VANCOUVER PRINCIPLES: Rwanda sets precedence

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VANCOUVER PRINCIPLES: Rwanda sets precedence
VANCOUVER PRINCIPLES: Rwanda sets precedence

Africa-Press – Rwanda. The Dallaire Institute’s African Centre of Excellence for Children, Peace and Security is an African hub for promoting and leading efforts to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers on the continent.

The Centre is strategically located in Kigali, Rwanda, allowing the Institute to build upon the already strong institutional ties with the country

It was established In 2019 in partnership with Rwanda with a focus on child protection and promoting the rights of children through the security sector agenda because Rwanda has been a leading proponent of the Kigali Principles on the protection of civilians and the Vancouver Principles on the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.

The regional hub exists to strengthen African capacity for research, training, and policy development and to foster innovative, regionally appropriate strategies to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.

Academic, security sector actors, civil society and policy makers are convened in the center to be sensitized and trained to promote a peace and security agenda that puts the protection of children at its very core.

The Canadian humanitarian, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Romeo Dallaire ̧ who was the Force Commander of UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi learnt a lesson of how youth were recruited to commit atrocities and in 2007 established Dallaire Institute and later centre of excellence to prevent child soldiers recruitment.

The Dallaire Institute is the co-developer of the 2017 Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.

The 17 Vancouver principles-launched by the Government of Canada in 2017 at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver- are a set of political commitments in peacekeeping endorsed by member states regarding the prevention of recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed forces and armed groups.

The Vancouver Principles are the primary mechanism through which the Dallaire Institute advocates for its coined “Children’s Rights Upfront” (CRU) approach.

The CRU approach seeks to elevate children’s well-being as essential to achieving international peace and security, by making children a priority for all actors, and by ensuring children’s rights are included in peace processes.

The principles were established considering that all conventions on child protection that were in existence were not explicitly talking about how to handle the issue of recruitment and use of child soldiers during armed conflict

“Considering almost half of the world’s population is under the age of 24 years, and that most countries where recruitment and use of children is occurring have predominantly young populations, it is essential that we prioritize the rights of children.”

Rwanda was the first country on the African continent to endorse the Vancouver principles.

Rwanda is a champion in the implementation of the Vancouver principles given their key role in the United National Peacekeeping missions in the region.

So far, 106 countries globally have endorsed the set of political commitments focused on child protection in peacekeeping, including all stages of a conflict cycle but only 16 African countries have endorsed the principles.

“We encourage other African countries to prioritize the protection and the promotion of the rights of children through adoption of Vancouver Principles and other international instruments,” said Maj Gen (Rtd) Ferdinand Safari, Director of The Dallaire Institute-African Centre of Excellence.

Why Rwanda became the permanent host of Dallaire Institute-Centre of Excellence

The Dallaire Institute-Centre of Excellence is hosting the Vancouver principles agenda and accelerating the action for African countries to endorse and implement the principles, as championed by Rwanda.

In February 2022, Rwanda became the permanent host of the center.

Being a permanent host means a lot

Rwanda has been the center of both men and women peace and security solutions on the African continent and beyond.

The commitment to protect civilians and children has been revealed in the signing of several international and regional commitments including the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979), Beijing declaration and platform for action and recent Kigali principles and the Vancouver principles which reflect the strategies Rwanda has taken to deal with the issues of child protection in armed conflicts.

The center has strengthened Rwanda’s capacity locally, regionally, and everywhere where Rwanda contributes to peacekeepers in building a more operational capability to be deployed to prevent the use of child soldiers in conflicts.

Over the past four years, the African Centre of Excellence and Rwanda trained More than 15,000 military forces, police, and other security sector actors from more than 100 countries across the globe to the prevention of child soldier recruitment in armed conflict.

“The use of Children in armed violence has emerged as a phenomenon of modern warfare. Together, we can fight and end this scourge,” Maj Gen (Rtd) Safari said.

Dallaire Institute for Children Peace and Security is one of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and Rwanda National Police (RNP) key stakeholders in capacity-building programmes, especially in pre-deployment training for peace support operations units.

These solid partnerships are illustrated in the recent MoU renewal, in June 2022, between the Dallaire Institute and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Rwanda and the existing formal cooperation with the RNP under a signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2019.

The center of excellence has certified a pool of military and police trainers who are capable and skilled to train others and export knowledge to train regional forces on preventing child soldier recruitment including places like Mozambique, Central African Republic, South Sudan and in South America.

Female police officers are also trained

The Dallaire Institute in partnership with the Rwanda National Police hosted several trainings and workshops targeting female police officers to empower them with knowledge and skills on the prevention of recruitment and use of children as soldiers.

In line with the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the Kigali Principles on the protection of civilians in peace operations, and the Vancouver principles mostly on the role of female police officers in prevention of recruitment and use of children as soldiers in armed conflicts; Rwanda National Police has significantly increased its numbers, especially of female police officers, in peacekeeping missions in countries with armed conflicts where children face risk of all sorts of violence and abuse, including forced recruitment into armed forces, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) Felix Namuhoranye said in October.

Rwanda has been commended by the United Nations for contributing female soldiers and the police who are capable of effectively supporting peace, safety and security operations in South Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Sudan and Haiti and others.

“ Rwanda is open to sharing lessons learned on how to put an end to the use of children in violence,” Maj Gen (Rtd) Safari added

The center’s curriculum has also been fully integrated within courses for peacekeeping operations in Rwanda. Informed by the Dallaire Institute model doctrine for the Vancouver Principles implementation.

The center is also working with the University of Rwanda to create a platform for civilians who want to study short courses about protecting children and civilians during conflicts.

The center also carries out research work and has created linkages between the center and African Union leadership to the children’s peace and security agenda and the endorsement of the Vancouver principles.

The Dallaire Institute is exceptionally proud that over the past three years, it has created ground-breaking work towards a comprehensive early warning system that will engage multilateral organizations, security institutions, human rights groups, and child protection agencies to sound the alarm on the risk of recruitment of children as a critical warning of impending and large-scale conflicts.

Developing an early warning system for child soldier recruitment and use was part of Knowledge for Prevention (K4P) project from 2019 to 2021.

K4P seeks to fill a critical knowledge gap in academic and policy-based discourse to better understand the indicators that precede children’s recruitment into armed conflict and violence, and how early warning can be translated into collaborative and timely response.

In armed conflict-affected areas, the institute facilitates collaboration between communities and security actors to co-develop strategies to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed violence.

Dallaire Institute strategic plan

Over the next five years, the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace And Security seeks to increase understanding of the Vancouver Principles to accelerate endorsement and implementation among African member states.

It plans to push the Integration of the Vancouver Principles into domestic laws and security sector planning processes, regional commitments, peace processes, peace agreements, action plans, post-conflict recovery and reconstruction policies.

The plan also includes strengthening the capacity of security sector institutions to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers by supporting the implementation of the Vancouver Principles.

Integrating children’s and community perspectives into security sector responses to prevent the recruitment and use of children is also among the strategic plan priorities.

As a Rwanda-based institution, The Centre Of Excellence receives support from the Rwandan Government which includes access to the RwandaPeaceAcademy and similar specialized institutions for our training and research efforts.

Rwanda also supports the center’s work as a policy champion in multilateral settings, including at the African Union level and beyond.

Germany is the largest funder of the work in Rwanda, also, working to enhance the scope of what can be achieved in this context.

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