Chapter 2 – Planning
To prioritize the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the strategic and operational planning of all peacekeeping operations.
Why is this principle important?
While UN planning is central to the conduct of UN peacekeeping operations, planning by Member States for national contingents is equally important to supporting the effective implementation of the Vancouver Principles and reinforcing UN efforts. National planning processes should reflect the unique role of peacekeepers in preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and acknowledge that deliberate and targeted national preparations for the contingent – and for individual peacekeepers – are required.
Effective national planning – in relevant military, police, and civilian organizations – should help generate, employ, and sustain the requisite capabilities, prioritize resources, and optimize the posture of national contingents for peacekeeping operations to better contribute to preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The challenges posed by child soldiers should be addressed from the outset of the national planning cycle, and then consistently at every stage and in coordination with mission partners and child protection actors, such that peacekeepers can contribute to meaningful prevention, response, and demobilization.
While national planning efforts are treated as distinct for this chapter, they are inextricably linked to UN mission planning and objectives and are dependent on the parameters set out in UN mission mandates.
How can this principle be implemented?
Institutionalize the role of peacekeepers in the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in national strategic policy, doctrine, and directives: National policy should identify the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers as a strategic priority. Relevant national doctrine and directives should then institutionalize this policy objective by identifying it as an explicit planning factor in the preparation of national contributions to a UN peacekeeping operation.
Gather information and conduct analysis relevant to the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers to inform national planning processes: Sound planning should reflect the situation on the ground. Therefore, as part of a broader conflict analysis, relevant national organizations should gather information pertaining to the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the mission context, in order to inform national planning for a deploying contingent. This information should be collected and analyzed prior to deployment, and then updated and refined in-mission as necessary and in close communication with the Child Protection Advisors (CPAs). Relevant information could pertain to the following:
- Local conditions that may be conducive to the recruitment and use of children (e.g. laws, customs, and/or local leadership);
- Host nation capabilities and/or willingness to counter the recruitment and use of child soldiers;
- Characteristics of the child soldier population (e.g. size of population, affiliation, location, demographics, and roles);
- Recruitment trends (e.g. drivers, actors, methods, locations, and social factors);
- Context-specific gender dynamics associated with the recruitment and use of child soldiers; and,
- The presence, roles, and responsibilities of other relevant child protection actors.
In gathering relevant information, Member States should pay specific attention to the gender dynamics associated with the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Deliberate analysis of gender dynamics can help dispel some persistent myths around child soldiers, such as the lingering misperception that girl child soldiers are not employed in combat roles, or that boy child soldiers do not experience sexual or gender-based violence (SGBV). By paying attention to gender dynamics, national planners will have a more comprehensive and nuanced picture of the situation at hand.
Prioritize the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in national planning for the deployment of national contingents or individuals to UN peacekeeping operations, in accordance with UN mission mandates: By considering the presence of child soldiers as an explicit planning factor, Member States can ensure that a contingent’s objectives and tasks include the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The identification of this as a contingent task will then inform the contingent’s design, including the size, structure, and gender composition of the force, command and control arrangements, as well as enabling capabilities, infrastructure, and logistics support. National planners should give special consideration to the following requirements:
- The need for pre-deployment and in-mission training (including scenario-based training) for the contingent, specific to the challenges posed by child soldiers;Endnote 26
- The need to assign dedicated Child Protection Focal Points (CPFPs) within the contingent who have undergone appropriate training, acknowledging the need for gender diversity in these roles;Endnote 27
- The need for peacekeepers to fulfill specific UN reporting requirements for violations against children, as part of the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM);Endnote 28
- The need for clear rules of engagement (military) or directives on the use of force (police) for peacekeepers to prepare for encounters with child soldiers;
- The unique requirements for the handling and treatment of children in armed conflict, in light of the special protections afforded to children under international law, including regarding detention;Endnote 29
- The mental health needs of peacekeepers to prepare for, and recover from, encounters with child soldiers; and,
- The need to understand the roles and responsibilities of other relevant international, national, or local organizations involved in child protection, and the role of the mission’s CPAs as the main interface with the child protection community.
All national planning efforts should reflect relevant UN authorities and procedures, meet or exceed UN standards, and support the UN mission mandate. Furthermore, in-mission planning relevant to the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers should respect the lead responsibility of the mission’s Senior CPA (SCPA).
