Why do some rebel groups forcibly recruit children while others largely refrain from using this strategy? We argue that it depends, in part, on their ability to profit from natural resources. Rebel groups that earn funding from natural resources have less incentive to restrain abusive behavior such as the forced recruitment of children and more incentive to tolerate and even promote this recruitment strategy. To test our expectations, we collected new data on the level of forcible recruitment of children by rebel groups. This is distinct from the broader use of child soldiers, a significant portion of whom volunteer to join armed groups. We combined the information on forced recruitment with a recent data set on rebel groups’ exploitation of natural resources. Our analyses show that rebel groups that profit from natural resources are significantly more likely to forcibly recruit children than groups that do not exploit natural resources. Looking at specific characteristics, rebels that extract lootable resources are more likely to engage in the forced recruitment of children than groups that profit only from non-lootable resources or from no natural resources at all. The findings have important implications for our understanding of the relationship between rebels’ revenue streams and their engagement in human rights violations.
Haer, R., Faulkner, C. M., & Whitaker, B. E. (2020). Rebel funding and child soldiers: Exploring the relationship between natural resources and forcible recruitment. European Journal of International Relations, 26(1), 236–262. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066119850622