Reintegration of former child soldiers is a complex and long-term undertaking. It begins with negotiating the release of children and their physical separation from armed forces and groups. The family tracing and reunification phase that follows is a time-consuming and resource-intensive effort.

Beyond the practical challenge of locating the families and communities of lost children, successful reunification must also address the challenge of reconciling children and their communities, especially when children may have committed atrocities in their hometowns.

Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups

The rehabilitation and reintegration is critical for the well being of former child soldiers and to ensure that cycles of violence are not perpetuated, and should follow the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (2007).

In order not to stigmatize child soldiers, reintegration programmes should be community-based and be directed at all children in the community. They should build on the strengths and resilience of children and take into consideration the special needs of children. Attention has to be paid to girls who are often stigmatized when they are suspected of having been raped. Education and youth employment remain key elements both in the prevention of recruitment and in the sustainable reintegration of children back into their societies.

Funding challenges

The funding of reintegration programmes remains a challenge. The international community is quick to respond to emergency funding requests, but the reintegration of children often falls into the fault line between short-term emergency assistance and long-term development assistance.

Justice and reconciliation

In order to ensure a proper reintegration and protection of former child soldiers and reconciliation within communities, the question of accountability has to be addressed. Children who suffered from the conflict should be able to seek justice for the violations of their rights including through their participation in judicial and non-judicial processes. On the other side, children who have committed violations themselves should be made to understand their acts by truth-telling, traditional ceremonies, and restorative justice measures which strengthen their reintegration into society.