Protection de l'enfant contre la violence et les mauvais traitements

Child recruitment, release and reintegration

Image de l'UNICEF
© UNICEF/NYHQ2006-2802/Bruno Brioni
Cote d'Ivoire, 2006 - Boys play football on the grounds of a primary school in the village of Béoué, in the government-controlled zone, near the western town of Man. Some of them are former child soldiers participating in a UNICEF-supported demobilization and reintegration programme run by the local NGO ASA (Afrique Secours Assistance).

UNICEF's work on child recruitment, release and reintegration is part of UNICEF's Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs). The CCCs are UNICEF's central policy to uphold the rights of children affected by humanitarian crisis. Specifically, CCC number 7 stipulates that child recruitment and use is addressed and prevented for conflict affected children.

Since the mid 1980s, UNICEF together with partners have played a key role in advocating for and securing the release of children from armed forces and armed groups in conflict affected countries across the world, including in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

More than 100,000 children have been released and reintegrated into their communities since 1998. From 2008 to early 2010, UNICEF and partners have contributed to the release of approximately 20,000 children (~25 percent girls), who are benefiting from reintegration support programmes.

In addition to securing the release of children from armed forces and armed groups, UNICEF's programmes assist thousands of children each year to be rehabilitated, reunited with families and reintegrated into their communities. In 2008 and 2009, UNICEF, with partners, provided community based reintegration support (including schooling, vocational training and support with initiating income generating activities) to 24,188 children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups along with 96,701 other conflict affected boys and girls. Importantly, support must also go to other vulnerable conflict affected children in the broader community to promote inclusivity, particularly of girls formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups who may have by-passed formal or informal release programmes, and to avoid stigmatization of Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups.

Children associated with armed forces and armed groups may pass through the following stages, bearing in mind that each context may be slightly different: recruitment and use by armed group > release through formal or informal process, or escape from armed force or armed group > transitory care with medical and psychosocial support, peace education and life skills (transit centre or foster family) (or self-demobilization) > family tracing and reunification (with family mediation and follow-up) > community reintegration with back-to-school (formal or informal, and including catch-up classes), learn a vocational trade and/or start a small income generating activity (together with other vulnerable children affected by armed conflict identified at the community level) and with support for community-based child/youth clubs or child welfare committees that benefit the broader community.




A 'child soldier' is any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity - including, but not limited to, combatants, cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups, other than family members. The definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage.

Key facts

. The phenomenon of 'child soldiers' remains very much an ongoing issue today, despite numerous commitments of nation states to eradicate this practice in the form of the various international legal instruments and principles.
. Thousands of children continue to be recruited and used in numerous countries in different regions around the world by both armed (government) forces and armed (rebel) groups in situations of armed conflict and insecurity. They are exposed to tremendous violence # forced to witness it, to commit it and be subjected to it themselves. They may be abused, exploited, injured or killed as a result.
. Many of the children have been recruited by force, though some may have been driven to join armed forces and armed groups as a result of economic, social or security pressures.
. Regardless of the means by which children join armed forces or armed groups, their association deprives them of their rights and their childhood. The physical and psychological impact on children and their communities across generations cannot be underestimated.
. Situations of displacement, whether across international borders or within a country, render children even more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence, including child recruitment by armed forces and armed groups.