AbstractWith contemporary conflicts being fought amongst and alongside civilian populations, the likelihood of professional soldiers encountering children during military operations has increased. Legal frameworks concerning the topic of children in armed conflict are born from sociological understandings surrounding the Western concept of childhood based on the idea that children are innocent and in need of protection. Within theatres of armed conflict children can be encountered by military forces in two distinct ways; either as innocent bystanders or as security threats. However, a moral dilemma can occur when a child, who is armed and capable of a lethal attack, is encountered by an adult soldier, whose values resonate with the Western concept of childhood. This leads to the adult soldier needing to make a difficult decision: to shoot and harm a child or to hesitate and risk harming themselves and others around them. This situation can have consequences for both the military operation and the psychological well-being of the professional soldier.
This thesis collated evidence from former British soldiers to examine their experiences of encountering children in armed conflict, and whether the presence of children impacts military operations, and the attitudes and practices of British soldiers. Examples from the conflicts in Bosnia (1992-95), Sierra Leone (2000-02), and Afghanistan (2001-2012), determine the various roles children play in contemporary armed conflict and the different challenges the child actor poses to military personnel. Locating itself in the existing child soldier literature base, this thesis argues that children involved in armed conflict can be both victims and perpetrators. However, this thesis also approaches the topic from a security perspective. By using a bottom-up approach, it shows how soldiers have individual reactions, experiences and understandings of this particular issue which should be acknowledged when designing and implementing military training guidelines and support frameworks on this topic.
|Date of Award||2016|
|Sponsors||Economic and Social Research Council|
|Supervisor||Colin McInnes (Supervisor)|