A discussion needs to start on the failure of some DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) programs for former child soldiers…
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers Child Solders Global Report 2008 covers the topic in some detail. These are the key concerns:
1. DDR programs are generally only successful, if at all, post-conflict.
…efforts to demobilize children during conflict have met with only limited success.
Peace remains the main hope for securing the release of child soldiers from armed forces and groups…
The record suggests that when armed conflict persists, political and military imperatives are likely to dictate the ebb and flow of recruitment…
2. While DDR programs exist, many do not adequately address the needs of child soldiers.
In Indonesia, the DDR program that followed the 2005 peace agreement in Aceh made no provision for the release and reintegration of child soldiers, despite evidence that children were actively involved in both the Indonesian armed forces and the armed opposition group, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
In many DDR processes the needs of child soldiers were not prioritized and in some were entirely overlooked. Reintegration programs were frequently not tailored to their specific needs and have suffered from chronic under-funding.
Elsewhere, the failure of governments to acknowledge the problem, or in some cases their outright denial, means that there is no provision to assist the release of or support for former child soldiers.
3. Former child soldiers often do not participate in available programs.
An oft-repeated error has been the failure to acknowledge and act on the well-established fact that many children do not register for formal DDR programs. Fearing stigmatization, thousands of child soldiers – particularly girls – choose not to reveal their identity as soldiers by registering for DDR.
4. Programs that address the needs of girl child soldiers separately do not exist or are inadequate.
The special needs and vulnerabilities of girls affected by armed conflict have long been recognized, yet they are not well served by DDR processes. The vast majority of girls associated with fighting forces do not participate in official DDR programs and are not catered for in post-demobilization support. Specialized medical care for physical injury resulting from rape or sexually transmitted diseases is rarely available.
5. Long-term support for reintegration is necessary but not available.
…sustained funding for long-term support is rarely available.
Funding for national DDR programs has typically been provided for immediate post-conflict demobilization and short term reintegration support, normally a one-year period.
And a stark example of the ramifications…
In the DRC, the impact of delayed, unpredictable and short-term funding, combined with poor planning and mismanagement, resulted in some 14,000 former child soldiers being excluded from reintegration support. By the end of 2006, some four years after the start of the program, close to half of the total 30,000 children demobilized had not received reintegration assistance and international funding had virtually ceased.