February 12, 2024 – Ottawa, Ontario – Global Affairs Canada
Honorable Mlanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Honorable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of International Development; and the Honorable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, today issued the following statement:
Of all the failings of humanity that occur in and around armed conflict, the use of child soldiers is undoubtedly among the worst. The International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers exists to remind the world that urgent action is needed to end the exploitation of children who are illegally recruited and forced to serve as soldiers, spies, messengers, porters, cooks, etc. Armed forces and armed groups may also commit crimes of sexual violence against children, along with other serious violations of their rights. This practice is unacceptable and today we are reminded of our duty to strive for a world where children are free to be children.
Canada has long been committed to ending this gross violation of children's rights and international humanitarian law. Launched in 2017, the Vancouver Principles for Peacekeeping and Preventing the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers focus on ending this practice in the contexts where UN peacekeeping missions operate. Worldwide, a total of 107 UN member states have adopted the Vancouver Principles to date. The Canadian Armed Forces Dallaire Center of Excellence for Peace and Security supports the implementation of the Vancouver Principles within the Canadian military and continues to make progress towards this goal.
In addition, Canada continues to support the UN Department of Peace Operations as it integrates the Vancouver Principles into the work of peacekeeping missions through updated guidance, training and tools.
Canada is also supporting the UN Institute for Disarmament Research to build knowledge on how to help soldiers, including those recruited as children, leave armed conflict and reintegrate into society. The aim of this action-oriented research project, which is taking place in Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Iraq, Niger and Nigeria, is to develop more effective disarmament and reintegration programs that are tailored to the age and gender of the participants.
Children who are forced to serve in armed conflict often suffer severe physical, mental and emotional wounds, up to and including death. Canada is grateful for the efforts of child protection lawyers, civil society organizations, peacekeepers and all those dedicated to ending this abhorrent practice.
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