The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan

A Survey of Programs on the Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers

5. Recommendations

1. While a number of in-depth studies and databases have been compiled (including the recently released global study of child soldiers by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers) on child soldiering and its impact on children, our knowledge of the precise factors and of the relative significance of these factors that cause child soldiering remains quite inadequate. To what extent do economic compulsions in poverty-struck environments, as opposed to say coercion or abduction of children, bring about child soldiering? Missing here are longitudinal studies of the experiences of communities and their children through extended periods of warfare. However rare might be the experts who are willing to brave such studies, it is important to identify and support their work.

2. Similarly, knowledge of what actual events may transpire in the lives of children immediately after their release from child soldiering remains woefully inadequate. International efforts to curb child soldiering have focused either on establishing the minimum age for participation in combat, or on exerting pressure on parties to armed conflict to release child soldiers. Beyond transitional arrangements such as trauma counseling and refugee camps, there is little understanding of the steps required in order to enable former child soldiers to resume productive lives. While volumes of literature exist on the legal rights of children, and the various psychological afflictions that their suffering might give rise to, there is little understanding of the actual strategies that children and their communities might employ in specific conflict situations in order to bring some degree of normalcy to their lives. In order to enable this understanding, donor support needs to move from a primary emphasis on efforts to curb soldiering to an equal emphasis on a better understanding of, and support for, the efforts of those engaged on the ground relief and development workers, local NGOs, local leaderships for the rehabilitation of children. In particular, donors should efforts to establish "DDR timelines" whereby researchers and practitioners clearly delineate steps from the time of the disarming of a child soldier to his/her sustainable rehabilitation in a manner that no longer requires international support or involvement.

3. There is a growing consensus among the majority of those actually engaged on the ground on behalf of children that the locus for the sustainable rehabilitation of former child soldiers are not international aid workers or experts, but the communities from which these children have originated. An assessment of the needs of the communities that these children are to be rehabilitated into should therefore take greater priority over assessing the needs of those agencies and workers providing short-term relief to war-affected children. The latter's needs because of the short-term nature of their activity remain relatively constant over various conflict situations. There is a greater necessity now for shifting more resources to helping communities develop the resources that will enable the lasting rehabilitation of children. These resources could range from the local norms and values that have traditionally protected children and that may facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation to micro-enterprises through which former child soldiers to could participate in the revival of the economic life of their communities. The first step in supporting communities, however, involves an understanding of their needs. Clearly, more research will be an important first step in this area.

4. Two important issues that have not been sufficiently addressed regarding the DDR for the former child soldiers pertains DDR-time line and to security. Concerning security, countries emerging from a war-to-peace transition have experienced increased incidents of banditry and lawlessness, at a time when peace is expected to prevail. UN agencies, NGOs and Governments should consider initiating programs to strengthen respect for the rule of law to fully consolidate and increase personal and property security in post-transition period. For the DDR time-line to be effective, it is important to create an integrated and coordinated approach for all actors involved in providing assistance to former child soldiers from inception to the time they are integrated back to their families and communities.

5. The Office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, should appoint a policy advisor to coordinate all of the above issues. Please see the attached annex 1.

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