Third Anniversary of the Vancouver Principles

Video / November 15, 2020


The Honourable Harjit Sajjan:

At 14 years old, Nhial Bol became a child soldierFootnote 1.

He was living in South Sudan, a country that has faced many years of armed conflict.

Fighting was not what he wanted to do in his life.  

But extreme poverty and a lack of education and opportunities meant that there were little to no other options.

He fought for the next four years until he was wounded and released from duty.

The physical and mental injury he suffered then affected him to this very day.

The Honourable François-Philippe:

There are far too many stories like Nhial’s—far too many children forced to fight in conflicts created by adults.

Children living with the physical—and mental—scars of combat.

Every year, armed forces, terrorist organizations, gangs and organized crime rings across the globe use tens of thousands of children as soldiers.

Nearly 40% are girls.

Child soldiers are forced to serve as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, or spies.

Many are sexually exploited or used as suicide bombers.

The UN considers the use of children as soldiers a grave violation of the rights of children.

Yet they have identified 14 countries where it remains a persistent problem.

In each of these countries, the use of child soldiers presents major political, tactical, and operational challenges—and poses personal challenges for peacekeepers on the ground.

That’s why Canada launched the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, at the 2017 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial.

The Honourable Harjit Sajjan:

We developed these Principles in partnership with the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security, and other civil organizations.

We also consulted with the United Nations, child protection actors, and the key UN Member States.

The Principles are a series of 17 voluntary commitments countries can adopt in order to protect children during peacekeeping missions. Among those commitments are calls to:

  • Include child protection measures in peacekeeping mission mandates;
  • Train peacekeepers on how to best protect vulnerable children;
  • Support United Nations early warning efforts to identify the use of children as soldiers in conflict zones;
  • And equip countries in conflict with tools to eliminate the use of children as soldiers—from the beginning of a peace process, right through the post-conflict and recovery phases.

The Honourable François-Philippe:

The Vancouver Principles also reaffirm that girls and women are critical to building the lasting peace in conflict zones—as peacekeepers, and as leaders in their own communities.

We need both women’s and men’s perspectives to understand the root causes of conflict…

Foster creative and lasting solutions…

And prevent the recruitment and use of girls and boys as child soldiers.

The Honourable Harjit Sajjan:

Last year, we worked with our partners at the United Nations and other organizations to develop a guide to help UN Member Sates implement the Vancouver Principles in their doctrine, training, and education.

Canada has also taken important steps towards implementing these principles when Canadian peacekeepers deploy on peace operations.

Through the Dallaire Centre of Excellence for Peace and Security, we are making sure that all Canadians who deploy as peacekeepers receive proper training and education to increase their understanding and awareness of this complex peace and security issue…

And ensure they comply with the Principles during deployments around the world.

The Centre of Excellence is also doing a great deal of work, for example by conducting important research and developing operational concepts to stop the use of children as soldiers.

The Honourable François-Philippe:

To date, 97 countries have endorsed the Vancouver Principles, and we hope that others will endorse them soon.

But we know there is still much to do.

We know that political commitments alone will not end the use of child soldiers.

That’s why we are working tirelessly to implement these Principles, and encouraging other countries to do the same.

I am proud of the progress we have made in advancing these principles over the last three years.

We will always fight for the rights of the most vulnerable around the world.

Because everyone deserves the same freedom, safety, and protections we enjoy here at home.

Because no child should be a soldier, no child should be an instrument of war

Thank you.

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