Building on Two Years of Partnership Planning:

An update to the National Platform for child soldier prevention and re-integration in Uganda

This past June, co-founders of the Goldin Institute, Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman spent two weeks in Africa to coordinate and take part in the official launch of the National Platform for Child Soldier Reintegration and Prevention – Uganda Chapter. The event was the culmination of over two years of partnering with the Institute’s Global Associate based in Kenya – Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat.

The official report has just been issued (view in entirety here), but we would like to highlight the key findings and developments that came out of the event.

Background on the Issue

The conflict in Northern Uganda, which claimed thousands of lives and displaced over 400,000 people over the past thirty years, has recently entered a period of relative calm. Since 2006, the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Allied Democratic Forces have been largely dismantled and have moved outside the borders of Uganda. With the displaced – especially young people who had been recruited into the armed militia groups – moving back to their homes and villages, there is a great need to rebuild democratic governance structures and the livelihoods of returnees in ways that map to and reconstruct local realities.

In Uganda, both the rebels and the government have used children in their war actions before and after 1986. There are a number of statutory instruments that outlaw the use of children in combat action or under age employment such as the Constitution, the children’s statute in addition to the various international conventions on children. However, these legal instruments were not enough to prevent the use of child soldiers or to ensure that children are reintegrated. Through research and shared planning, the National Platform findings have identified areas where a broad range of civic and grassroots leaders can make a concrete improvement.

History of the project to date

The Uganda Platform is based on the Goldin Institute’s successful launch of a similar National Level program in Colombia in 2007. Like the proven Colombian model, a key feature of the this platform has been unifying reintegration efforts (in this case amongst Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC) to directly serve former combatants, not only reintegrating those children who have escaped fighting, but also to seek an end to the use of child soldiers.

Building on what was learned in Colombia and other Institute initiatives, central to the Uganda National Platform was involving former child combatants directly by providing them a voice in the proceedings. Specifically, 12 former child soldiers lead the oral testimony gathering. This experiential approach broke down many of the hierarchical barriers and produced a more accurate understanding of the lived experiences and aspirations of former combatants.

Goals and objectives of the Platform

The overall goals of the National Platform are to: 1) reintegrate former child soldiers in Uganda and 2) prevent the use of children in armed conflict. The platform will document its processes, successes and challenges in order to assist partners in DRC, Somalia and South Sudan as they build similar National Level Platforms that together will partner in a regional network dedicated to reintegration and prevention.

Eleven specific goals were established and approved by the 100 stakeholders from across Uganda with observers from the DRC, South Sudan, Kenya and the United States:

  • Direct and sustained engagement of former child soldiers in all aspects of the network, from setting priorities, service in related projects and evaluation.
  • Research and documentation of child soldier related issues.
  • Advocacy for public policies that will benefit former combatants.
  • Strengthening of institutional mechanisms to promote access to education, healthcare, nutrition, shelter and employment for ex-child soldiers and children impacted by the violence.
  • Build Capacity for member organizations of the national platform to address issues of child soldiers.
  • Coordinate the disparate programs for demobilization, prevention and reintegration of child soldiers to improve efficiency and reach.
  • Monitor with relevant government ministries and departments to keep watch over the implementation of policies that impact ex-child soldiers.
  • Evaluate impact of resources and programs targeting ex-child soldiers in Uganda.
  • Distribute information and reports from members of the national platform.
  • Assist in sharing information, tools and insights in building the regional platform.
  • Mobilize resources for the running of the platform activities.

[slide] [img path=”images/at_the_banner_diane_and_TR.jpg”]Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with members of the former child soldier delegation[/img] [img path=”images/TR_and_two_delegates.jpg”]Executive Director Travis Rejman meets with delegates to the National Platform[/img] [img path=”images/diane_and_dorcas_and_uniden.jpg”]Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat (center) and Diane Goldin with Platform delegate[/slide]