According to the United Nations (UN), 357 million children live in areas affected by armed conflict, and that number has risen dramatically over the past ten years. Children are disproportionately affected by war – including facing increased risk of all forms of violence and exploitation – yet are the least responsible. The recruitment and use of children are grave violations of children’s rights, with lifelong effects on children and their communities. And yet tens of thousands of children are used by both armed forces and armed groups in at least 20 countries around the world.
This report draws on World Vision’s experience working on the issues related to children and armed conflict as well as on the findings of a multi-country study conducted for World Vision by Child Frontiers. The study included primary qualitative research in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Colombia, as well as desk research on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq and South Sudan. The primary research relied on focus groups of affected community members, key informant interviews, and testimonies from people who were associated with armed forces or armed groups as children.
This report is expected to contribute to the dialogue on protecting children from the effects of armed conflict by elevating their voices and providing evidence on factors having an impact on their resilience. The weight of these factors differs by context and by individual children but include absence of physical safety and presence of violence due to conflict, lack of opportunities, poverty, lack of access to basic necessities such as food, ongoing insecurity and displacement, community and family expectations, peer pressure, a need for belonging, family breakdown and a desire for revenge. In many cases it is not one factor making a child join but rather a convergence of vulnerabilities that ultimately tip the balance.