Cristal has a Master’s in Latin American Studies from New York University and a Master’s in Political Science from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. She is a Senior Policy Advisor at the UK Mission to the UN in New York, where she leads the UK’s work at the Security Council on the Colombia and other Americas files and Women, Peace, and Security.
Prior to her current role, Cristal was a researcher with the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, and before that worked for IOM in Colombia. In this role, she provided research and analysis to feed into the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC.
What factors facilitate or constrain former child combatants’ entrance to and longevity in the reintegration programme in Colombia?
Recent trends in international and national politics, developments in weaponry, and myriad other shifts have changed the way war is carried out. The impact of war on children has changed dramatically: they are used as human shields, their schools are attacked, and they participate in conflict as combatants, informants, sex slaves, porters, among other roles. Relevant legal frameworks and reintegration programmes that seek to address and mitigate the consequences of their association with armed groups have struggle to adapt. Researchers and practitioners try to understand and address the diverse forms and impacts of child participation in war, resulting in a growing body of laws, policies, organisations, mechanisms, and literature on child recruitment and reintegration. Despite these best efforts, a range of restraints on such work – from financial to practical – continue to hinder a true understanding of the most effective ways to reintegrate children after their participation in conflict.
The Colombian case reveals many of the persistent challenges to child reintegration. Colombia’s adult and child reintegration programmes have been praised as the most comprehensive in the world. While the reintegration process does address aspects from family circumstances to education and economic reinsertion, some former child combatants do not enter a reintegration programme, or do not finish the process and may return to life in an illegal armed group. This study will therefore seek to answer the question: What factors facilitate or constrain former child combatants’ entrance to and longevity in the reintegration programme in Colombia? By providing a more comprehensive understanding of why some children never enrol in the reintegration programme and why others do not remain in and complete the process, the research aims to identify the obstacles to effective child reintegration, and offer clues to how to more effectively and sustainably reintegrate former child soldiers in Colombia and elsewhere.
Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR); peacebuilding; peacekeeping; Women, Peace, and Security; Children and Armed Conflict; Colombia; Latin America.
Dr Kieran Mitton and Dr Jaremey McMullin (external - University of St Andrew's)