Child Soldier Resource Library

Global Research Fellow

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) declares that forced recruitment and abduction of children to serve in armed conflict constitutes modern-day slavery and one of the worst forms of child labour. The Goldin Institute works with grassroots leaders, including ex-child soldiers, to support both the eradication and prevention of child soldiers, as well as their successful reintegration and rehabilitation following captivity.

Our partnership with YOLRED in Northern Uganda has proved pivotal in supporting former combatants with their reintegration and social cohesion efforts. During the conflict in the region there was very little protection for Uganda’s youth during the conflict. And, over a decade later, governmental post-conflict support for returnees is non-existent. Any international involvement and programmes carried out for former child soldiers often adopts a top-down approach designed in European states which is not inclusive of the voices of survivors and thus neglects their specific needs. This is most significant for former girl and women soldiers, who become invisible in narratives of child-soldiering as social constructions of gender do not consider them to be fighters.

With these structural barriers in mind, the work of YOLRED and other community-based organisations becomes pivotal in both the protection of potential child soldiers, and in combatting some of the stigma which exists for returning former child soldiers.

Goldin Institute Resources

“I am free from the conflict, but I do not feel free”: experiences of child soldiers in Northern Uganda is a comic which brings to life the voices and experiences of former child soldiers in Northern Uganda. Each panel presents direct quotes from 25 former child soldiers living in the region, made up of 19 women and 8 men who were recruited into the Ugandan conflict as children.

Executive director of YOLRED Geoffrey Omony, and a former child soldier himself, states:

“For decades, the voices of former child soldiers have not [been] included in outputs. The perceptions about former ex-combatants are often untrue, that they are a hopeless and vulnerable group who cannot achieve anything positive. They are dehumanised. Girls are also not included in conversations about child soldiers. So, getting these voices heard through this comic will help with the deconstruction of existing negative stereotypes about former ex-combatants.”

Local Perspectives on the Trial of Dominic Ongwen: former child soldier turned LRA rebel commander in Northern Uganda was found guilty of 61 crimes at the International Criminal Court. This article and infographic documents local views and opinions about the verdict.

Alone & Frightened is a Goldin Institute backed study, which describes the post-conflict lives and experiences of former child soldiers from Northern Uganda who participated in the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). Through stories of Former Child Soldiers (FCS), a greater understanding is achieved of the atrocities committed against children.

Other Resources

  1. Youth Leadres for Restoration and Development (YOLRED)
  2. Child Solider International Glossary Terms PDF
  3. This UN High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) database named RefWorld helps identify UN articles based on country and issue. This resource is incredibly helpful when researching a specific refugee issue with UN backed data.
  4. The European Country of Origin Information Network is an up-to-date database involved in asylum and refugee cases. This resource has a variety of human rights reports as they relate to child soldiers from a variety of sources such as ReliefWeb, UNHCR, US Department of State, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and more.
  5. WarChild is a small charity based in North London with a variety of infographics related to child soldier violations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Uganda, with advocacy in the UK. Resources can be found here.
  6. I Was a Child Soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo” by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This article speaks of child soldier demobilization efforts by UNICEF Lubumbashi.
  7. Voices of Girl Child Soldiers Colombia” by Yvonne E. Keairns, PhD. (2003) This report is part of a larger study which detailed interviews with 23 girl soldiers from four different conflict areas around the world. The study breaks down the combination of circumstances involved in becoming a child soldier, as well as a “day in the life” of a girl in that position.
  8. Child Soldiers International published a World Index Map that visualises trends in the military exploitation of children according to three essential criteria: ratification of OPAC (the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict), minimum recruitment age, and use of children in hostilities. Click on any country to see full details of the national legal framework, policies and practices.
  9. Dallaire Institute: works to support children in armed conflict and prevention of child soldiers. The Institute has a podcast series which provides original and new content about the current global situations for children in armed conflict.
  10. Do child soldiers always want to be saved?: an article by Dr. Sylvie Bodineau following research in Democratic Republic of Congo exploring whether girls and boys who join armed groups always wish to be removed from them.

Glossary: Child Soldier International

Armed conflict: The term armed conflict is used to refer to both international and non-international conflicts of high and low intensity.

Child: A child is any person under 18 years of age. This is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 1), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Article 2) and International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Article 2).

Child soldier: A child soldier refers to any person below 18 years of age who is or who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities. This definition is consistent with the definition of a “child associated with an armed force or armed group” in the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups.

Recruitment: Refers to the means by which people become (formally or informally) members of armed forces or armed groups.

  • Enlistment or voluntary recruitment occurs when persons facing no threat or penalty join armed forces or groups of their own free will;
  • Conscription is compulsory recruitment into armed forces;
  • Forced recruitment is a form of forced labour: it takes place without the consent of the person joining the armed forces or armed groups. It is achieved mainly through coercion, abduction or under threat of penalty;
  • Unlawful recruitment refers to the recruitment of children under the age stipulated in international treaties applicable to the armed forces or armed groups.
Related Articles
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    Child Soldiers - January 24, 2016
    Though it is impossible to obtain accurate figures, it is predicted that between 250,000-300,000 children participate in armed conflict at any one given time. Children in conflict zones are in need of protection from being recruited into armed groups, and former child soldiers who return from armed conflict are in need of concrete plans for reintegration and rehabilitation into their communities (or new communities, if they so wish).
  • img
    Child Soldiers - January 22, 2016
    Huffington Post article by Travis Rejman and Bishop Ochola calling for the International Criminal Court to send former child soldier Dominic Ongwen home to face restorative justice.
  • img
    Child Soldiers - March 09, 2012
    With millions of views so far this week, the super viral Kony 2012 video is clearly raising awareness of the horrors of the LRA in Uganda. But is the Kony 2012 campaign a good idea?
  • Child Soldiers - January 15, 2008
    This annotated bibliography highlights useful articles on issues related to child soldiers and their reintegration into communities.