Children Facing Insecurity: New Strategy of Survival in a Global Era

Theresa Stichick
Published: 
May 2001

This paper explores the nature of children’s security within the context of modern threats from globalization and new forms of warfare. It analyzes the sources of insecurity faced by children and the survival strategies they and their families employ as a result. Through a number of case-studies, it questions the usefulness of assistance programs that focus on the physical needs of children in isolation of their social and communal environment. As children are in a constant state of development, protecting their security requires more than support against physical harm. The paper argues that four dimensions of security are important for the protection of children in times of war: physiological necessities, safety, communal relationships and opportunities for personal development. Efforts to promote children’s security must involve analysis of these core dimensions and treat the coping strategies of children and their families as a roadmap for protection. The focus of this paper is children affected by war but the analysis also applies to children at risk in other circumstances, from street children, to those living in extreme poverty. Children’s security is particularly at risk in those countries under economic embargo, afflicted by armed conflict or by extreme poverty. Today’s threats take place in the context of wars sustained by the import of small arms and light weapons and are often fought over the control of valuable resources – oil, minerals, timber, gems - whose major markets are in the North. The dislocation caused by these wars fragments families and isolates children. While few of these threats are new, their impact on the life and security of children has increased with the globalization of trade, migration and communication. Civilians, especially children and their families, have been forced to develop new coping mechanisms for their changed situations. Children can no longer be viewed merely as the victims of war. They have taken on new roles as heads of households, child combatants, student leaders and actors in peace building. This paper explores how globalization affects the security of children, particularly in conflict areas. It presents a framework to structure the core dimensions of children’s security and discusses how the survival strategies employed by families and children when protections fail may be used as a signal for improving security conditions for children. The paper was produced for the Human Security Network meeting in Amman, 11-12 May 2001, with a contribution from the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade.