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10 years on: Marking the 10th anniversary Paris Principles and Commitments

By: Dustin Johnson

Header Photo: © UNICEF/UNI142246/Matas

Reliable data on child soldiers continues to be very difficult to obtain but tens of thousands have been recruited over the past few years: 17,000 in South Sudan, 10,000 in Central African Republic since 2013, 2,000 by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region last year alone, and 1,500 in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict there.

This week is the 10th anniversary of the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces (Paris Commitments) and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups (Paris Principles). Coinciding with this important anniversary, UNICEF released its latest numbers on the use and recruitment of child soldiers.

The numbers of recruitment provide a sobering assessment of the scale of violence targeted at children in modern wars. But progress has been made over the last decade of international action.

Over the past ten years, at least 65,000 children have been demobilized from armed forces and groups and returned to civilian life. In the words of Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, “Ten years ago the world made a commitment to the children of war and matched it with action – action that has helped give 65,000 children a new chance for a better life”.

All children should be spared the physical and mental trauma, destruction of family and social ties, and interruption of education and normal development that child soldiery brings. In order to preserve progress and increase momentum towards the complete elimination of the use of child soldiers, it is imperative that the international community devotes increased resources and attention to the prevention of recruitment. For example, demobilized former child soldiers can be vulnerable to re-recruitment, as their prior training and experience fighting can make them attractive targets for armed groups.

“Ten years ago the world made a commitment to the children of war and matched it with action – action that has helped give 65,000 children a new chance for a better life”. Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF

To prevent the re-recruitment of demobilized child soldiers, a range of steps are needed. These include providing sufficient support to demobilization programs to ensure the rehabilitation and reintegration of children into their communities, provision of education and work opportunities to provide viable alternatives to joining an armed group, and training security sector personnel—military, police, peacekeepers—to provide appropriate, rights-based protection and security to children, their communities, and demobilization centres.

At the Dallaire Initiative, we bridge the gap between humanitarian responses and the roles of the security sector personnel. For example, our training programs for security sector personnel provide both the tools and knowledge for military, police, and peacekeepers, to recognize those vulnerable to recruitment and where along with the necessary responses to protect. These interventions by security personnel complement the efforts of other organizations such as the UN,  humanitarian and development NGOs whose programs provide other important interventions in affected countries. Though such a holistic and preventative approach that addresses all facets of the recruitment of child soldiers, we can work towards the complete elimination of this abuse of children.

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Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Children during Armed Conflict: Training in Nairobi, Kenya

By: Darin Reeves

After two weeks of in-class training and education at the Humanitarian and Peace Support School (HPSS) located in Embakasi, Kenya, including two days conducting live-action simulations of interactions with children and child soldiers, course participants from AMISOM and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) concluded their program on Friday and are now prepared to assist with ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia. This training, conducted by the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative in partnership the British Peace Support Team (East Africa) (BPST-EA) was immensely successful and is the first training of its kind to be delivered specifically for AMISOM and Somalia.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Kareem Adebayo as the representative of the AMISOM SRCC thanked the Dallaire Initiative and representatives of the UK, noting that both had come from so far away in order to assist the children of Somalia. He went on to describe that this course was very intensive and very practical and that this is exactly what he and the SRCC wanted. “This training is very important to ending the cycle of violence in Somalia, and protecting Somali children.”

Colonel Leakey, commanding officer of BPST-EA also expressed his appreciation, remarking on the partnership between AMISOM, BPST-EA and the Dallaire Initiative as an excellent example of a new atmosphere of cooperation. “By protecting Somali children, we will greatly help this vulnerable group – the sooner we break the cycle of violence plaguing Somalia, the sooner we can help return Somalia to peace.” In particular, he noted that a portion of the course training had been viewed personally by Her Excellency Ms. Sara Hradecky, the Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, which was demonstrative of Canada’s commitment to the region and to the safety of children.

