We believe that credible, innovative research is a crucial component of the fight against child soldier recruitment and use. Thus far, we have focused upon five particularly cutting-edge research projects, each of which is led by a highly regarded university professor and informed by extensive field research. These projects concern:
Children in Marine Piracy
Approximately 50% of all pirates captured off the coast of Somalia are children. Moreover, all countries that are affected by piracy are also home to large populations of uneducated, disaffected youth – many of whom are prime targets for recruitment. Nevertheless, very little is known about how children participate in piratical activities. We are currently preparing for a field research project that will accompany prevention-oriented community programming and that will culminate in a publication series, in collaboration with the Dalhousie Marine Piracy Project (DMPP), the DMPP Inter-Sectoral Working Group and the Resilience Research Centre.
While it is known that nearly all child soldiers are trafficked during their use by armed groups, the extent to which they are trafficked into or after soldiering remains obscure. We are currently researching this issue and aim to produce a publication that fully illustrates the relationship between child trafficking and child soldiering, and that identifies points of potential collaboration across child protection disciplines.
Local communities are the first line of defence against the recruitment of child soldiers and are key participants in the rehabilitation and reintegration process. Nevertheless, very little is known about how communities effect protection and reintegration. We’re currently producing a matrix of community self-protection tactics to be employed in the Congolese, Sierra Leonean and South Sudanese contexts.
The ethical dilemma that soldiers must face when they engage child soldiers in battle can result in hesitation that is fatal to both the soldier and the child, as well as to long-term post-traumatic stress. Research may assist in determining how such hesitation and post-traumatic stress can be avoided (e.g. via pre-deployment training).
Tactics, Rules of Engagement (ROEs) and strategic complementarity
At present, there are no prescribed rules of engagement for soldiers who encounter child soldiers in the field. Research will assist in filling this doctrinal gap. Over the next year, much of our work will contribute to this arena, in the form of a publication series, a set of model ROEs, improvements to the Initiative’s Handbook and simulations to be employed during trainings.
On the horizon
There are a number of issues related to child soldiering that remain critically under-researched. As the Initiative continues to expand, each of these topics will be incorporated as key programmatic pillars.
- Small Arms and Light Weapons: It is believed that the availability of small arms and lights weapons may be a predictive indicator of the potential for child soldiering, but this connection has yet to be proven;
- Women Security Sector Actors: Female military and police personnel are uniquely placed to address certain aspects of the child soldier problem, yet they remain a fundamentally under-utilised resource;
- Aboriginal Youth Gangs: In Canada, many communities are experiencing increasingly worrisome levels of Aboriginal gang violence – the dynamics of which are quite similar to child soldiering.