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Reintegrating Young Combatants: do child-centred approaches leave children—and adults—behind?

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This article uses recent experience in Angola to demonstrate that young fighters were not adequately or effectively assisted after war ended in 2002. The government's framework excluded children from accessing formal disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes, and its subsequent attempts to target children have largely failed. More critically the case of Angola calls into question the broader effectiveness and appropriateness of child-centred DDR. First, such targeting is inappropriate to distinct post-conflict contexts and constructs a ‘template child’ asserted to be more vulnerable and deserving than adult ex-combatants, which does little to further the reintegration of either group, or the rights of the child in a conflict context. Second, child-centred reintegration efforts tend to deny children agency as actors in their own reintegration. Third, such efforts contribute to the normalisation of a much larger ideational and structural flaw of post-conflict peace building, wherein ‘success’ is construed as the reintegration of large numbers of beneficiaries back into the poverty and marginalisation that contributed to conflict in the first place.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of International Relations,University of St Andrews, Arts Building, Library Park, The Scores, St AndrewsFifeKY16 9AX, UK

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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