Planners should bear in mind that engagements with child soldiers will not always be in settings that resemble live combat, but could be in settings where children are used as cooks, porters, messengers, etc. Furthermore, interactions could involve child soldiers as active combatants, or they could be wounded or looking to surrender. National planners need to be properly equipped to navigate these complex scenarios in support of mission objectives, while remaining mindful of the persistent requirement to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Develop clear and effective national rules of engagement (military), or directives on the use of force (police), to prepare peacekeepers for encounters with child soldiers: While acknowledging that children must first and foremost be considered victims,Endnote 30 peacekeepers nevertheless need to retain the right to use force in order to protect themselves or others, when mandated, from the threat of serious injury or death, even from a child soldier. Clear and effective national rules of engagement (military), or directives on the use of force (police), will help prepare peacekeepers for the tactical and psychological challenges associated with encounters with children used by armed forces and armed groups, and ultimately support longer-term prevention efforts by minimizing the tactical advantage of employing child soldiers. These rules of engagement (military) or directives on the use of force (police) should be supported by scenario-based pre-deployment training.
Incorporate gender perspectives into national planning efforts: Analyzing the impact of mission activities through a gender perspective – including those activities targeted at addressing or preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers – can lead to a deeper and more comprehensive assessment of operational risks and requirements. Ultimately, this will lead to more effective planning and operations. National planners should, therefore, systematically incorporate gender perspectives into their mission planning.
Gender perspectives recognize that armed conflict and humanitarian disasters affect women, men, girls, and boys in different ways. Using gender perspectives means understanding the differential needs, circumstances, and experiences of women, men, girls, and boys, and how activities, policies, and programs have different effects on them. The integration of gender perspectives is a way of assessing the gender-based differences of women, men, girls, and boys that are reflected in their social roles and interactions, in the distribution of power, and in their access to both resources and opportunities.
Advocate for, and support the development of, UN Force Commander’s and UN Police Commissioner’s Child Protection Directives for UN peacekeeping operations, in accordance with UN mission mandates: The Child Protection Directives should serve as core mission guidance on child protection for military and police components. Among other things, Force Directives should establish the SCPA as the lead advisor on child protection to the component command team. The Directives should be developed by the SCPA and approved by the UN mission leadership, and the CPFPs should be intimately familiar with them before deployment so that they are well-positioned to support their implementation.
As of April 2019, three UN peacekeeping operations had fully-established Child Protection Directives. These include:
- MINUSCA (Central African Republic);
- MONUSCO (Democratic Republic of the Congo); and,
- UNMISS (Republic of South Sudan).
As the process for establishing Child Protection Directives in line with the 2017 Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support, and Department of Political Affairs (DPKO-DFS- DPA)Endnote 31 Policy on Child Protection in United Nations Peace Operations is still relatively new, it continues to evolve and Member States have an ongoing role in advocating for their continued development.Endnote 32 Member States could also consider developing contingent-level documents that support and reinforce this broader mission guidance.
Examples and resources
“Canadian Forces Joint Doctrine Note 2017-01: Child Soldiers”: Developed by the Canadian Armed Forces, this doctrine note is designed to provide formal guidance to individuals, units, and commanders on how to mitigate the broad challenges posed by child soldiers. In particular, chapter 2 of Joint Doctrine Note 2017-01 outlines key considerations related to child soldiers when conducting planning at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.Endnote 33
“JSP 1325: Human Security in Military Operations”: Published by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, this two-part document provides directives and guidance on how understanding of the human terrain in an area of operations can be enhanced by engagements with civil society. In turn, these interactions contribute to enhanced situational awareness and heightened operational effectiveness. JSP 1325 also offers guidance on how military planners can integrate dynamics such as children affected by armed conflict, human trafficking, gender, peace and security, and the protection of civilians into operational staff work.Endnote 34
Gender-Based Analysis Plus: The Government of Canada has developed a collection of resources to support the application of gender-based analysis to government programs and activities, including a freely-available online course.Endnote 35
To implement this principle, Member States should undertake the following:
- Institutionalize the role of peacekeepers in the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in national strategic policy, doctrine, and directives.
- Gather information and conduct analysis relevant to the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers to inform national planning processes.
- Prioritize the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in national planning for the deployment of national contingents or individuals to UN peacekeeping operations, in accordance with UN mission mandates.
- Develop clear and effective rules of engagement (military) or directives on the use of force (police) to prepare peacekeepers for encounters with child soldiers.
- Incorporate gender perspectives into national planning efforts.
- Advocate for and support the development of UN Force Commander’s and UN Police Commissioner’s Child Protection Directives for UN peacekeeping operations, in accordance with UN mission mandates.
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