Dr. Shelly Whitman took up the post of Executive Director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative in January 2010. In the eight years since, she has spearheaded the establishment and growth of the organization, signed MOUs with four countries, and today leads an international team based in Canada, Somalia, and South Sudan.

Shelly has been instrumental in creating a number of key, international agreements and policies on the protection of children:

  • Created the Implementing Guidelines for the Safe Schools Declaration and successfully lobbied the Canadian government to sign on to the agreement;
  • Spearheaded global roundtables with young people affected by armed conflict to inform the new Policy on Children by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC);
  • Provided the necessary briefs and background documentation that led to the creation of the Canadian Armed Forces Joint Doctrine Note (JDN) 2017-01 Child Soldiers;
  • Supported the creation of NATO’s Standard Operating Procedure on Children in Armed Conflict;
  • Helped to write two UN Security Council Resolutions in 2014: UNSC RES 2143 on Children and Armed Conflict and 2151 on International Peace and Security and Security Sector Reform;
  • Co-authored the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers with the Government of Canada, which gained a record of 59 signatories before the start of the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial in November 2017.

As a subject matter expert, Shelly is regularly called upon to speak to global forums and provide media commentary on the issue of child soldiers. She has also been a member of the Paris Principles Steering Group since 2016.

Prior to her work with the Dallaire Initiative, Shelly worked as Head of Research on the inter-Congolese dialogue from 2000-2002, under the direction of Former Botswana President, Sir Ketumile Masire. Previous to this post, she was a Research Consultant at UNICEF in New York and worked under the direction of Ambassador Stephen Lewis on the OAU Rwanda Genocide Report.

Shelly has also enjoyed an academic career teaching in International Development Studies and Political Science at Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University and the University of Botswana. In 2009, Shelly introduced a course on Children and Armed Conflict at Dalhousie University and is now working towards the introduction of a Certificate Programme on Children and Armed Conflict. She has also created and implemented a new e-learning course at Dalhousie’s College of Continuing Education on Children and Youth at Risk.

In 2014, she was awarded the Canadian Progress Club Women of Excellence Award for her work with the Dallaire Initiative, and in 2017, the organization was the recipient of the Human Rights Watch Voices for Justice Award.