Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

10
Prevention

Preventing the exploitation of children as soldiers is one of the monumental challenges of our time. It makes little sense to stand back and allow the damage to occur, picking up the pieces afterward. A former child soldier from Burma who had been captured by an opposition group highlighted the importance of prevention: “My life would be very different. If I hadn’t been arrested maybe now I’d be a good person. Instead I’m a bad person. It makes me sorry. If I hadn’t been a soldier 1 would have continued and finished high school, then university, and I could have found many good jobs” (HRW 2002, 160). A proactive approach is needed to keep children out of armed groups to begin with and to ameliorate the problem of child soldiering on a large scale. Effective prevention on a large scale requires sustained attention to the multiple causes of child soldiering.

There is more consensus on the importance of prevention than on how to achieve it. This is perhaps understandable in light of the diverse causes of child soldiering and the tendency of specialists to focus on only one or another of the factors that propel children into armed groups. From a broad perspective, one can discern three prevention strategies. First is the legal strategy, which is most visible in efforts to strengthen and enforce international legal standards and to criminalize child recruitment. Second is the conflict prevention strategy, which seeks to address the core problem by preventing the armed conflicts that draw children into the ranks of armed groups. Unlike the legal approaches, this strategy views an exclusive focus on child soldiers as too narrow and attempts to address the problem of war itself. Third is a sys-

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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