Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 13: The regional African legal framework on children: a template for more robust action on children and armed conflict?

Godfrey Odongo


Child soldiering is and has been in the past a global and not just an African phenomenon. At present, the involvement of children as soldiers is a growing feature of conflict situations outside Africa, and children under the age of 18 continue to be recruited into state armed forces in the UK and US (among other states). That said, considerable innovative legal and policy work has occurred within Africa. The African Union (AU) (formerly known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU)) is the umbrella continental body that brings together 55 African states with the aim of greater integration and regional collaboration on norms and policies in social, political, economic and other matters. In the late 1980s, the OAU sought to develop a specific Pan-African legal instrument to combat child soldiering, among other scourges. The adoption in 1990 by the OAU of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is a significant and positive example of a regional effort to deploy a legal framework to combat child soldiering. This chapter argues that the Charter offers the potential for a more robust system for enforcing international legal principles governing the impact of armed conflict on children.

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