Neither War nor Peace. International comparisons of children and youth in organised armed violence

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Conducted at an international level, this study aims at understanding when, how and why children and adolescents are deciding to participate in organized armed violence in: Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Philippines, South Africa and the USA.  The report explores causes and trends of the problem and suggests policy oriented guidelines within the international forum for the implementation of practical steps to treat children and youth in organised armed violence (COAV).  The study  further presents the personal life stories of gang members, giving insights on their influences, motivations and fears. Most of the children interviewed in this report were armed and full group members by the age of 14.

The report argues that state violence and corruption are perverse ingredients that create a fertile breeding-ground for for gang activities, and among the measures suggested to combat COAV include: community empowerment; gun control; socially and economically inclusive policies focused on impoverished urban areas; fast-track education in vulnerable areas; and ensuring more efficient, accountable and capable security and juridicial systems to deal with gangs so that they can be a credible part of the solution.

The study was financed by Save the Children Sweden,  Ford Foundation, DFID and World Vision, and coordinated by Viva Rio and  COAV.

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Child protection

Child soldiers

Children and armed conflict

Children's rights

Organised crime




Substance abuse


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