Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a beautiful, resource-rich country with a complex history of brutal colonial oppression and a violent internal struggle for power. Generations of warfare have led to the widespread recruitment and use of children—whether on the battlefield as soldiers, spies, and suicide bombers, or behind the scenes as porters, cooks, and in sexual and reproductive roles.
Through 2020, the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security assisted the Democratic Republic of Congo (also known as the DRC) in making unprecedented strides toward protecting children from this horrific abuse.
Early in the year, the Dallaire Institute met with senior officials of the government and the security sector, as well as diplomats and UN peacekeeping command, to discuss the problem.
This Dallaire Institute mission brought together:
The Congolese government
The Congolese National Army (FARDC)
The Congolese National Police Force (PNC)
The Special Representative of the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC (MONUSCO SRSG)
The GTTC (a government technical working group comprised of Congolese Ministries of Youth, Defence, Interior, Gender, Social Affairs, Education, Communication, Justice and Human Rights, as well as partner organizations like UNICEF and MONUSCO, all working to end serious violations of the rights of children in armed conflict: CAAC)
Diplomats from Canada, Switzerland, and Belgium
Members of local civil society
Travaillons ensemble! Work together!
The goodwill and mutual understanding that developed through this dialogue led to extraordinary developments throughout the year.
- Faced with restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Congolese government and the Congolese army (FARDC) worked together with the Dallaire Institute to create a series of French-language radio and television programmes.
- These shows were broadcast around the country, informing wide audiences about the vulnerability of children during the pandemic and the role of the security sector (i.e. police officers, military personnel) in protecting children. Topics also included the particular vulnerability of girl children, the security sector’s response to those vulnerabilities, and the detention and release of children especially during a pandemic.
- The Dallaire Institute held intensive training of UN Peacekeepers (MONUSCO) in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Congolese National Armed Forces (FARDC) to ensure child protection was recognized as a top priority.
Child Protection Training
Training partners included the General Command of Military Schools (CGEM) and the Civil, Patriotic and Social Action Education Service (SECAS). The former is the FARDC organization responsible for all military curricula taught in the DRC and the latter is the FARDC organization that delivers the training country-wide.
This child-protection training included methods of preventing the recruitment of vulnerable children and providing troops with safe protocols to recognize and respond to children who have been recruited.
Congolese Armed Forces were also given the tools to train additional troops on the prevention of recruitment and use of child soldiers in armed groups, teaching them ways to further understand the complexities of dealing with child soldiers, and how to advocate for even more child protection measures.
Finally, and most significantly, the Democratic Republic of Congo became the 99th country to endorse the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.
The Dallaire Institute focuses on working with security forces to put children’s rights upfront toward a mutual goal of prevention. The progress in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a valuable measure of success for the Dallaire Institute’s unique approach.
Children and armed conflict – Popularization and dissemination of the conclusions of the Security Council working group
On February 10th, 2021, our colleagues in the DRC hosted a conversation on the report Special Representative to the Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict to create common understandings of the situation as it pertains to the DRC.
Ambassadors from Norway, Sweden, Canada and Belgium were in attendance. Representatives from MONUSCO and War Child were also in attendance. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm from inside and outside the DRC that there is to support the prevention of the recruitment and use of children in violence.