By Katarzyna Rybarczyk
Around the world children as young as ten years old fight in armed conflicts. According to the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999, recruiting children as soldiers is one of the worst forms of child labour. Despite the practice representing a horrendous violation of their fundamental rights, however, currently, more than 300,000 children are members of armed groups and forces.
After being recruited by abduction or coercion, children are terrorised into obedience and deployed in direct combat, or assigned support and logistical roles. The recruitment of children under eighteen is forbidden by international law, but regardless the crime thrives in several regions of the world ravaged by war.
The UN’s Children and armed conflict report, released in June 2019, identified twenty countries where cases of child recruitment as soldiers have been verified. The report named the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen as the states where the problem is the most serious. Amongst them, the highest number of conscripted children could be observed in Somalia with 2,300 child soldiers, followed by Nigeria with 1,947 of them.
Methods of Recruitment
In countries where law enforcement is poor and the political situation unstable, children are vulnerable to forced recruitment. The majority of child soldiers is recruited by non-state extremist groups, which deceive the youth by showing them false images of prosperity and happiness within the organisations’ ranks. These groups specifically target and indoctrinate children because they are easy to manipulate and control.
In societies where children are being recruited as soldiers, they and their families often live in poverty. Lured by the promises of good salaries in militant groups, children volunteer to join to help their loved ones. On top of that, tired of living in conflict zones, children sometimes think that joining armed groups will provide them with shelter, protection and safety. Often, they become child soldiers to escape maltreatment at home or abuses by state’s forces.