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William Plowright’s book ‘Armed Groups and International Legitimacy: Child Soldiers in Intra-State Conflict’ looks at the use of child soldiers by armed groups, and asks under what conditions they can be convinced to stop. During this book launch, we speak with the author Will Plowright about the book. Discussants Christopher Day and Jessica Soedirgo offer their views.

Event details of Why do some armed groups respect the rules of war, while others don’t? Why do some armed groups demobilize child soldiers, but others don’t?
Date 14 May 2021
Time 15:30 -16:30

About the Book

In his book, William Plowright investigates the issue of child soldiers in order to understand how armed groups engage with international organizations to gain international legitimacy. At its core, it asks: why do some armed groups follow the laws of war and others do not? Which armed groups can be convinced to start following the rules?

The book argues that armed groups in conflicts around the world engage with international organizations in order to gain international legitimacy and to show they are following the laws of war. It establishes a typology of which armed groups can be convinced to ‘follow the rules’, and which cannot. It draws from fieldwork in Syria and Myanmar, including with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the many small ethnic insurgent groups of Myanmar.

About the Author

William Plowright is a Political Science and International Relations scholar, currently an SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Amsterdam, Department of Political Science. His research spans two areas: (1) the dynamics of contemporary armed conflict; and (2) the politics of humanitarian assistance. He is the author of the book ‘Armed Groups and the Pursuit of International Legitimacy: Child Soldiers in Intra-State Wars’ (Routledge, 2021), for which he conducted extensive research among armed groups in Syria and Myanmar. He is also the author of ‘The War on Rescue: The Obstruction of Humanitarian Assistance in the European Migration Crisis’ (forthcoming, 2021). His current research focuses on the politics of humanitarianism, drawing from my experiences working for humanitarian organizations across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.


Christopher Day is an Associate Professor and Director of African Studies at the College of Charleston. His teaching and research interests are in comparative politics, with a particular emphasis on issues of peace and security in Africa. A former disaster relief worker with Médécins Sans Frontières, he is also interested in humanitarian affairs. He has published articles in Comparative Politics, Civil Wars, the Journal of Modern African Studies, and has written opinion pieces for Al-Jazeera, The Daily Beast, and the Post & Courier. He is also the author of The Fates of African Rebels: Victory, Defeat, and the Politics of Civil War.

Jessica Soedirgo is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. She researchers the drivers of conflict and order in new democracies, with regional expertise in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. Her work has been published in journals such as PS: Political Science & Politics, Citizenship Studies, and South East Asia Research. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Abbey Steele (moderator) is an Associate Professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam. Previously, she was an assistant professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, a post-doctoral fellow with the Empirical Studies of Conflict group at Princeton University, and an associate of the Order, Conflict, and Violence program at Yale University. Her current research studies civilian displacement and resettlement during civil wars, and state-building efforts in Colombia.