Militarisation of Youth

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I am a conscientious objector; this means I will not take part in conscription or government required military service in Thailand. Military rule has dominated Thai society, not only now but also for a long time, and its power increases every year. However the Thai army is a joke for people around the world.

WRI’s programme Countering the Militarisation of Youth (CMoY) aims to spread information, inspiration and practical tips on challenging youth militarisation. One important aspect of this is countering the recruitment of young people by militaries. Today, across many countries where there is no more conscription, militaries are running more and more sophisticated strategies to reach out to young people and convince them to join their ranks. Meanwhile recruitment of young people by paramilitary and other armed groups continues to be an issue in many other contexts. In response, various grassroots groups are running campaigns to counter the recruitment efforts of militaries and armed groups. Affiliates of WRI have said it would be helpful to have more information on counter-recruitment campaigns, so we plan to make a short resource on this theme in the form of a booklet.

In June this year, the UK will celebrate its annual Armed Forces Day, a national day of celebration praising British troops and their role in the world. The chosen town for the focus point of national activity, with members of the royal family visiting, an enormous parade and a military themed family fun-fair, is the medieval and heavily militarised town of Salisbury. While the national event is always the biggest, smaller events take place across the whole of the UK.

The Czech ministry of interior publishes a report about extremist groups four times a year. With regard to militia activities, the ministry claims that they recently decreased. As main reasons, the ministry indicates “personal animosity, power disputes and disagreement about the direction of the organization. Several recruits were suspected of being part of a militia for business reasons, rather than patriotism and state defence.”

In the Summer of 1979, after hearing of a mock nuclear bomb test was scheduled on Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts USA, two preschool teachers entered the base. Once inside they went to the base child care center and passed out flyers to teachers and parents giving information on the effects of nuclear war on children. The teachers and parents were shocked and alarmed about the mock test but had been so busy trying to keep their own classrooms safe they were completely unaware of the test.

In April 2018, a group of 25 children participated in a bootcamp in Koprivnicko-krizevacka County, a training event organised by a local airsoft team (Airsoft is a team sport where opponents shoot each other with pellets from replica weapons). The training included a mix of orientation in nature, first aid skills and something called "homeland education". Children were photographed giving salutes and holding guns. The whole event was supported by representatives of the local government who praised the educational value of such activities.

On 26-28 May, activists from Greece, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and Cyprus (both south and north) gathered in Nicosia (Cyprus) for a 3-day training, Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation, organised by War Resisters' International. During the training, participants explored gendered dimensions of youth militarisation within their societies as well as discussing how to work internationally to counter these processes.

Each month, we are featuring a different WRI affiliate. This month it's WRI's new affiliate Peace Educators Allied for Children Everywhere (P.E.A.C.E.) from the USA. Established in 1979, P.E.A.C.E is an activist group of early childhood educators- preschool and kindergarten teachers, family child care providers, early childhood students and college professors, and family members.

PEACE was founded over 30 years ago as Concerned Educators Allied for a Safe Environment. The Safe Environment being the classroom and the world. We have worked against war toys and for the War Toy Boycott, we have talked to teachers about violent play in the classroom, we have drawn up curriculum for on how-to teacher children about native American tribes which is anti-bias and inclusive, we have supported the growth of peace camps for young children to learn conflict resolution skills.

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