Child Soldiers and Peace: Mapping a New Pathway to Prevention


Child Soldiers and Peace: Mapping a New Pathway to Prevention

Dustin Johnson

January 17, 2023

By: Dustin Johnson

Last Tuesday, Antonio Guterres, the new United Nations Secretary-General, delivered the first address of his term to the United Nations Security Council. In it, he emphasized the need for the UN and the international community to pursue a more preventative approach to peace and security, saying “we spend far more time and resources responding to crises rather than preventing them. People are paying too high a price. Member States are paying too high a price. We need a whole new approach.”

At the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, we agree with this approach to peace and security. For too long, the international community has addressed the use of child soldiers in a largely reactive manner, seeking to demobilize them from armed forces and groups and rehabilitate them back into society. While this approach is important, it is also not sufficient. The Dallaire Initiative aims to prevent children from becoming soldiers in the first place, avoiding the damage to peace and stability, society, and the children themselves through our training, research and advocacy activities. As part of our work on prevention, we collaborate with our colleagues in the United Nations on many fronts, including with UNICEF and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to advance the protection of children from armed conflict around the world.

As we enter a new year, which Secretary-General Guterres has declared will be a “year for peace”, we look forwards to continuing and expanding our collaboration with the United Nations. At the Dallaire Initiative we will continue to improve and expand our delivery of training on preventing the use of child soldiers to security sector actors around the world, while conducting world-class research on children and armed conflict, including expanding our previous work on the importance of children to early warning for mass atrocities and conflict prevention. In the words of the new Secretary-General, “prevention is not merely a priority, but the priority. If we live up to our responsibilities, we will save lives, reduce suffering and give hope to millions.”