial programmes. In this article, the authors examine the reasons behind this observed exclusion and suggest ways to increase the participation of children with disabilities.
Abstract: Violence and instability in Iraq have had highly detrimental effects upon Iraqi children and adolescents. This article summarises the magnitude of Child and Adolescent Mental Healthproblems, and the available services in a country suffering from severe and extended conflicts, war, and international isolation. Possible interventions to promote child and adolescent mental health are discussed, including feasible CAMH policy, mental health plans and strategies. Barriers to successful implementation of CAMH services are identified and possible solutions are suggested.
Abstract: This paper describes the use of a mixed methods design to develop the Sri Lankan Children's Daily Stressor Scale [CDSS]. It briefly describes its use in a study assessing the relative contribution of daily stressors on the one hand, and war and disaster exposure on the other, to young people's mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. The authors discuss the neglect of daily stressors; the stressful social and material conditions of everyday life in settings of armed conflict and natural disaster and offer a rationale for the importance of assessing daily stressors when seeking to understand and address mental health and psychosocial needs of conflict and disaster affected youth. A central focus of the paper is on the unique value of a mixed methods approach to contextually sound measure development.
Abstract: This paper reviews what is currently known from research about the effectiveness of interventions to address mental health problems in children and adolescents affected by armed conflict. The focus will be on interventions delivered in conflict affected countries either during active humanitarian emergencies or during the post conflict period. The paper will discuss two main paradigms of intervention dominating the field: psychosocial approaches and clinical/psychiatric approaches. The paper reviews some of the basic literature, theories and issues involved in assessment, programme planning, monitoring and evaluation of both approaches. In order to explore these issues in depth, the paper will draw from the author's field experiences with research in the Russian Federation and in northern Uganda. The paper also presents a brief review of a handful of other published evaluations of mental health interventions for war affected children. We will close with a discussion of what future research is needed to build an evidence base regarding mental health interventions for children affected by armed conflict as well as the ethical and feasibility issues associated with carrying out this work.
Abstract: The events that characterise complex emergencies: situations of armed conflict, forced migration and natural disasters, can pose a serious risk of violation of children's rights. Psychosocial interventions in such contexts are generally implemented from a 'needs' perspective, and children's human rights are not integrated into the conceptual framework. This article describes the legal and moral obligations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and outlines the process of human rights based programming and evaluation. It is suggested that psychosocial interventions would better meet children's needs and rights if planning, implementation and evaluation were informed by the guiding principles of the CRC.
Abstract: This article presents the potential of posttraumatic growth (PTG) among youths formerly associated with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda. Through investigating life narratives of 12 such youths, this study aims to discover the potential of PTG as a consequence of a forced time period with the LRA. By means of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), the narratives revealed four themes: social support; participation; self perception, and faith in God. These four themes are found to resemble four of the five factors measuring PTG. Basic values and cultural understanding, however, makes the possibility of PTG very doubtful. Yet, a matching review of the four themes and PTG compose a foundation of how to focus future interventions, with an increased potential for growth, among youths formerly associated with the LRA.
Abstract: A corrupt and dysfunctional prison system has contributed to – and is a manifestation of – the breakdown of the rule of law in Pakistan. Heavily overpopulated, understaffed and poorly managed, the prisons have become a fertile breeding ground for criminality and militancy, with prisoners more likely to return to crime than to abandon it. The system must be examined in the context of a deteriorating criminal justice sector that fails to prevent or prosecute crime, and protects the powerful while victimising the underprivileged. Yet, while domestic and international actors alike are devoting more resources to improve policing and prosecution, prisons continue to be largely neglected. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government at the centre and the four provincial governments, as well as the country’s international partners, should make penal reform a central component of a criminal justice reform agenda.
Pakistan lacks a systematic program for the capacity building of prison staff, while existing regulations on postings, transfers and promotions are frequently breached because of nepotism and political interference. Given weak accountability mechanisms for warders and prison superintendents, torture and other brutal treatment are rampant and rarely checked. Moreover, with out-dated laws and procedures, bad practices and poor oversight, the criminal justice system is characterised by long detentions without trial. As a result, prisons remain massively overcrowded, with nearly 33,000 more prisoners than the authorised capacity. The large majority of the total prison population – around 50,000 out of 78,000 – are remand prisoners awaiting or on trial. With more than two dozen capital offences, including many discriminatory provisions that carry a mandatory death penalty, the death-row population is the largest in the world, though the current government has placed an informal moratorium on executions.
Abstract: At a recent Paris conference on child soldiering, the keynote speaker, French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, warned that the use of child soldiers is “a time bomb that threatens stability and growth in Africa and beyond.” They are “lost children,” he argued, “lost for peace and lost for the devel-opment of their countries.” This lost generation metaphor has become a commonplace in discussions of child soldiers, who are presumed to return from war traumatized, stigmatized, and broken. “They are walking ghosts,” mourns a recent New York Times (2006) editorial, “damaged, uneducated pariahs.”
