Contrary to popular wisdom nearly two out of every three children join armed

Contrary to popular wisdom nearly two out of every

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be a part of this cyclical violence. Contrary to popular wisdom, nearly two out of every three children join armed groups voluntarily, mostly out of pure desperation and poverty. (Singer:61) We are living in a time when the young make up the largest segment of society in our world’s history. In developing regions, such as Africa, where more than half of the continent’s population is under eighteen, the problems are enormous; AIDS alone will have claimed either one or both parents of 43 million children by 2010. (Honwana:160) The deterioration of nuclear families, along with poor education and health care, chronic malnourishment and displacement, combine to pose immense challenges for children growing up in these environments. Preventing the young from straying to criminality and violence will hinge upon addressing these serious and broad development issues. A second troubling concern lies in identifying why the jus in bello- the rules of war- have changed so suddenly and drastically to make the use of child soldiers acceptable to so many in recent years. As Pam Reynolds posits, “when is it that local worlds lose the sense of powerful moral constraints” (p.262) that allow for a practice that has been universally abhorred and rejected throughout history? How can adults make the conscious, calculated decision to place innocent bodies at the heart of conflicts which are not of their making, effectively stealing away their childhoods and destroying their chances of normal development? Indeed, both Beah and Dallaire acknowledge that ethical vacuums have appeared in recent conflicts, leading them to conclude that an understanding of this changed mindset lies at the heart of effectively reversing the trend of child soldiering across the globe. Beah concluded his lecture by revealing his frustrations when lobbying leaders who use under-age soldiers in their armies, noting the absurdity of having to talk these individuals out of employing such a destructive practice. “Why do we have to convince our leaders to take care of their own children?” he asked.
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This simple question, which elicits no easy answer, may be the toughest , yet the most salient one to address in reversing the trend of child soldier use around the world. Further Readings: Dallaire, Romeo and Ishmael Beah. Book Launch for “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier”. Leacock Building, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. 16 April 2007 “Developments: Towards a Ban on Child Soldiers”, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers , . Honwana, Alcinda. Child Soldiers in Africa . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. Reynolds, Pamela. “‘Where Wings Take Dream’: On Children in the Work of War and the War of Work”. In Children and Youth on the Front Line , eds Jo Boyden and Joanna de Berry, 261-266. New York: Berghahn Books, 2004. “Sierra Leone: Landmark Convictions for Use of Child Soldiers”, Human Rights Watch , . Singer, Peter. Children At War . New York: Pantheon Books Publishing, 2005. UNICEF. “Children in War”. The State of Children of the World’s Children . 1996. Wessells, Michael. Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection . Cambridge: Harvard University, 2006.
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