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Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Children during Armed Conflict:

By: Darin Reeves

Following an intense week of classroom lectures, small group meetings and the input from every participant, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative led training to end the use of child soldiers, in partnership with AMISOM and the British Peace Support Team (East Africa) (BPST-EA), took to the field on Monday. This course, hosted at the Humanitarian and Peace Support School (HPSS) located in Embakasi, Kenya, is the first of its kind and brings together AMISOM and Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) personnel to learn how to better end this horrible abuse of children.

Key to the innovative Dallaire Initiative led training is the use of field scenarios to take classroom lessons and bring them to life. In addition to combining the unique capabilities and expertise of all those concerned with protecting child rights, including security sector actors (military, police, corrections and border services), government departments and NGOs, this field training shows all participants the complexity and challenge of implementing lofty goals into real action.

Representing the Government of Canada to oversee commencement of this training was Her Excellency Ms. Sara Hradecky, High Commissioner of Canada to Kenya. Joined by Colonel Richard Leakey, Commander BPST-EA, and Colonel Elija Mwanyika, Commander HPSS, H.E. Hradecky expressed to all participants the confidence and support of the Canadian Government, and the symbolic importance that this field training was commencing on International Red Hand Day, dedicated to drawing attention to the fates of child soldiers.

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Statement to Commemorate Red Hand Day

Dr. Shelly Whitman

Letter from Dr. Shelly Whitman

Executive Director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

Some 250 million children are affected  armed conflict around the globe. Today, in every conflict that exists, children are vulnerable to being recruited and used by adults. Their tactical and strategic use sustains and increases the severity of conflict while tearing at the fabric of societies affected by war.

This February 12th, the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers (Red Hand Day), offers us an opportunity to reflect on this sober reality and discuss how we can ultimately work towards ending the use of children as soldiers.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative continues to be at the forefront of this fight, developing innovative tools and training for the security sector – military, police, prison personnel and peacekeepers—while creating ground-breaking research and high-level advocacy to create new solutions.

To mark Red Hand Day we are launching the third edition of our landmark publication, Child Soldiers: A Handbook for Security Sector Actors and the first edition of our maritime handbook, Children Used in Maritime Piracy: A Handbook for Maritime Security Sector Actors. These two handbooks aim to proactively and positively engage the security sector actors to prioritize the prevention of the use of child soldiers as a critical element to the protection of children and conflict prevention measures.

Canada has now taken the lead to ensure this ethos and approach is undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces through the development of a Doctrine on Child Soldiers. The significance of this doctrine cannot be understated. Within its lines, not only is a baseline set for how Canada understands and actively assists in preventing the use of child soldiers, but how we will better prepare the men and women who face this reality in the field. Read our full statement on this important step forward here.

In a world of competing priorities, it is important we elevate the need to protect children from violence and abuse. A Children’s Rights Upfront approach will build points of collaboration and create momentum on the international peace and security agenda.  The concerted efforts of many are required to create a world where children are no longer used as weapons of war.

All forward together,

Dr. Shelly Whitman

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Statement on Canadian Armed Forces Doctrine on Child Soldiers

LGen Roméo Dallaire (Ret’d) and Dr. Shelly Whitman

By: LGen Roméo Dallaire (Ret’d) and Dr. Shelly Whitman

Innovation has always been at the core ethos of Canada and our armed forces. From our tactical innovations of the creeping barrage and counter-battery fire at Vimy Ridge some 100 years ago to the creation of the concept of peacekeeping as we know it today, Canada has and continues to innovate when facing the evolving realities of war and attempts to build peace.

Today, Canada, in collaboration with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, has once again lead from the front with the creation of our Canadian Armed Forces Doctrine on Child Soldiers. This first of its kind document is a testament to Canada and our willingness to tackle one of the most pressing paradoxes of our time, the use of children as weapons of war.

The significance of this doctrine cannot be understated. Within its lines, not only is a baseline set for how Canada understands and actively assists to prevent the use of child soldiers, but how we will better prepare the men and women who face this reality in the field. This will ensure that our armed forces can undertake an active role in helping end this reality of war.

The uses of children as weapons of war are not chosen through sheer happenstance. They are a tactical and strategic choice, deployed to achieve a specific aim. Through this doctrine and the coordination of training that will follow across all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces, our men and women in uniform will be able to attrite this tactical and strategic use of children at its root and reduce casualties on all sides.

