Child Soldiers in Colombia: The Recruitment of Children into Non-State Violent Armed Groups

MICROCON Research Working Paper No. 27

25 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2010

Date Written: June 28, 2010


Based on in-depth interviews with former child soldiers in Colombia, this article presents the findings from fieldwork conducted among demobilized child soldiers in Colombia. The findings add to the state of knowledge by going in-depth into the circumstances surrounding the processes and mechanisms of recruitment of children and adolescents into armed groups. The former child soldiers had generally joined the armed groups voluntarily. However; one of the challenges with a strong division between ‘voluntary’ and ‘coerced’ recruitment, is that it indicates a sharp dichotomy between two very different situations. This article argues that most cases of recruitment takes place in the grey zone between voluntary and coerced recruitment. However, the demobilization policies work under the assumption that even when the children classify themselves as voluntarily recruited it is considered force due to children’s inability to make a free or conscious choice. This indicates that demobilization programs are based on an assumption that is incorrect. The former child soldiers, both girls and boys, were affected by their involvement in the conflict. They did not, however, constitute a homogeneous group of passive victims, but rather a group of vital agents each one with their choices shaped by their particular experiences and circumstances.

Suggested Citation

Bjørkhaug, Ingunn, Child Soldiers in Colombia: The Recruitment of Children into Non-State Violent Armed Groups (June 28, 2010). MICROCON Research Working Paper No. 27, Available at SSRN: or

Ingunn Bjørkhaug (Contact Author)

Fafo Research Foundation

Fafo, Pb 2947
Tøyen, slo Borggata 2B N-0608

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