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Release and identification of CAAFAG

Read on to learn about designing programmes for release and identification of CAAFAG.

According to the Paris Principles (2.6):

“Release includes the process of formal and controlled disarmament and demobilisation of children from an armed force or armed group as well as the informal ways in which children leave by escaping, being captured or by any other means. It implies a disassociation from the armed force or armed group and the beginning of the transition from military to civilian life. Release can take place during a situation of armed conflict; it is not dependant on the temporary or permanent cessation of hostilities. Release is not dependent on children having weapons to forfeit.”

When working on the release of children, organisations and institutions should consider the following:

  • CAAFAG have the right to release and reintegration at all times, including in the midst of conflict, without precondition.
  • Identification and release of children, including girls, shall not be delayed during negotiations of peace agreements.
  • Exit seems to be a combination of two processes: desistance (cessation of activity for the group, including support activities) and disengagement (disincorporation and de-identification as a group member).
  • Neutrality is often challenging, if not impossible in some contexts. Some children may have no choice but to take a side to survive, sometimes side-switching.
  • Identification of children can be done through a formal process during demobilisation or informal demobilisation through escape for instance. In this case, identification takes place once children are already back in their communities.

Release and identification programme design process

Flow chart of four steps which read, left to right, 1. Organise the data, 2. Consider key release approaches, 3. Develop objectives and outcomes, 4. Brainstorm interventions.

Similarly to prevention, release programme design process includes 4 steps:

  1. The first step focuses on the organisation of the information based on the research questions selected from the context analysis
  2. The second step is to learn from release approaches
  3. The third step is the development of release objectives and outcomes
  4. The fourth step is brainstorming release and identification interventions that are relevant to your context, using the socio ecological framework

Organise the data

The guidelines provide 6 questions related to release.

  1. What are the roles and responsibilities of boys and girls during the period of association, are there differences according to their age/gender/ ethnicity or other characteristic? (Needs assessment – Consultation of CAAFAG)
  2. How are boys and girls released (formal vs informal modes of release) and identified, are there differences according to their age/gender/ ethnicity or other characteristic? (Needs assessment – Consultation of CAAFAG)
  3. How can the humanitarian community support existing practices from families and communities and contribute to the safe release of boys and girls? (Consultation of CAAFAG – Stakeholder analysis)
  4. How do access and control of resources impact the prevention of recruitment and use, the release and the reintegration of girls and boys?
  5. How do safety concerns impact the prevention of recruitment and use, the release and the reintegration of girls and boys?
  6. How do social and cultural norms for girls and boys impact the prevention of recruitment and use, the release and the reintegration of girls and boys?

The results of these research questions will inform the design of release programmes.

Consider key approaches to release and identification

Formal release involves the formal transfer of children from armed forces and armed groups to a designated third party for their care and protection. Such processes should be available to all children associated with armed forces and armed groups, as the first step in returning to civilian life. National governments have the responsibility of facilitating the release of children associated with armed forces and armed groups in their territory according to international legal frameworks. In practice, some governments may be unwilling or unable to carry out this role. Peacekeeping actors and child protection actors therefore often play key roles. However, efforts should be made to increase government responsibility and capacity to facilitate such a process.

Formal release of children may take various forms, including:

  • Through Handover protocols signed with armed forces and armed groups
  • At cantonment sites, DDR authorities may identify children when visiting barracks.

Informal release can take various forms, with or without the consent of armed groups and forces. Informal release and exit might happen in situations where there is no child release and reintegration programming, where child protection actors have little access or influence or in locations where there are ongoing release programmes. Informal mechanisms of release are also often quicker and easier to navigate for children.

Children leave armed forces and groups informally through various ways such as:

  • Children escape by running away on their own or with support from civilians.
  • Children may present themselves to police/military/ peacekeepers for help.
  • Children may have a loose on/off affiliation with an armed group that wanes over time as their reasons for becoming associated decrease.
  • Children may be released by the armed force or group; because they are sick or injured and no longer useful, they may be abandoned after a defeat or the armed force or group fears prosecution, or out of compassion, etc.
  • Children may be released as a result of negotiations between local community members and armed actors.

Children who have informally exited from armed forces and armed groups return to the community and can then be identified in different ways:

  • Through Child Protection Committees whose members have been trained in safe identification and referral.
  • By health, psychosocial support, or education services providers for instance, who have been trained.

Develop release and identification objectives and outcomes

Objectives reflect expected changes of the release programme, which is the project purpose.

Outcomes reflect the multiple changes that are expected by the end of the project to achieve the objective.

Outcomes can be framed around formal and informal release processes, or around the socio-ecological levels.

You can also see pages 80-82 of the guidelines for more information.

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Programme Design for Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups (CAAFAG)

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