Research Overview

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is strategically housed at Dalhousie University. Stationed at a world class post-secondary institution contributes to the Dallaire Initiative’s collaborative approach. We actively work with leading researchers, organizations and practitioners, at home and abroad, develop our research.

Recognized as a subject matter expert by the United Nations, we are thought leaders in our field. Through our research we advocate for operational prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Child Soldiers as an Early Warning Indicator

The Dallaire Initiative has posed the bold hypothesis that the recruitment and use of child soldiers is an early warning indicator that points to an increase in the severity of conflict and of mass atrocities to come. If armed groups led by adults are willing to recruit and use children to fight their battles, other grave human rights abuses are not out of question in order to achieve their goals.

Women and the Security Sector

Throughout the Dallaire Initiative’s extensive work and consultation with the security sector it has become evident that female security actors have a significant role in an effort to build and maintain peace.

Military Chaplains and Religious Leaders

In a recent trip to Kampala, Uganda this past year, the Dallaire Initiative was approached by religious and community leaders who wanted to know what they can do to help prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers in their communities. From this conversation we have began to explore how military chaplains’ engagement with religious leaders can translate into education and awareness on the issue of child soldiers for their units while on deployment and in the reserves.

Extremism and Radicalization

During the summer of 2014 the extremist group calling itself The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), captured the attention of the world with its strategic online presence and firm grasp of social media. The Islamic State managed to turn its propaganda machine into a global recruitment network, attracting foreign fighters from the Americas, Europe and North Africa. In our effort to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, the Dallaire Initiative is seeking to understand the phenomenon of online radicalization and recruitment tactics.

Children used in Maritime Piracy

This past year the Dallaire Initiative took a large step forward with its exploration into the use of children in maritime piracy. Following a roundtable discussion with members of the United States and Canadian naives, maritime lawmakers, civil society organizations, the Dallaire Initiative conducted a research mission to Kenya and the Seychelles to investigate further how navies and private security companies interact with children on the high seas. We also had the opportunity to meet and interview children who are incarcerated because of their involvement in maritime piracy.

Most recently, the Dallaire Initiative was invited, along with representatives from navies from all over the Americas, to the 2014 Multilateral Wargame hosted at the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre. At the event, we observed how a naval coalition handles children used in maritime piracy.

Case Studies

Children and Maritime Piracy

Today, the Dallaire Initiative is the only organisation of its kind that is looking at the problem of children used in maritime piracy.  In a recent research mission to Kenya and Seychelles, we have learned that off the coast of Somalia, about 20-30% of all captured pirates are under the age of 18.  It is also possible that children are used in maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the Straits of Malacca and the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, navies and private security companies do not have any guidelines on how to interact with children used in maritime piracy.  This is why our research is so important.  We want to help security personnel to protect children on land and at sea.  We cannot do this, though, until we understand how children are recruited and used as pirates.

By helping to curb the use of children in maritime piracy, we may even be preventing the future use of child soldiers.  If conflict were to ever break out in a country where there is piracy, we think that child pirates are at a much higher risk of becoming soldiers.  It’s our mission to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

Police and Child Soldiers

In theory, the Dallaire Initiative’s work has been intended for the security sector at large: militaries, law enforcement agencies, correctional services and private security firms. However, in practice, the great majority of the Dallaire Initiative’s materials have been designed with disproportionate input from uniformed soldiers, thereby rendering its work less applicable to non-military audiences.

In the summer of 2014, the Dallaire Initiative took the first step to address this gap and hosted a two day roundtable discussion with Canadian police professionals with international deployment experience. Representation from the Toronto Police, Ottawa Police, Halifax Regional Police, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were all in attendance.

The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss interactions with child soldiers specific to the policing experience, with respect to international policing mandates dissect the connection between children associated with gangs and child soldiers, and how international policing experience transfers when back home.

Recent Publications

Conradi, Carl. “Child Trafficking, Child Soldiering: Exploring the Relationship between Two ‘worst Forms’ of Child Labour.” Third World Quarterly 34.7 (2013): 1209-226. Web.

Exenberger, S., Forshner, A., Liebenberg, L., Levert-Chiasson, I., Ung, J., Ungar, M., Whitman, S., Zinck, E., (2013). “Working with Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts to Promote Youth Engagement,”

Ungar, M., Whitman, S., Hart, A., & Phipps, D. (2014). “A simulation exercise to problem solve knowledge mobilization strategies for youth services.” Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement.

Whitman, S., and Liebenberg, L. (2014). Understanding the Experiences and Challenges of Former Child Soldiers Integrating into Canadian Society. In L. Theron, L. Liebenberg, and M. Ungar (Eds.), Youth Resilience and Culture - Commonalities and Complexities. New York, NY: Springer.