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Children in Violent Movements: From Child Soldiers to Terrorist Groups  

Mia Bloom and Kristian Kastner Warpinski

While the use of child soldiers has declined in recent years, it has not ended entirely. Children remain front-line participants in a variety of conflicts throughout the world and are actively recruited by armed groups and terrorist organizations. Reports of children involved in terrorism have become all too common. Boko Haram has repeatedly selected women and girls as their primary suicide attackers, and, in Somalia, the United Nations reported that al-Shabaab was responsible for recruiting over 1,800 children in 2019. In Iraq and Syria, children were routinely featured in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) propaganda, and the group mobilized children as “cubs” to fight for the so-called Caliphate. Unfortunately there is a myriad of reasons why terrorist organizations actively include children within their ranks: children can be proficient fighters, and they are easy to train, cheaper to feed, and harder to detect. Thus, recruiting and deploying children is often rooted in “strategy” and not necessarily the result of shrinking numbers of adult recruits. Drawing from the robust literature on child soldiers, there are areas of convergence (and divergence) that explain the pathways children take in and out of terrorist organizations and the roles they play. Focusing on two cases, al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we argue that there are three distinct but overlapping processes of child recruitment, including forced conscription (i.e., kidnapping), subtle manipulation and coercion (i.e., cultures of martyrdom), and a process of seemingly “voluntary recruitment,” which is almost always the result of intimidation and pressure given the children’s age and their (in)ability to provide consent. The concepts of consent and agency are key, especially when weighing the ethical and legal questions of what to do with these children once rescued or detained. Nonetheless, the children are first and foremost victims and should be awarded special protected status in any domestic or international court. In 2020, countries were seeking to balance human rights, legal responsibility, and national security around the challenge of repatriating the thousands of children affiliated with ISIS and still languishing in the al-Hol and Al Roj camps.

Article

Ethics and Security  

Andreas Papamichail and Anthony F. Lang Jr.

The concept of security is central to the study of international relations (IR), yet it remains heavily contested, both in theory and in practice. In part, this is because the concept contains intractable tensions and contradictions. Nevertheless, or perhaps as a result of this, security—if understood as a state of being that is a function of war and peace—has been the subject of ethical reflection for millennia. Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic traditions, among others, all have their own conceptions of how war and violence ought to be addressed. One of the more prominent ideas drawn from these debates is the concept of the just war, which emerged from the Christian tradition. It became an influential source of critical reflection upon both legal and practical dilemmas in international security, informing a wide range of debates around the world, and it has persisted at the heart of the field of Security Studies that emerged post-World War II. However, in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, changing notions of legitimate authority and broadened conceptions of conditions that cause harm and insecurity led to challenges to state-centrism and war-centrism in Security Studies. Issues such as global health security, counterterrorism, and humanitarian intervention have demonstrated the inherent tensions within security practices and demand novel ethical engagement. Approaching the issue of security from the perspective of international political theory (IPT) allows us to probe the ethical dimensions of security and ask how justice, authority, and security are linked and with what consequences.

Article

Private Military and Security Companies  

Berenike Prem and Elke Krahmann

While early private military and security companies (PMSCs) were likened to mercenaries, today most scholars agree that PMSCs constitute a new phenomenon. They are organized as legitimate corporate entities, have a distinct legal status, and provide a wide range of military and security services. This definition reflects the evolution of the PMSC industry, which has moved beyond combat services to supply everything from transport, logistics, and maintenance to military and police training, demining, intelligence, risk analysis, armed and unarmed protective services, anti-piracy measures, border protection, and drone operations. Not only have PMSC services diversified, but so has their client base. In addition to industrialized and failed states, transnational corporations, international organizations, and even NGOs increasingly make use of PMSCs. There are several explanations for the growing recourse to these companies. Functional explanations see the employment of PMSCs as a rational response to the glaring gap between demand and supply in the market for force. Ideational and constructivist approaches, by contrast, impute national differences in the outsourcing of military and security services to dominant beliefs and norms about the appropriate relationship between the state and the market. The consequences of using PMSCs, including the accountability, effectiveness, and state control of PMSCs, issues of gender and racial equality, and theoretical implications for the location of political authority and the public good character of security are key issues. So is the question of suitable forms of regulation for the industry, including national and international laws, informal industry self-regulations, and hybrid regulatory approaches such as multi-stakeholder initiatives and standard setting schemes.