The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan

A Survey of Programs on the Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers


Great and special gratitude; and appreciations go to the Government of Japan for sponsoring and financing this important and timely survey.

I am indebted to Mr. Olara A. Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, for providing me with Office space and institutional base where I conducted most of my research. I am especially grateful to Mr. Chetan Kumar, Funmi Olonisakin and Mr. Tonderai Chikuhwa for their constructive suggestions, and most importantly their flexibility in accommodating my short notice requests for information and direction where to find new information regarding programs of reintegration for the former child soldiers. I am thankful to Dr. Alcinda Honwana for her continued support and guidance for me, during the entire writing of this survey. Many thanks go to Ms. Bernardette Crasto and Ms. Isabel Bucaram for their strong support of me during the writing of this survey. Special thanks also go to Mr. Buenventura Juarez and all those in the Office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict who contributed one way or the other, towards the finalization and production of this important subject.

I would like to sincerely thank many people from other UN agencies and NGO in the field (Alec Wargo of UNHCR, Boia Efraime of "Rebuilding Hope", Maputo, Mozambique, Jean-Claude Le Grande of UNICEF, Allison Pillsbury of IRC, Johanna Cornwell of the World Bank and many others) for providing me with information from the field regarding programs dedicated to former child soldiers.

William Deng Deng
Email: or
Tel: (718) 346-6838 residence, (212) 963-0879 Office

Executive Summary

Efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate former child soldiers in several different countries, most notably countries that were emerging or have emerged from the havoc of armed conflict is almost impossible to implement without difficulties. This survey highlights the process of implementation of programs for former child soldiers in Cambodia, Colombia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Kosovo, analyzing them in terms of policy and legal issues, political context and program implementation. The special needs facing the former child soldiers are discussed along with political situation and child protection in each country. Conclusion, lessons learned, challenges and recommendations are presented at the end of the survey.

From a policy and legal perspective, providing support for demobilization has been a challenging process for many UN agencies, NGOs and various Governments because of the many restrictions on providing inflexible development assistance to war affected communities... In context of a war-peace transition, DDR assistance has been risky for UN agencies and NGOs because of the political nature in which it is carried out. NGOs must always and constantly assess whether the parties are sincerely committed to peace before obligating resources. The DDR process, though complicated by political issues, is usually straightforward, with a checklist of issues that need to be addressed.

This survey stresses that disarmament; demobilization and reintegration programs need to address the critical period right after demobilization, when former child soldiers have returned to their communities. Providing short-term support or in-kind assistance facilitate child soldiers' reinsertion into civilian society because they serve as a transitional safety net, enabling the ex-child combatants to get back on their feet and providing them with an important buffer period and provide a new means of living in civilian economy. However, the experience with in-kind assistance has not been fully satisfactory in part because monetary assistance can be provided in one or two payments or in monthly payments extended over time. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and donors need to examine several factors before deciding which is most suitable for a given country.

The survey further shows that the purpose of DDR programs is to ensure former child soldiers' financial independence and their acceptance in the community from where they came. In many cases, former child soldiers might have spent years participating in armed conflicts. Their combat skill does not have a value in the post-war economy and, without assistance they will most likely find it difficult to establish themselves and to engage in a productive livelihood. This survey suggest that reintegration programs should not target former child soldiers as individuals only, but instead should be oriented toward and based in the community. In addition to initiatives that seek to improve their training programs to give them vocational skills; UN and NGOs have had some positive experience in establishing information and referral centers that link former child soldiers with job opportunities and training programs, as well as vocational centers that seek to assess former child soldiers' skills. The survey concludes that the DDR efforts for the former child soldiers have overall been successful in several parts of the world, despite many complications and obstacles in the road. However, the survey also reveals that the programs and projects dedicated to former soldiers lack an integrated and coordinated approach for its successful implementation.

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