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.
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.
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.
Leila Zerrougui answers questions about child soldiers
By PHILLIP MBUGO, UNMISS Sixty-eight children associated with armed groups were released today in Yambio, South Sudan, following an assessment and verification conducted by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations [...]
By UNMISS, GIDEON SACKITEY “The children in this place are our own. They are our brothers and sisters, we will not put them in harm’s way.” These emotional remarks by Jamus Ayut, the County Commissioner [...]
Nigeria: Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Welcomes Release of 833 Children by Civilian Joint Task Force
New York – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, welcomes the release earlier today of 833 children by the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in North-East Nigeria. “This [...]
“All of us here today agree on the importance of reintegration to help former child soldiers reclaim their lives. However, despite our efforts, we are still unable to assist everyone,” highlighted the Minister of Foreign Affairs and [...]
On 6 June, an event on the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups and armed forces, organized by the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, demonstrated [...]
Remarks by Ms. Virginia Gamba, SRSG-CAAC Please check against delivery Excellencies, dear colleagues, and welcome to our guest Kabba Williams, We are holding this meeting to explore how reintegration programs contribute to the well-being of [...]
“Comprehensive and community-based reintegration programmes, including education, vocational training, and psycho-social support, help children to heal and grow so they can become productive members of their communities and contribute to peace and development” SRSG for Children and [...]
Philippines: UN Officials congratulate MILF for completion of disengagement of children from its ranks
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and UNICEF Philippines held a formal ceremony today in recognition to the removal of the MILF from a UN list of armed groups recruiting and using children. The Special [...]
The implementation of the child protection measures included in the Colombian Peace Agreement between the Government and the FARC-EP is encouraging and lessons can be drawn from that process said the Special Representative of the [...]
Release and Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups: Remarks by SRSG Gamba
High-level Side Event on Release and Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups Remarks by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Ms. Virginia Gamba 30 October 2017 Your Excellency, Mr. Didier [...]