Today, we are one step closer to protecting those who serve and the children used as weapons of war. We applaud Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces and know that this critical doctrine will provide a leading example to our NATO allies, in peace support operations with the UN, as well as our partners in global missions towards ending the use of child soldiers once and for all.

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For Media Inquires

Josh Boyter

Director of Communications, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

[email protected]

1 902 494 2392 (office)

1 902 489. 6767 (cell)

About the Organization

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

The Dallaire Initiative, based at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, is recognized as the only organization in the world taking a prevention-oriented, security sector focused approach to the crime against humanity that is child soldiery. Founded by retired lieutenant-general and celebrated humanitarian Roméo Dallaire, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is a leader committed to ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers worldwide, through ground-breaking research, advocacy, and security-sector training.

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VTECS: My Perspective

Ken Hoffer

By: Ken Hoffer, 2016 VTECS Participant

The VTECS program offers former members of the Canadian Armed Forces an opportunity to repurpose their knowledge and skill that will help the Romeo Dallaire Initiative to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.  As Canadians, our social values and humanitarian efforts are well recognized in peacekeeping and NGO efforts around the world.  As Veterans, we continue to uphold our entrusted obligations to protect and promote Canadian ideals that will deter belligerents from dehumanizing civilians, particularly as it relates to children in all theatres of operation.   As a VTEC, you uphold these values, and soon realize that you become part of a larger vision to interrupt the cycle of hate and violence.  It is a heavy responsibility.  One can choose to ignore the problem, or you can become part of the Security Sector solution to make the world a better place.  The VTECS program is an opportunity to rediscover your true self.


Ken Hoffer was part of the 2016 Wounded Warriors Canada Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the use of Child Soldiers (VTECS) program. Utilizing his personal and career wealth of experience and expertise, in conjunction with the education and skills he grew throughout the VTECS program, Ken was later contracted to deploy to Sierra Leone to conduct the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative’s Pre-Deployment Training with local police members about to embark on a peace keeping missions in both South Sudan and Somalia.

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VTECS: My Perspective

J.L. Malainey, Maj (Ret’d), 2016 Wounded Warriors Canada VTECS Participant

By: J.L. Malainey, Maj (Ret’d), 2016 Wounded Warriors Canada VTECS Participant

Featured/Header Photo Credit: Claude Wauthier,2016 Wounded Warriors Canada VTECS Participant
Learn about the VTECS Program: childsoldiers.org/vtecs

Encapsulating my learning experience from the VTECS program in a short paragraph is difficult. The core of this program is the in-depth Dallaire Initiative training courses, but VTECS is much more than that. It’s learning about and from the experiences of our fellow veterans. It’s the interaction with Dalhousie students, with their interest and perspectives and questions and amazing ideas. It’s experiencing some of the familiar camaraderie and motivation of being engaged in an operational mission. And it’s the possibility that we can continue to make a difference – to a child, to a soldier or police officer, to a community, to the world – in a way that acknowledges and uses our individual and collective capabilities.

By the end of our course, I had gained an awareness not only of issues related to child soldiers, but also how the involvement of children in conflict and war affects the child, their families, their societies and the security sector actors who encounter them – in the moment and for years beyond.

I did not know much about the issue of child soldiers when I was accepted to the VTECS program. By the end of our course, I had gained an awareness not only of issues related to child soldiers, but also how the involvement of children in conflict and war affects the child, their families, their societies and the security sector actors who encounter them – in the moment and for years beyond. As a Monitoring Officer for the OSCE in Ukraine, I am now more observant of issues affecting children in this conflict. As a veteran, I have a greater appreciation for the complexity that child soldiers add to a mission and the necessity for better preparedness of security sector actors to face and address this situation.

