Canada is committed to ensuring that all children are safe from harm and have every opportunity to grow and learn. The Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers represent an important step forward in the international community’s determination to save children from the scourge of war.
A comprehensive set of pledges, the Vancouver Principles include political commitments by Member States to enhance the training, planning, and conduct of their own forces as they relate to the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Building upon the existing framework on child protection – most notably the Paris Principles – the Vancouver Principles take a practical approach to ending child soldiers, specifically with regard to identifying warning signs and taking early action to end recruitment.
The Vancouver Principles also promote the reporting of abuses and grave violations against children in armed conflict, call for the inclusion of child protection expertise in peacekeeping operations, and highlight the need for proper psychological support for peacekeepers who have faced child soldiers.
Scope of the problem
There are an estimated 245 million children living in countries and territories affected by armed conflicts worldwide. Conflict disproportionately affects children and there has been an alarming increase in violations against children in situations of armed conflict, including killing, maiming, recruiting and using children, sexual violence, unlawful attacks against schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access, and abduction.
Among those affected, thousands of children – both boys and girls – are serving as soldiers in situations of armed conflict, as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes. Many have been recruited by force, though some may have joined as a result of economic, social, or security pressures. Displacement and poverty make children even more vulnerable to recruitment. This is a growing problem that requires urgent attention and action.
Canada continues to be recognized as a leading advocate for children affected by armed conflict. We hosted the first International Conference on War-Affected Children in 2000, and established and continue to chair the Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict at the UN in New York. The Canadian Armed Forces worked on the world’s first Child Soldiers doctrine, and Canada also funds a number of child protection initiatives, including projects in Colombia, South Sudan, and West and Central African countries. With today’s announcement, Canada continues the fight to bring safety and justice to the thousands and thousands of vulnerable children across the world.
As of November 15, 2017, the following countries have endorsed the Vancouver Principles:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- Sierra Leone
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
- United Republic of Tanzania
- Canada bolsters peacekeeping and civilian protection measures
- Backgrounder: Canadian contributions to United Nations peace support operations
- Backgrounder: Canadian police support for international peace operations and missions
- Backgrounder: The Elsie Initiative on Women in Peace Operations
- Backgrounder: Women, peace and security