The Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed conflict, together with UNICEF, is organizing a series of consultations to gather together a wide audience and exchange knowledge and experiences on reintegration programming, as part of the Global Coalition for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers, launched in September 2018 to bring attention to and encourage action to sustainably address support for child reintegration programs.

Consultations with global academia, local and international NGOs, financing experts, UN/international organizations and former child soldiers/children affected by armed conflict will contribute to innovate new ideas to enable all children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups to access the short- and long-term services they need to fully reintegrate into society and contribute to a lasting and sustainable peace.

The first consultation meeting with former child soldiers and children affected by armed conflict took place between 11-12 June 2019 in New York with partners from South Sudan, Sierra Leone and UK, among others.

This first consultation convened a group of former child soldiers and children affected by armed conflict to learn from people who have been directly involved in reintegration activities either as a participant or an observer. Several areas were covered as part of the consultation including community acceptance, education, economic activities, psychosocial support, duration of programming, best practices, lessons learned, gender-sensitive programming and more.

The consultation also aimed at highlighting the contribution of child reintegration programs to overarching societal goals such as breaking the cycle of violence, reducing risk of and vulnerability to rerecruitment, and increasing resilience.

A long healing process

Regardless of how children are recruited and of their roles, child soldiers are victims, whose participation in conflict bears serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being. They are commonly subject to abuse and most of them witness death, killing, and sexual violence. Many are forced to commit violent acts and some suffer serious long-term psychological consequences. The reintegration of these children into civilian life is an essential part of the work to help child soldiers rebuild their lives.

Within the UN system, UNICEF is in charge of the reintegration of former child soldiers and their first priority is to prepare them for a return to civilian life. Psychosocial support, education and/or training are important aspects of reintegration programmes. Attempting to reunite children with their families and communities are also essential, but sensitization and reconciliation efforts are sometimes necessary before a child is welcomed back at home.

The reintegration of former child soldiers is a long process, which needs extensive support from the international community. By helping children deeply affected by conflict, we contribute to building a peaceful future for their country.

On 17 April 2018 in Yambio, South Sudan, [NAME CHANGED] Jackson, 13 yrs, stands during a ceremony to release children from the ranks of armed groups and start a process of reintegration. Photo: UNICEF

Global Coalition for Reintegration

On 24 September 2018, the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, together with UNICEF and other key actors, launched the Global Coalition for Reintegration to innovate new ideas to sustainably address support for child reintegration programmes. Member States, other UN agencies, the World Bank and NGOs have been invited to join the effort in shining a spotlight on the startling fact that thousands of children recruited and used by armed groups are released and have no safety net to catch and assist them.

Dependable and predictable funding for reintegration programming, particularly in emergency situations, has been steadily decreasing—whereas the needs are significantly on the rise.

On 17 May 2018 in Pibor, South Sudan, 210 children, including three girls, were formally released from armed groups.
Photo: UNICEF/UN0209628/Chol

In 2017 alone, more than 10,000 children were released from the ranks of armed elements in the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia or South Sudan. In the past five years, UNICEF reports that over 55,000 boys and girls were released and disassociated from armed forces and armed groups globally, however only 70% (42,000) of these children could benefit from reintegration packages.Providing adequate, sustainable and reliably funded reintegration programmes is essential to ensuring that child soldiers benefit from the necessary support to recover their lives and allow them to reintegrate their communities.

As highlighted in the United Nations Youth Strategy, children can become positive agents of change, and ensuring that all children affected by conflict can access adequate reintegration programmes contributes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. As called for by the Security Council in resolution 2427 (2018) and the Paris Principles, reintegration programmes must be long-term and sustainable, must be gender- and age-sensitive, and must provide children with access to health care, to psycho-social support and to education. Also, the Paris Principles stipulate that reintegration programming is needed for at least three years, perhaps longer, while programmes currently can run for as few as six months.To strongly address the reintegration gap, and to deliver for these children, an innovative and radical new approach is needed. Business as usual for funding reintegration programmes can no longer suffice, we need to harness significantly more resources for more ambitious programmes.

Watch the event: Funding the Future: Challenges and Responses to the Reintegration of Child Soldiers.


Hear more about the reintegration of ex-child soldiers in South Sudan, a process supported by UNICEF.