While such alarming assertions attract much-needed attention and money to the reintegration of former child soldiers, the evidence to support these claims is weak at best. In fact, the evidence to support almost any claim is sadly lacking. Studies of child soldiers—and indeed of ex-combatants in general are few in number and largely case-based, drawing on interviews with former participants. While such stu-dies have yielded important insights for reintegration of young ex-fighters, the evidence base is still thin. With interview accounts, moreover, one worries that the most sensational rather than the most common experiences find their way into discourse. In the absence of representative data within and across conflicts, we have little sense of the proportionality and generalizability of any findings. This chapter considers new evidence from Uganda on the impact of war on young recruits and considers what that evidence implies for the long-term reintegration of child and young adult combatants.
The epidemic of gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has garnered popular
media attention, but is incompletely described in the medical literature to date. In particular, the relative importance of
militarized compared to civilian rape and the impact on vulnerable populations merits further study. We describe a
retrospective case series of sexual abuse among children and youth in eastern DRC.
Medical records of patients treated for sexual assault at HEAL Africa Hospital, Goma, DRC between 2006 and 2008
were reviewed. Information extracted from the chart record was summarized using descriptive statistics, with comparative
statistics to examine differences between pediatric (#18 yrs) and adult patients.
440 pediatric and 54 adult sexual abuse cases were identified. Children and youth were more often assaulted by
someone known to the family (74% vs 30%, OR 6.7 [95%CI 3.6–12], p,0.001), and less frequently by military personnel (13%
vs 48%, OR 0.14 [95%CI 0.075–0.26], p,0.001). Delayed presentation for medical care (.72 hours after the assault) was
more common in pediatric patients (53% vs 33%, OR 2.2 [95%CI 1.2–4.0], p = 0.007). Physical signs of sexual abuse, including
lesions of the posterior fourchette, hymeneal tears, and anal lesions, were more commonly observed in children and youth
(84% vs 69%, OR 2.3 [95%CI 1.3–4.4], p = 0.006). Nine (2.9%) pediatrics patients were HIV-positive at presentation, compared
to 5.3% of adults (p = 0.34).
World media attention has focused on violent rape as a weapon of war in the DRC. Our data highlight some
neglected but important and distinct aspects of the ongoing epidemic of sexual violence: sexual abuse of children and
Abstract: The Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO) has documented 72 cases of actual or suspected
traffi cking involving 110 people, which took place along the China-Burma border, mostly
during the past six years. The majority of those traffi cked were young Palaung women from
tea farming communities in Namkham, Namhsan and Mantong townships.
PWO surveys in villages from which women have been traffi cked show that up to 41% of the
population have migrated to work elsewhere. Large scale migration began after the surrender
in 2005 of the Palaung State Liberation Army, which had controlled Palaung areas under a
ceasefi re agreement since 1991. There has been a surge of Burma Army troops and proxy
militia into the area since the surrender, who have imposed increased controls and taxes on
agriculture and trading. Together with rising prices of food commodities from Central Burma,
and increasing costs of health and education, this has meant that tea farmers can no longer
earn a living and young people have to leave home to survive. This has led to an alarming
increase in the incidence of traffi cking of women, men and children, mainly to China.
Most of those trafficked were tricked into travelling to China by being offered well-paid jobs on farms or in factories. In 25 percent of the cases, women were forced to marry Chinese men, with brokers receiving up to 25,000 Yuan, approx 3,800 USD, for the transaction. 10 percent were forced into the sex trade. A disturbing trend is that eleven of the cases were children under ten, fi ve of whom were
under one year old. Some of these children were simply kidnapped from
their homes, but others were sold by parents who were alcohol or drug users. As highlighted
by PWO in earlier reports, opium cultivation in Palaung areas has skyrocketed in recent years
due to the profi ts being made by the Burma Army and its militia from the drug trade. This has
led to increasing addiction among Palaung men, who not only sell off all their possessions to
buy drugs but also their children.
Abstract: The present report is submitted pursuant to the statements by the President of
the Security Council of 31 October 2001 and 10 March 2011
and Security Council resolutions 1863, 1872 and
1910, and as specified in paragraph 20 of resolution 1964, in which
the Council requested me to report on all aspects of the resolution every four
months. This report provides an update on major developments in Somalia since my
report of 28 April 2011 until 15 August 2011 and assesses the political,
security, human rights and humanitarian situation as well as progress made in
implementing the United Nations strategy for Somalia. The report also covers the
operational activities of the United Nations and the international community.