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Youth Engagement and Peace – My Thoughts from the Rom

By: Ben O’Bright

For a week this January I was fortunate enough to accompany Shelly Whitman and the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (RDCSI) to Sierra Leone (my second of these visits) to help provide advice and recommendations on monitoring and evaluation of conflict prevention programming. Specifically, the Dallaire Initiative is piloting a project that, in partnership with Sierra Leone’s Pikin-to-Pikin Movement, aims to establish three after-school clubs as facilitating sites for the learning of peace and conflict prevention in grade school children. The project was largely an output of a session of the Initiative’s signature programme, the Training of Trainers, which occurred in November 2016. With my background in children’s rights, youth engagement, and qualitative research, I have been working with the Dallaire Initiative for several years now in support of their work.

I have been humbled by this experience, but equally reaffirmed in my beliefs that children and young people are not necessarily those to be taught of the world, but also teachers themselves.

On this particular mission, we first travelled to Port Loko, about 1.5 hours outside of Freetown. During the drive, Sierra Leone was once again reaffirmed to me as a staggeringly beautiful country. Outside the windows of our off-road prepared 4×4, the world was pocket-marked by great plains, dense jungle, and estuaries teeming with wildlife. It is deeply saddening to recall the immense challenges faced by this country over the last several decades: war and conflict; Ebola; natural disasters. And yet, despite this, I have been consistently taken aback by the character of resilience that permeates Sierra Leone and its people, a drive to ensure that their future will be written of their own accord. In no place has this been more apparently than the three selected pilot sites for this project.

We arrived at our first school in the Port Loko District, a low building of three class rooms, built of cinder blocks and corrugated steel roofing, for what we expected to be a brief meeting with teachers and local partner coordinators. Instead, and indeed what would become a heart warming trend in the days to come, what we would be witness too was a full blown student performance, complete with song, dance, chants, and reciting of self-authored peace slogans. There were probably 80 people in attendance. We spoke about the project, in particular to sensitize parents to the purpose of the clubs and were well received. Similarly in Makeni, our second designated school, the community and students seemed thoroughly engaged in the project, facilitated by eager teaching professionals and elected club leaders.

This excitement for the work the Dallaire Initiative proposed to pursue, both by young people themselves as the designated agents of knowledge mobilization and by community members, many of whom had been witness to the country’s horrific civil war, was as positive as one could hope. In Moyamba, the site of our final school club, we were led through a procession of friendly “Hellos” and handshakes to be sat under a designated Peace Tree, the site selected by children to host their forthcoming meetings and activities. Local police were on hand to pledge their support of the project and to assure the crowd that they would be there to create a safe space for the club. CSO representatives highlighted their eagerness to get involved. Teachers expressed profound recognition of the need to teach young people of peace so as to nurture a future without war. All the while we repeated to all that this project was not ours, it does not belong to us. But instead, the community should themselves take both pride and ownership of its activities, thereby allowing for its distinct evolution according to the needs of that particular area.

To me, however, the most impressive group amongst all those we met were the young people themselves. They demonstrated a surprisingly robust understanding of peace at such early ages. They were able to ground what can often be an academically heavy and uncomfortably abstract concept in reality, displayed through their cheers, their songs, their poetry, their artistry, their skits, and their display of messages. They were identified, and they themselves self-identified, as a new generation of hope for Sierra Leone, a wealth of untapped knowledge and determination to ensure the continuing of peace and prevention of conflict in that country. They were, simply, true leaders.

I have been humbled by this experience, but equally reaffirmed in my beliefs that children and young people are not necessarily those to be taught of the world, but also teachers themselves. We must take every opportunity to engage them constructively and on equal footing, as we are doing in Sierra Leone. I look forward to continuing my participation in this project, at these three schools and, hopefully, in many more to come.

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Press Release: Program seeks Canadian Armed Forces Veterans committed to ending the use of child soldiers

For Immediate Release

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and Wounded Warriors Canada opens call for Canadian Armed Forces Veterans for innovative program designed to eradicate the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Halifax, NS — Today, the Wounded Warriors Canada Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers (VTECS) program opens its application call to bring together 15 Canadian Armed Forces veterans for a month long intensive residency in Halifax, NS during July 2017. Based at Dalhousie University, the program combines university level education with the Dallaire Initiative’s world-class training aimed at preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

“War has changed, therefore our tactics must too. By combining the necessity for skill sharing opportunities for Canadian Veterans with a widespread social and human rights issue like that of child soldiers, we are better poised to mobilize a global response to the issue of children being recruited and used as weapons of war,” states Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

The aim of the VTECS program is to help Veterans reconstruct their military skills and experiences into community education and advocacy, championing the Dallaire Initiative’s vision of a world where children are no longer recruited or used as weapons of war. At the same time, by tapping into the experiences and expertise of successful applicants, the Dallaire Initiative is better able to cultivate approaches that are comprehensive, nimble and rooted in best practices while simultaneously being adaptive to localized context and circumstance on the issue of child soldiers.

