The Vancouver Principles
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:
- Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative
- UN Department of Peace Operations
- Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
- International Bureau for Children’s Rights
- Save the Children
- Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict
- UN Member States
UN Member States that have endorsed the Vancouver Principles
Founding endorsers (As of November 15, 2017)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- Sierra Leone
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- The Netherlands
- United KingdomFootnote 1
Additional endorsers (As of April 13, 2021)
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Costa Rica
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- El Salvador
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- The Gambia
- The Philippines
Existing international framework
The Vancouver Principles build on and complement the existing international child protection framework, such as:
- Additional protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (1977)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2000)
- Paris Principles and Paris Commitments (2007)
- Safe Schools Declaration (2015)
“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
- Implementation Guidance for the Vancouver Principles
- The Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers
- Children and armed conflict
- Peace and Stabilization Operations Program
- International policing and peacekeeping
- International Police Peacekeeping and Peace Operations
- The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
- UN Department of Peace Operations
- 2021-02-12 - Statement by the Prime Minister on the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers
- 2021-02-12 - Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Development and Minister of National Defence on International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers
- 2019-06-25 - Minister Sajjan announces the establishment of the Dallaire Centre of Excellence for Peace and Security and funding for the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative
- 2019-02-12 - Statement on International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers
- 2018-02-12 - Statement by the Prime Minister on the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers
- 2017-11-15 - Canada launches global effort to help UN peacekeepers prevent recruitment and use of child soldiers
- 2017-11-11 - Canada bolsters peacekeeping and civilian protection measures
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