The Vancouver Principles

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In November 2017, Canada launched The Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Vancouver Principles are a set of political commitments focused on child protection in peacekeeping, including all stages of a conflict cycle. They comprise 17 principles that focus on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed forces and armed groups.

Preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers is critical to achieving overall UN peacekeeping mission success and to setting the conditions for lasting peace and security.

“The use of child soldiers has no place in our world... By bringing countries together, and putting the Vancouver Principles into action, we can make sure children remain children, and build a safer, more just future for all.”

- Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Endorsing the Vancouver Principles

In 2017, 55 UN Member States were founding endorsers of the Vancouver Principles. The number of endorsing countries is now over 100.

By endorsing the Vancouver Principles, Member States acknowledge the unique challenges posed by child soldiers, and commit to prioritizing the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers in UN peacekeeping operations and to helping ensure that all peacekeepers—military, police, and civilian—are prepared and directed to take appropriate action.

Any UN Member State can endorse the Vancouver Principles, even if they do not contribute personnel to UN missions.

Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles

Political endorsement of the Vancouver Principles is not enough to ensure change: their true impact will be achieved when they are implemented by UN Member States.

The Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles offers a common basis to develop or amend policies, doctrine, training and education on child soldiers in the context of UN peace operations.

For each principle, the guidance provides background and explains how UN Member States’ military, policy and civilians who operate under a UN mandate, can contribute to the principle’s implementation. Where possible, concrete examples are provided along with useful references to available and authoritative resources.

The implementation guidance was created through a collaborative process. In February 2019, all endorsing Member States were invited to participate in a review workshop, which provided a platform to receive their input, as well as from the UN and child-protection actors. On June 25, 2019, Canada launched the Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles online and in print.

“Recognizing the tragic fate suffered by children in armed conflict around the world, I want to thank all of the individuals, organizations and Member States that contributed to the development of the Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles. This practical resource will have real-world impacts and help to protect children.”

- Hon. Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

Working together to protect children

The recruitment and use of children is one of the six grave violations against children during armed conflict. Every year, tens of thousands of children—both girls and boys—are used by armed forces and armed groups in a variety of roles such as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and spies—and for sexual purposes.

More than half of current UN peacekeeping operations take place in countries where child soldiers are used. For peacekeepers, the presence of children in armed forces and armed groups presents immediate and complex political, tactical and operational challenges. The psychological effects of encountering child soldiers can be severe and may affect peacekeepers long after they have returned home.

Canada developed the Vancouver Principles in partnership with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and in consultation with the UN, child protection actors and key UN Member States. The following partners helped develop the Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles:

UN Member States that have endorsed the Vancouver Principles

Founding endorsers (As of November 15, 2017)

  1. Argentina
  2. Armenia
  3. Australia
  4. Austria
  5. Bangladesh
  6. Belgium
  7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  8. Brazil
  9. Cambodia
  10. Canada
  11. Chile
  12. Colombia
  13. Croatia
  14. Czech Republic
  15. Denmark
  16. Dominican Republic
  17. Estonia
  18. Fiji
  19. Finland
  20. France
  21. Germany
  22. Greece
  23. Guatemala
  24. Hungary
  25. Ireland
  26. Israel
  27. Italy
  28. Jordan
  29. Latvia
  30. Lithuania
  31. Luxembourg
  32. Malaysia
  33. Mexico
  34. Montenegro
  35. Nauru
  36. Norway
  37. Poland
  38. Portugal
  39. Romania
  40. Rwanda
  41. Serbia
  42. Sierra Leone
  43. Slovakia
  44. Slovenia
  45. South Korea
  46. Spain
  47. Sri Lanka
  48. Sweden
  49. Tanzania
  50. The Netherlands
  51. Uganda
  52. Ukraine
  53. United KingdomFootnote 1
  54. Uruguay
  55. Vietnam

Additional endorsers (As of April 13, 2021)

  1. Albania
  2. Andorra
  3. Belarus
  4. Benin
  5. Bulgaria
  6. Burkina Faso
  7. Cameroon
  8. Central African Republic
  9. Chad
  10. Comoros
  11. Costa Rica
  12. Côte d’Ivoire
  13. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  14. Ecuador
  15. El Salvador
  16. Gabon
  17. Georgia
  18. Ghana
  19. Honduras
  20. Iceland
  21. Japan
  22. Kazakhstan
  23. Kenya
  24. Kuwait
  25. Lesotho
  26. Liechtenstein
  27. Macedonia
  28. Malta
  29. Moldova
  30. Monaco
  31. Morocco
  32. New Zealand
  33. Nicaragua
  34. Palau
  35. Peru
  36. Qatar
  37. San Marino
  38. Senegal
  39. Seychelles
  40. Singapore
  41. Sudan
  42. Thailand
  43. The Gambia
  44. The Philippines
  45. Togo
  46. Tunisia
  47. Zambia

Existing international framework

The Vancouver Principles build on and complement the existing international child protection framework, such as:

“Additional tools, such as the Paris Principles, the Safe Schools Declaration and the more recent Vancouver Principles, should also be endorsed by every Member State. We can join forces to advocate for these endorsements.

“This is important because norms matter. Endorsements and ratifications of international agreements bring us one step closer to their implementation in contexts where they can have a real impact in children’s lives.”

- Virginia Gamba, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

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