The Cultures of Resistance Network has maintained a long-standing involvement in the international campaign to end the use of child soldiers. We have worked with the leading international coalitions as well as with musicians and writers who draw on their harrowing experiences as child soldiers for inspiration.
Despite unified international opposition to the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts, the phenomenon remains a serious problem today, particularly in Africa. Amnesty International estimates that some 250,000 child soldiers--most between the ages of 15 and 18, but sometimes as young as 10 years old--"are thought to be fighting in conflicts around the world, and hundreds of thousands more are members of armed forces who could be sent into combat at any time." Child soldiers are often abducted and forced to serve. They are frequently coerced into committing atrocities including murder and rape, and they are themselves regularly exposed to abuse and deprived of basic subsistence needs.
The Cultures of Resistance Network is proud to highlight the work of the Child Soldiers International, formerly called the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, an organization that does life-saving work in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. The group strives to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilization, and to ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. On this page, you will find more information about the work of the Child Soldiers International and how you can join them in keeping kids out of the crossfire and upholding children's rights in Africa.
One of Child Soldiers International's major goals is to promote the widespread adoption of international legal standards--including those enshrined in relevant sections of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child--prohibiting the military recruitment and use in hostilities of any person younger than eighteen years of age. The organization further works to promote the recognition and enforcement of these standards by all armed groups, both governmental and non-governmental.
In the Great Lakes region of Africa, the phenomenon of child soldiers has been fueled by years of protracted civil wars, the fluid, cross-border movement of conflicts, exploitation of natural resources, population displacement, and rampant poverty. One of Child Soldiers International's campaigns is specifically addressing the recruitment and use of child soldiers in three Great Lakes countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. The Great Lakes program combines country-specific advocacy, locally-based monitoring, capacity building among local community-based NGOs, and public education. The organization supports local NGO partners' advocacy efforts and their monitoring and reporting capacity on behalf of the child soldiers in their communities.
Child Soldiers International recommends several ways that you can uphold children's rights in Africa and around the world. Join the fight by:
• Buying an album of songs about child soldiers. Profits from the French album, "Enfants Soldats D'ici & D'Ailleurs," go towards helping child soldiers. 80% goes directly to an organization in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that rehabilitates former child soldiers and 20% goes to Child Soldiers International. For more details and how to buy the album see www.enfants-soldats.com.
• Raising funds. Child Soldiers International is a registered nonprofit that depends on donations large and small. Support their important work by making a donation. Also, visit Emmanuel Jal's foundation's website to contribute to efforts to help families in South Sudan and Kenya overcome the effects of war.
You can also stay up-to-date on current campaigns against the use of child soldiers by visiting Amnesty International's children's rights campaigns page.