University of Pittsburgh
December 17, 2006

Pitt Professor Simon Reich Today Briefed the United Nations on Findings of the Ford Institute's Initiative on Child Soldiers

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PITTSBURGH--The number of child soldiers has grown significantly in the last two decades, despite a series of protocols designed to curb their numbers. Today, Simon F. Reich ['rIk], director of the Ford Institute for Human Security at the University of Pittsburgh and professor of international affairs in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, briefed the United Nations on the findings of the institute's initiative to protect children from abduction for use as soldiers.

Using data drawn from 19 African conflicts, Reich presented information to Radika Coomaraswamy--recently appointed to the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict--showing that the percentage of child soldiers recruited is directly related to the degree of protection against abduction provided by governments and others for internally displaced persons and those in refugee camps.

Reich is a renowned expert on child soldiers and coauthor of "No Place to Hide: Refugees, Displaced Persons, and the Recruitment of Child Soldiers," which was published in the Summer 2006 edition of "International Security." Reich also was instrumental in a two-part workshop on the issue of children in armed conflict, which was held in Oslo, Norway, in June and at Pitt in September. At these workshops, Reich-along with representatives of the UN, the Northern Uganda Peace Initiative, and Human Rights Watch International; government policymakers; and other academics-evaluated contending explanations of the causes of child soldiering and considered potential policy solutions aimed at reducing the number of recruited child soldiers.

"Used by both governments and rebel groups, child soldiers epitomize many of the problems associated with states at risk: intergenerational violence, poverty, and the failure of efforts to instill the rules of war," Reich said. "They are also reflective of broader concerns among the policy community about the problems encountered by children in armed conflict."

According to Reich, explanations for the sustained number of child soldiers have often not been subjected to a systematic evaluation by the scholarly and humanitarian communities, nor have the policy implications derived from available evidence been analyzed in great depth. Reliant on evidence-based research, the Ford Institute has collected and collated data on child soldiers across the globe.

The Ford Institute is part of Pitt's Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies; it is an affiliate of Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the University Center for International Studies.