By: The Dallaire Initiative
In 2007, the international community moved boldly forward towards envisioning a world without child soldiers and children affected by armed conflict. Today, the Paris Principles and Commitments represent one of the strongest international agreements on the issue of children associated with armed conflict, with over 100 member states agreeing to implement its guidelines and measures.
“The Paris Principles and Commitments are integral documents that underpin and build the political commitment and preventative efforts to end the use of children as weapons of war,” states Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (the Dallaire Initiative).
The Paris Principles and Commitments reflect a collaborative global effort for effective action towards combatting the issue of children associated with armed conflict. Together, these documents create the foundation to help consolidate global knowledge and experience for preventing the recruitment and use of children as weapons of war.
Hundreds of thousand child soldiers continue to be used worldwide, both by state and non-state armed groups. The use of children as weapons illustrates larger, systemic issues such as the breakdown of a country’s social fabric or institutions. In addition, the use of child soldiers point towards the long-term, generational aspect of the conflict and the possibility of future mass atrocities.
However, children are not often viewed as an important actor or issue within the larger peace and security agenda.
“The Paris Principles help provide the basis to ensure that children are included in the peace and security agenda. It is necessary that children are not viewed as an ‘add on’ issue but moved up to the top of this agenda, which these principles and commitments aid in doing” states Dr. Whitman.
Since 2007, a steering group has overseen the implementation and commitments to the Principles. Through this body, they encourage governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society to follow the Paris Principles and Commitments and the guidelines they outline within.
This week the Paris Principles and Commitments’ steering committee meets again in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The stated focus of the meeting is ambitious but clear, to promote political commitments from governments within Africa who are listed as parties in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC). This report, developed annually by the United Nations SRSG CAAC, identifies state and non-state armed groups that use child soldiers. State armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers within Africa include, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Receiving political commitments from these governments is a pivotal first step. If a state government is willing to use child soldiers, it makes it nearly impossible to ensure that non-state armed groups who may operate there will not also use them” states Dr. Whitman.
The Dallaire Initiative will participate in these meetings through the chairing of a session by its founder, LGen Roméo Dallaire (ret’d). This represents an important advocacy effort moving forward for the Dallaire Initiative as it works with other concerned organizations, governments and civil society actors to develop preventative solutions to the issue of child soldiery worldwide. Moving beyond a strictly socio-economic focus, the Dallaire Initiative will ensure the unique perspective of the security sector on the issue of child soldiers is included within the discussions.
“Without including the security sector in the solution to child soldiery we will fail to create a sustainable response to the issue. The security sector is uniquely positioned to become a positive catalyst in this fight” states LGen Roméo Dallaire (ret’d).
The Dallaire Initiative will continue to work closely with the Paris Principles and Commitments steering group to develop the political will and preventative solutions needed to address the issue of child soldiery.
“As an organization we bring unique tools and insights. However, it is only through the concerted efforts of many that we will finally find an end to the issue of child soldiery” states Dr. Shelly Whitman.