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Understanding and addressing the phenomenon of ‘Child Soldiers’ – The gap between the global humanitarian discourse and the local understandings and experiences of young people’s military recruitment

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Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

This Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) working paper has critically examined the global humanitarian discourse on child soldiers and the gap between this discourse and the lived realities at the local level. Without pre-judging children’s presence in the military as a clear instance of child abuse and manipulation by adults, the overall socio-economic and political conditions that they may attach to those conditions need to be investigated, as well as the tactics and strategies young people adopt in those circumstances. The aim of this study is to investigate how the well-intentioned global humanitarian discourse on child soldiers may be disregarding the complex local understandings and experiences of military recruitment. In doing so, the author seeks to present a compelling case for a wholesale re-conceptualisation of the phenomenon of ‘child soldiers’ so as to devise aid programmes that can better reflect and respond to local understandings, priorities, and needs.

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