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Essay: Ending the Use of Child Soldiers: Organizations and Events Working Towards a Solution

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  • Published: 1 October 2019*
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  • Words: 861 (approx)
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In efforts to limit and ultimately end child soldiers in the Middle East, organizations and events have been created to aid this goal. Some previously established organizations such as UNICEF, USAID, and the christian children fund have set up funds and programs to help child soldiers. They provide medical treatment, education, and social services in order to aid former child soldiers. Although the use of children as soldiers has not completely ended, it has slowed down greatly. Efforts have even resulted in the release of children. Moreover, the United Nations has helped release almost 2,000 children (New York Times, 2018). Despite the failure to eliminate child soldiers completely, great strides have been and are being taken by other countries and governments to find a solution.

A large organization that has been created is Child Soldiers International (CSI). CSI is a charity founded in the UK in 1998 and is a “human rights research and advocacy organization that works to end child soldiers” (Gale Student Resources in Context, 2013). In 2000, CSI succeeded in making the minimum age for recruitment 18 years old (Gale Student Resources in Context. 2012). Originally, their aim was to establish a treaty to prohibit militaries from child recruitment, aid current child soldiers, and improve national/international policies regarding child soldiers. As of 2002, the treaty has been active and working toward abolition. This treaty is called the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC). However, OPAC has proven to be hard to enforce. Currently, CSI monitors child recruitment all around the world, including the Middle East. In order to be successful, CSI promotes their cause, advocates for child soldiers to be released, and fights against those who rightfully deserve punishment. They also spread awareness by publishing articles in efforts to expose recruiters crimes.

Another stride that has been taken toward success is the creation of the “Red Hand Day Campaign”. This is a global action being taken to spread awareness to ultimately end child soldiers. Student groups founded this event and collect red handprints– a worldwide symbol against child soldiers. By 2013, they collected over 380,000 red handprints throughout the world (Gale Student Resources in Context. 2013). On February 12, 2009 (anniversary of OPAC), 4 students presented all of the collected handprints to the UN secretary general, Ki-Moon, at a ceremony in New York. Many officials then began to make their own red handprints and the general promised to work towards ending child soldiers. Furthermore, February 12 is now seen as the official Red Hand Day.

Scholars are looking at the issue as a problem with peace. A lot of individuals feel that eliminating any thoughts of war and creating peace will eliminate child soldiers– and ultimately, it will. Children and Armed conflict, which is a Security council working group centered in Sweden, looks to prevent and resolve conflict in order to sustain peace. They also strive to continue monitoring child soldiers and report any activity (Stephanie Tremblay, 2017). More prominently shown, scholars see education as a vital aspect to ending child soldiers. The United Movement to End Child Soldiering (UMECS), a nonprofit organization centralized  in Washington, DC (Gale Student Resources in Context, 2013), encourages secondary and higher education for children affected by war in the Middle East. UMECS also supports peace education in schools in efforts to prevent war all together. Furthermore, the Culture of resistance Network too encourages education for children in the Middle East affected by war, with a philosophy of “Education not War” (Cultures of Resistance Network, 2018). They believe that access to school prevents children from becoming involved with war.

Another agreed upon scholarly perspective is that if awareness spreads, child soldiers will stop. Tim Molyneux from Child Soldiers International believes that global efforts need to intensify in order to reintegrate child soldiers. He also thinks that if the international community recognizes the importance in solving this large issue, then it will stop. The goal of Child Soldiers International is to share information with the world and to promote youth engagement in the process. A lot of scholars agree that awareness needs to spread in order for a change to occur. Moreover, reintegration is also vital for former child soldiers. A consequence of using children in armed conflict is the physical and mental damage that remains within these innocent children. They need to be educated and counseled in order for them to succeed. Stephanie Tremblay from UMECS agrees that education and programs are key to reintegration and fixing the consequences that come from child soldiers.

There are many causes that are rooted behind the continuance of child soldiers, however, lack of education and peace are significant sources. Also, the world remains oblivious to the problems of children in armed conflict in the Middle East. This is why scholars are taking the strides that they have. The red handprint day and other corporations spread awareness. Organizations have been created to spread awareness and provide former child soldiers with education. They also encourage children to learn about peace in order to prevent future children from becoming involved in war. The outlying roots of child soldiers inspire scholars to aid these issues in order to end child soldiers for good.

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