Vancouver declaration: dozens of countries commit to child soldiers

Photo: Charles Lomodong Agence France-Presse
The number of child soldiers in the world would be about 300 000.

They offend humanistic values the most fundamental, and the military cross for a day or, worse, who have to cross swords with them are upset forever. Child soldiers are found everywhere, from Somalia to Sudan, from Nigeria, Syria, or even the British, who face the most disturbing of civil conflicts in modern. And the conference on peace missions, which concluded yesterday in Vancouver, she delivered a statement about them.


The “Vancouver declaration on peace missions, and the prevention of recruitment and use of child soldiers” has already been ratified by 55 countries, said the minister of foreign Affairs, asked by chrystia Freeland. It commits its signatories to designate a person responsible for the protection of children in the command structure of the police and military peace missions.


The signatory countries undertake to provide training in the areas of child-soldiers in all their deployed military and to provide them with psychological support. They also undertake not to have recourse to the imprisonment of child soldiers as a ” last resort “, for “the shortest period of time possible” and always keeping in mind that it is children.


“It is impossible to do in the face of a child soldier in a war context without being forever changed,” explained Mr. Trudeau, who has invited people to put themselves in the shoes of a soldier coming face to face with a boy of seven years, the bulging eyes, pointing an AK-47 to his face. The kill ? Not to kill him and put his troops in danger ? The tear is a deep one. Romeo Dallaire, the former canadian military officer who served in Rwanda, and who has been a senator, knows something.


“The children do not win wars, they feed,” he said Wednesday, while he was in Vancouver for the announcement. “Then, to put an end to the conflicts, it is necessary to drain the source. It is not an issue that needs to be discussed at the margins of peacekeeping missions. On the contrary it is an essential issue. “The foundation he has created to combat the phenomenon of children-soldiers will share with UNICEF the $ 1.25 million that Ottawa will spend to “operationalize” the statement.


Canada, however, has a length of advance. Last march, the canadian armed Forces are equipped with the first “doctrine” to the world on child soldiers. The document of some thirty pages to advise military of seeking to “defuse” any interaction with a child. And it recommends, in the case of a meeting of a group including children, addressing first to the adults, because when they retreat, the rest of the group tends to ” crumble “.


The doctrine recognizes, however, the limits of the action differentiated. “It is essential, is it written, that the planners remember that the members of the canadian armed Forces will retain the right to use force to protect themselves against the threat of serious injury or death, even if he is a child soldier. A child soldier with a rifle or a grenade launcher may represent the same threat as an adult with the same weapons. “


The canadian doctrine also stresses that it is necessary to ” examine the public’s perceptions regarding encounters with child soldiers, since they could have a huge impact on the success of a particular mission “. France knows something. Its mission in Mali has been undermined when it was revealed in January that French soldiers had killed a child of 10 years.


The canadian doctrine recalls, finally, that the children soldiers that have been intercepted must be removed from the general prison population in order to be rehabilitated and, eventually, returned to their family.


It is estimated that 300 000 children-soldiers in the world. In October, the UN released a report showing an upsurge in recruiting in 2016. The “palm” comes back to Nigeria, where 2122 children have been recruited, mainly by Boko Haram. The group has used 4 boys and 26 girls to commit suicide attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.


The UN lists a 1915 recruitment in Somalia, mainly by the group al-Shabaab ; 1022 South Sudan ; 851 in Syria, primarily by the free syrian Army, but also by the armed group islamic State ; 517 Yemen ; 492 in the democratic Republic of the Congo ; 442 in Mali ; 230 in Colombia ; 168 in Iraq, especially by the ITE ; or 96 in Afghanistan, although in the latter case, the UN points out that this is only the case that she has managed to confirm. Other sources are rather state of 3000 hires in 2016.


Despite this portrait of a downer, the un report does state a few successes. “As a result of dialogues undertaken by the united nations “, he wrote, 3897 children were separated from armed groups in the central african Republic and 1850 were of the Moro islamic liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines.

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