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Demobilizing the Minors: Explaining Compliance with International Child Soldiering Laws Open Access

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Why do some states follow international laws prohibiting the use of child soldiers, while others do not? While child soldiering is something that most states have avoided throughout history, recent trends indicate this is changing; in 2005, more than 40 percent of all armed organizations around the world employed children under 18 as soldiers. In light of this increase in use of children as soldiers, international law has codified a series of prohibitions and conventions against the use of child soldiers. In some cases, these laws have had considerable impact; some of the governments who used child soldiers have ceased, and returned to using only adults. Others claim to have stopped using child soldiers, but found ways to co-opt rebel groups who continue using children to fight their wars. Yet other groups or states have continued using child soldiers in spite of the dictates of international law. This creates an intriguing puzzle for social scientists; why do some states change practices to conform to international laws against child soldiering, while others ignore these laws and continue recruiting children? This dissertation examined compliance patterns in Burma, Senegal, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and Rwanda to provide insights on the reasons why states choose to comply with or disregard international child soldiering laws.

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