Child Soldier in the Ivory Coast Gilbert G. IJzeren voetring voor patriotic education of children of middle group transparent background.
Children are easy targets for military recruitment due to their greater susceptibility to influence compared to adults. Child recruits who survive armed conflict frequently suffer debilitating psychiatric illness, poor literacy and numeracy, and behavioral problems such as heightened aggression, leading to a high risk of poverty and unemployment in adulthood. A number of treaties have tried to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts. According to Child Soldiers International these agreements have helped to reduce child recruitment, but the practice remains widespread and children continue to participate in hostilities around the world.
History is filled with children who have been trained and used for combat, assigned to support roles such as porters or messengers, used as sex slaves, or recruited for tactical advantage as human shields or for political advantage in propaganda. 18 or over, known as the Straight-18 standard. 17, fewer than 20 recruit from age 16, and an unknown, smaller number, recruit younger children. These include non-state armed groups using children such as guerrilla movements, paramilitary organizations, ideologically or religiously-driven groups, armed liberation movements, and other types of quasi-military organization.
Not all armed groups use children and approximately 60 have entered agreements to reduce or end the practice since 1999. Singer of the Brookings Institution estimated that child soldiers participate in about three-quarters of ongoing conflicts. Today, due to the widespread military use of children in areas where armed conflict and insecurity prevent access by UN officials and other third parties, it is difficult to estimate how many children are affected. Despite children’s physical and psychological underdevelopment relative to adults, there are many reasons why state- and non-state military organizations seek them out. Peter Singer has suggested that the global proliferation of light automatic weapons, which children can easily handle, has made the use of children as direct combatants more viable. Roméo Dallaire has pointed to the role of overpopulation in making children a cheap and accessible resource for military organizations.
Roger Rosenblatt has suggested that children are more willing than adults to fight for non-monetary incentives such as honor, prestige, revenge and duty. David Gee and Rachel Taylor have found that in the UK, the army finds it easier to attract child recruits starting from age 16 than adults from age 18. Some leaders of armed groups have claimed that children, despite their underdevelopment, bring their own qualities as combatants to a fighting unit, often being remarkably fearless, agile and hardy. While some children are forcibly recruited, deceived, or bribed into joining military organizations, others join of their own volition. There are many reasons for this.
Since the Machel Report further research has shown that child recruits who survive armed conflict face a markedly elevated risk of debilitating psychiatric illness, poor literacy and numeracy, and behavioral problems. Further harm is caused when child recruits are detained by armed forces and groups, according to Human Rights Watch. Children are often detained without sufficient food, medical care, or under other inhumane conditions, and some experience physical and sexual torture. Other research has found that the enlistment of children, including older children, has a detrimental impact even when they are not used in armed conflict until they reach adulthood. Military recruitment practices have also been found to exploit the vulnerabilities of children in mid-adolescence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as any person under the age of 18.
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. The document is approved by the United Nations General Assembly. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities. The highest standard in the world is set by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which forbids state armed forces from recruiting children under the age of 18 under any circumstances. Most African states have ratified the Charter. The Parties to the conflict shall take all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces.