UK army minimum recruitment age should be raised to 18 – survey

Three-quarters of people believe the minimum recruitment age for the British army should be raised from 16 to 18, according to a survey commissioned by campaigners against child soldiers. The nationwide survey found 72% of people who expressed a view believed young people should not be able to join the army until they are 18. One in 10 said they believed the minimum age should be 21, according to the ICM survey, which was commissioned by campaigners and charities including Child Soldiers International. The UK is the only country in Europe to recruit soldiers at 16 and the UN committee on the rights of the child is among the organisations that have challenged the UK’s position. Would-be recruits can apply to join the British army when they are at least 15 years and seven months old. In the US the minimum age is 17. Rachel Taylor, the head of campaigns at Child Soldiers International, said: “It is evident that public opinion is that the minimum age for army recruitment should be 18 or higher. The British army’s pursuit of 16- and 17-year-olds is out of sync with the majority of the world and this survey shows that large swathes of the public think enlistment should start from adulthood.Read more

British army ‘explicitly targeting’ working-class recruits, say critics

British military recruiters are targeting working-class young people who like risk, are easily influenced and are poor at money management, a briefing document for a glossy army advertising campaign suggests.

The document for the army’s This Is Belonging campaign also highlights a drive to recruit young people in cities in northern England and to grab the attention of possible recruits in places such as gyms, pubs and cinemas.

However, the document warns against showing This Is Belonging adverts before war films. Campaigners against the recruitment of child soldiers say this is to protect the “sanitised” version of army life that the campaign promotes, though the army insists it is because it does not want to attract recruits who glory in violence.

There is concern about some of the army’s tactics for drawing in new recruits. In the summer the Guardian revealed that the army had aimed This Is Belonging material at stressed and vulnerable 16-year-olds via social media on and around GCSE results day.

The briefing paper gives details of how and where This Is Belonging adverts should be placed and gives an insight into some of the thinking behind the campaign, which critics claim gives an unrealistic and romantic idea of life in the army.… Read more

Arms industry spends millions to promote brands in schools

Arms manufacturers are spending millions of pounds a year promoting their brands in Britain’s schools, the Observer has learned.

The companies, which between them have sold tens of billions of pounds of weapons to overseas governments, including those with poor human rights records, sponsor a series of school events at which their brands are prominently on display. In addition, they issue teaching materials for use in classrooms that promote the defence sector, sponsor competitions and award prizes.

One company even deployed a high-profile children’s television presenter to promote its activities in a school, while another developed a missile simulator for pupils to “play with”. Critics accuse the companies of trying to “normalise their appalling business” in the minds of the young, but the body representing the defence sector says such an approach is vital if the UK is to produce a future generation of engineers.

“When these companies are promoting themselves to children they are not talking about the deadly impact their weapons are having,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade. “Many of these companies have profited from war and fuelled atrocities around the world.… Read more

Girl Guides defend controversial new deal with British army

Petition launched after members claim partnership with military runs counter to the Guides’ peace ethos

The Girl Guides are braced for a backlash after signing a high-profile sponsorship deal with the army.

The controversial move has been attacked by some of the group’s 500,000 members as well as pacifist organisations, who claim the decision by Girlguiding, as it is now known, to accept sponsorship for an initiative involving members as young as four runs counter to its inclusive, peace-orientated ethos.

A petition on the website protesting against the deal has been launched by Pippa Gardner, a Guides volunteer and former trustee, who is dismayed that members only learned of the sponsorshipin a newsletter. “Nobody knew it was coming.There was no consultation,” she said.

The army already sponsors a Cub Scouts badge, but its partnership with the Guides represents a ratcheting up of how it promotes itself to children. Over the August bank holiday weekend the army deployed recruitment vehicles and stands to at least one Guides event. Pictures posted on Facebook show young girls posing next to army vehicles while holding up “Army, Be the Best” posters.

Critics of the army’s decision to sponsor the Guides’ leadership skills builder initiative dismissed it as a PR stunt and pointed out that many human rights organisations, including the UN, are critical of the way the military targets potential recruits at a such an early age.… Read more