Whereas this volume of coverage does plenty to highlight the problem, targeting just this one area may not lead to any sustainable results in regions in which Child Soldiers are still used.
The issues to which children in armed conflict are subject are obvious. Aside from the potential for injuries and fatalities, the psychological trauma that these children may go through is considerable. Children may also be uprooted from their homes and communities, orphaned or separated from their parents and families, subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, deprived of education and recreation.
Recruitment of ChildrenEdit
There are many reasons why an armed force may choose to use children amongst their ranks.
The most obvious is that children are both cheap and entirely malleable. If you have the opportunity to train a child from a very early age, you can make them exactly as you want them to be. These children could be press-ganged by invading marauders, kidnapped, or might believe that they are volunteering.
Once in the possession of rebel groups, they can be taken far away from their families, told any number of lies. Once they are not under the full protection of the government, there is no guarantee about the nutrition that they might receive, nor the education, living conditions or other basic human rights.
Rebel forces are not the only guilty parties who make use of Child Soldiers, in 2008's Global Report: Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan (and South Sudan), Uganda and Yemen were all named as nations in which the legitimate government included children in their armies.
The most difficult reason to tackle is the fact that joining an army may be the only option that a child has. In a poverty stricken country, where jobs are hard to come by and education is close to non-existent, volunteering to join an army can give children employment, protection, and purpose. Research reported by "Child Soldiers International" suggests that children may seek to sign up as a way of getting revenge against another force in war torn nations.
There could be pressure from parents or other people in positions of trust, social, economic, traditional or cultural factors which add to these reasons and make the children desire some of the power which they perceive soldiers to possess.
Locating These ChildrenEdit
Various laws preventing the use of children in armed conflicts (or as part of a formal army in any way) already exist, although a problem that nations and the UN as a whole face is that not all armies are legitimised by governments, and as such not all armies are under the control of UN jurisdiction. If the majority of child soldiers are trained and utilised by rebel generals, no amounts of laws or conventions will amount to a solution.
Attacking the SourceEdit
Child soldiers may volunteer for armed conflict if they have nothing else to do. In times of famine and drought, children may turn out to be more likely to take up arms and join in with conflicts. What would be the purpose of completely eradicating the use of child soldiers worldwide if these children would have nothing else to do once they were released from service?
There are several documents which relate to the issue of Child Soldiers, although not all of them have been ratified by all of the nations involved in the issue, so as such they do not bear much credence in all discussions on the subject. The Rome Statute (2002) does, however, state that "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime.
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990
- The Optional Protocol... on the involvement of children in armed conflict, 2000
- ILO Minimum Age Convention 138
- African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
- The "Paris Commitments", 2007
Child - The UNCRC defines a child as anyone under the age of 18, although it does include the loophole: ..."unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier...", effectively meaning that a nation can change the age of adulthood arbitrarily.
DDR - Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration; the aims of many initiatives to solve the problem of Child Soldiers.