Scott Maxwell, Executive Director of Wounded Warriors Canada, commented, “At Wounded Warriors Canada we continue to work with Veterans who find it difficult to apply their training and expertise in civilian life. The VTECS program is a force multiplier – leveraging the skills of our highly trained Veterans while also providing transition support; access to an academic environment; credits and potential employment opportunities. This, all the while working to address a critical security issue of our time: the use and recruitment of children as weapons of war. We are proud to fund this outstanding program and look forward to its continued success.”

Applications are now being accepted for the 2017 VTECS program. Interested Canadian Veterans can apply online between January 19, 2017 and February 12, 2017. The program is open to any Canadian Armed Forces Veteran with a good conduct release who can meet the program requirements. Program requirements and application are available online at childsoldiers.org/vtecs

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 For Press Inquires

Josh Boyter

Director of Communications, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

[email protected]

1 902 494 2392 (office)

1 902 489. 6767 (cell)

Scott Maxwell

Executive Director, Wounded Warriors Canada

[email protected]

289-388- 6181

About the Organizations

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

The Dallaire Initiative, based at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, is recognized as the only organization in the world taking a prevention-oriented, security sector focused approach to the crime against humanity that is child soldiery. Founded by retired lieutenant-general and celebrated humanitarian Roméo Dallaire, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is a leader committed to ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers worldwide, through ground-breaking research, advocacy, and security-sector training.

Wounded Warriors Canada

Wounded Warriors Canada is a non-profit organization that supports Canada’s ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, Veterans, First Responders and their families. Through a wide range of national programs and services, Wounded Warriors is dedicated to providing programs focused on mental health and, particularly, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

About Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Recruitment and use of Child Soldiers (VTECS)

Wounded Warriors Canada VTECS is an innovative program designed to engage military veterans on the issue of child soldiers by combining university level education with world class training. As they reform their skills and experiences, Canadian Forces Veterans become community educators and advocates, championing the Dallaire Initiative’s vision of a world where children are no longer recruited or used as weapons of war.

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Grant Paid Job Opportunity: Program Administration Officer Rom

POSTING NUMBER: GPD-(we will assign)

POSTING DATE: November 2, 2016

CLOSING DATE: November 20, 2016

POSITION SUMMARY:

The Programme Administration Officer will be an integral part of all the programmatic pillars (training, research, and advocacy) and will work with senior leadership and all staff to achieve quality outputs and ensure outcomes of two key programs. Under the direction of the Executive Director and Director of Training, this position will be responsible for the overall administration of two key programs; VTECS and Building Connections: Police-Youth-Community Partnerships for Extreme Violence Prevention. The Programme Administration Officer will be responsible for facilitating workshops with youth, community members and police officers, planning a large scale conference and being the key contact person between police and community partners in Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax. For both program, this position is responsible for preparing all program materials including agendas, PowerPoints, joining instructions, letters, briefs, activity reports, work plans, and all internal and external coordination correspondence.

Requirements:

  • Supports senior leadership with the effective coordination and delivery of 2 key Dallaire Initiative programs – milestones, deliverables, and activities
  • Supports senior leadership on tasks related to training, research, and advocacy deliverables for the Dallaire Initiative within the scope of the programs
  • Provides high level coordination for project implementation and acts as the centralized project leader for internal activities and external relations
  • Manages the day to day project activities and executes project actions
  • Provides substantive information and guidance and ongoing support and advice through planned and regular updates, progress reports, and final reports that contribute to a deeper understating of project frameworks

Qualifications:

  • Master