The bulk of the world’s most violent conflicts happen in countries with youthful populations, and 80% of the world identifies as religious. However, youth and local religious actors are routinely under-utilized in peacebuilding, if not left out of the process altogether, according to this report published by the U.S. Institute of Peace. Youth leaders and religious leaders both can lend legitimacy to peacebuilding efforts and provide access to vulnerable communities. However, to maximize the impact of these groups in preventing conflict and sustaining peace, the international community and peacebuilding practitioners are encouraged to build trust between youth and religious leaders, identify allies in each of these communities, and involve religious actors, youth leaders, and religious youth in peace dialogues at various levels. Read the full report here.
Many of the most horrible conflicts today feature child soldiers. Considered a primary weapon by militias, these children are abused, corrupted and forced to destroy the societies they are supposed to inherit. In their report, Timothy Aduojo Obaje and Nwabufo Okeke-Uzodike from the African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes write that incorporating youths into peacebuilding processes would help ensure they become agents of peace in their communities instead of agents of violent conflict. Obaje and Okeke-Uzodike point to resource conflicts in the Nigerian city of Jos, a former bastion of relative peace, as an example of how youth become mobilized for violence by political, religious, and economic pressures. While this and other examples lead many in the region to assume young people are inherently violence-prone, the authors note that developing youth-inclusive peacebuilding processes is one alternative to conflict, helping youth develop future prospects and positively contribute to their communities. Read more here.
The Islamic State is mobilizing children and youth at an increasing and unprecedented rate. Mia Bloom, John Horgan and Charlie Winter explore the Islamic State’s recruitment and engagement of child soldiers. They present preliminary findings from a new database in which they recorded and analyzed child and youth “martyrs” eulogized by the Islamic State between January 2015 and January 2016. The data suggests that the number of child and youth militants far exceeds current estimates. Learn about how IS has been using child soldiers as well as trends in the deployment of youth. Read full article.
Reaching the Girls, a Save the Children report, focuses primarily on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), examining why girl soldiers aren’t reached by efforts to release child soldiers and reintegrate them back into society. During one 10-month period, for instance, 1718 boys were demobilized compared to only 23 girls. This disparity has been consistent over a number of years despite the fact that girls are recruited/abducted as extensively as boys. One reason for this situation is armed groups’ unwillingness to release girl soldiers, seeing them as possessions and claiming that they are “wives” rather than child soldiers. Negative judgments about girls associated with armed groups are also a chief obstacle to their reintegration into their communities. This study not only analyses the situation of girl soldiers in the DRC, but also makes recommendations for how to ameliorate it through practical actions. Read full report.
Katz provides a brief, but comprehensive overview of the complex experience of girl soldiers by: 1) debunking the myth that girls are solely recruited — often through abduction –to serve as domestic labor and sexual slaves noting that FARC in Colombia and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, among others, actively recruit and train girls to engage in combat operations; 2) highlighting the value of girl soldiers, noting that commanders perceive them as easily manipulated and obedient ensuring a “constant pool of forced and compliant labor;” and 3) discussing the stigmatization and rejection of ex-girl soldiers when they try to reintegrate into society. Read full article.
This report answers the question “Where are the girls?” in the context of child soldiers. Recognizing that “scant attention has been given to girls in armed forces and armed opposition groups, their distinct experiences, the impacts, and gender-specific human rights violations” McKay and Mazurana do an excellent job of filling the glaring knowledge gap concerning girl soldiers. Their comprehensive database on the recruitment, use, and roles of girls from 1990-2000 provides critical material to improve our understanding of the multiple issues facing girl soldiers and assist policy makers and other concerned parties to improve efforts to address them. Read full report.
Brigit Katz provides a brief, but comprehensive overview of the complex experience of girl soldiers by: 1) debunking the myth that girls are solely recruited — often through abduction –to serve as domestic labor and sexual slaves noting that FARC in Colombia and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, among others, actively recruit and train girls to engage in combat operations; 2) highlighting the value of girl soldiers, noting that commanders perceive them as easily manipulated and obedient ensuring a “constant pool of forced and compliant labor;” and 3) discussing the stigmatization and rejection of ex-girl soldiers when they try to reintegrate into society. Read full article.
Learn how child soldiers serving IS are treated and what they are often required to do. Some of the violence they engage in is chilling, making you question whether they will ever be able to function normally once the fight is over. Interestingly, former child soldiers from Sierra Leone and South Sudan discuss their experiences and how they are faring today. Based on their experiences — equally as horrid –, it seems there is, indeed, hope for the cubs of the Caliphate. Read full article.
This article is a breath of fresh air. While academics, analysts, and journalists wrack their brains trying to figure out exactly what lures young people to join the extremist group ISIS, Chloe Combi brings us back to the rather dull and commonplace reality of it all. The reasons young people are willing to board a plane to fly to a war zone and possible lose their lives are some of the same reasons they go to certain clubs, wear just the right clothes, and hang out with their friends. They include: the promise of excitement and a good time, peer pressure, and good old teenage rebellion. For those of us who passed through puberty many years ago, these reasons are believable. Especially to those of us who, likewise, made incredibly bad decisions oh-so many years ago. Read full article.
The conflict in Yemen between the Iranian-backed Houthi-Saleh militias and forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi not only continues, but seems to escalate day by day. Aden, the second largest city in Yemen and home to 800,000 citizens, is seen as the last barrier to gaining control of the country for the opposing forces. As such, its fighting for survival. In response to a population in desperate need of medical supplies, water, food, and electricity all of which are in short supply, Hirak youth activists formed the Aden Rescue Campaign. “Comprised of young activists who have participated in the U.S.-facilitated Hirak Youth Project, the youth applied the organizational skills they developed through the various workshops to set their goals and implement an action plan to help citizens facing the dangers of war.” Despite ever-present danger, these young people have expanded both their network and assistance to meet the needs of their communities. Read full article.