Child Soldiers, International Humanitarian Law, and the Globalization of Childhood



This article reviews the development of the laws and treaties regulating the use of child soldiers and the political, social, and cultural context in which these developments are grounded. Humanitarian and human rights groups have undertaken a major initiative to end the use of young combatants. These efforts are part of a larger children's human rights project designed to create a universal definition of “childhood.” Casting the proposed ban on child soldiers in the language of human rights deflects attention from the enormity of the social and cultural changes involved in the proposed transnational restructuring of age categories. Treaty-making efforts reflect an emerging “politics of age” that shapes the concept of “childhood” in international law, and in which different international, regional, and local actors make use of age categories to advance particular political and ideological positions.