Militarisation of Youth


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Our Countering the Militarisation of Youth programme identifies and challenges the many ways in which young people around the world are encouraged to accept the military and military values as normal, and worthy of their uncritical support. Militarisation is a process that goes far beyond overt recruitment. It includes the presence and influence of the armed forces in education, public military events such as parades and military-themed video games.

As part of our programme, we bring together a network of activists already working on countering youth militarisation in their own settings, and encourage more people to take action on these issues. Our activities with this aim include:

In August 2014 we launched a website specifically on the topic of youth militarisation. It's a place where you can add your own resources - to share documentation on how young people come into contact with the military, and how to challenge the militarisation of young people around the world. Find it here:

International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth

In June 2013, we supported groups and individuals who took action as part of the first ever International Day of Action for Military-Free Education and Research, followed in 25 - 31 October 2014 by the first week of action for Military-Free Education and Research. Since 2015, WRI has been organising the International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth with the participation of various groups from across the world via their autonomous actions and events. See the reports from 2015 here, and from 2016 here.

Sowing Seeds: The Militarisation of Youth and How to Counter

Following our international conference on Countering the Militarisation of Youth in Darmstadt, Germany, in June 2012, we published a book based on themes explored at the conference: Sowing Seeds: The Militarisation of Youth and How to Counter. It is available to purchase here in English, and available to read for free here.

Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation

In 2017, thanks to the support of the Network for Social Change, we have started a new project, Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation. As part of this project, we are going to organise a number of trainings with grassroots activists from across different countries, focusing on the role of gender in our campaigns against youth militarisation. The project will also include an online resource to be out in 2018, inquiring these issues further with contributions by activists and experts in the field.


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The image of masculinity...the model men that go to war, that compete. - Jorge Veléz, Colombia

The Ministry of Women, for example, was created in 2006 and since then one of the main goals that the Minister for Women has proposed is to provide two million female members to the militia. She has already set in motion a first stage where she promised 150,000... - Rafael Uzcategui, Venezuela

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Of the thirty-two countries surveyed, there is only an active attempt to recruit LGBT people in four. Eight countries don’t allow LGBT people to enlist at all, although of those, Kenya is the only one where homosexuality is actually illegal. In Turkey men can be exempted from military service if they can 'prove' (including by providing photos or video footage of them having sex with men) that they are homosexual. But in the majority of countries, sexuality is simply not a recruitment criterion.

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Emma Sangster

The armed forces are increasingly being provided with access to young people within the UK education system – mainly at secondary and further education level but also within universities and even primary schools. In addition to armed forces presentations and other visits to schools and colleges which have been going on for many years, there is a new push to make 'military ethos and skills' a part of school life.

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Serdar M. Değirmencioğlu

Militarism has a long history in Turkey. It is therefore surprising that there are very few studies in the Social Sciences and in Education on how the militarisation of young people has operated. With a few exceptions, social scientists have remained silent when it comes to questioning the military and the way militarism has been instilled in young people, one generation after another.

Militarism after the Ottoman Empire

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Jonna Schürkes

Persuading the German people that German soldiers - many of them young - should go to war is not an easy endeavour. Every militarist tries to do so and each one has a different explanation for people’s reluctance. The president of Germany, Joachim Gauck, sees it as denial by those who prefer not to acknowledge the fact that German soldiers are still getting killed and injured in combat. He laments how people are not ready to sacrifice themselves for society because of their egoism, saying '“[these people] all too easily forget that a functional democracy also requires effort, attention, bravery and sometimes even the utmost that a man can offer: his life, his own life!”' He also complains about people who come to the wrong conclusions through their knowledge of German history: '“...'Count us out' as a pure reflex is not an appropriate stance if we are to take our past seriously”'.[1]

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Public discourse

They are constantly selling the idea that Venezuela is going to be invaded by the United States and in the face of this external threat...there is a permanent feeling of being on the verge of war or armed conflict...They always say that the United State wants Venezuela’s oil, however our president Chávez negotiated with transnational energy companies for 30 to 40 years. This means that that argument is invalid... - Rafael Uzcategui, Venezuela

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Public discourse

In many countries (twenty of the thirty-two), celebrities are used to promote the military. By contrast in Kenya, the military is almost secretive (although the Maroon Commandos, a band, are very popular). The military in half of the countries have a website aimed specifically at young people. Although Switzerland doesn't, its military does sponsor youth websites.

On-screen warfare

Placheolder image

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Michael Schulze von Glaßer

US troops march into Iran in 2014, the Russian army occupies half of Europe in 2016, and the USA is conquered by North Korea in 2027 – today’s video games tell controversial stories which reach an audience of millions. Here is an overview of military video games and the search for alternatives.

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