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Communication approaches for young people not attending school

13-11-2002 Feature

Communication approaches for young people who are at risk being drawn into an armed conflict or who are already taking part in it.

In its communication activities, the ICRC distinguishes between two groups of young people: those who are within educational settings and those who are not. Among the youngsters outside of any educational structure, the ICRC, distinguishes between two additional groups:

  • young people who are at risk of being drawn into an armed conflict (e.g. street children, refugee children, orphans, etc.)

  • young people who are taking part in an armed conflict, particularly those carrying weapons (child soldiers, militia members)


Child soldier in Afghanistan 

With regard to young people at risk of becoming involved in an armed conflict, the emphasis must be on discouraging them to join an armed group or force. To date, the ICRC has only occasionally been able to work in this direction. With regard to child soldiers, the ICRC must try to ensure that it is conceived as an unthreatening, impartial organisation, that the Red Cross emblem be respected, i.e. that the security of ICRC personnel is assured. The objectives of communication activities for child soldiers are:
  • to ensure that young arms carriers allow the ICRC access to the victims of armed conflict;

  • to help encourage the demobi lisation and rehabilitation of child soldiers.

The key challenge for both groups - young people at risk, and young arms carriers - lies in reaching them, and in gaining their confidence. In 2000 the ICRC conducted a study with a view to making this type of activity more systematic. It focused on means of facilitating communication with young arms carriers. But oftentimes, it is difficult to get in contact with child soldiers, since any formal attempt must go through their commanders who are often not willing to admit that they have children in their ranks. A few concrete examples of activities with young arms carriers and violent youth: 

 Liberia : Action was taken to raise awareness among young checkpoint guards regarding respect for the Red Cross emblem and some basic rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) by distributing small posters in the form of guessing games.



 Somalia : A collection of comic drawings, portraying young militiamen in their everyday environment, provided a means of opening a dialogue with them on behaviour in the midst of war. Keeping with IHL, other initiatives such as plays, songs and poster campaigns were then launched on the basis of this collection.

 Nigeria: Since 2000, the ICRC together with the Nigerian and German Red Cross societies are supporting the " Alternatives to Violence Nigeria " project. Youths and young adults from various conflict-affected communities in Nigeria are trained in methods of non-violent conflict resolution and are thereby motivated to transform their attitudes and behavioural patterns. A " multiplier effect " is achieved by the fact that project participants pass on their knowledge to other youths in their social surroundings. In 2002, more than 800 youngsters attended the workshops and some 200 decided to become Red Cross volunteers.

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