A Survey of Programs on the Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers

This survey highlights efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate 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.

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.

©Government of Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs