© Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces/Able Seaman Anne-Marie Brisson.

In February 2019, Watchlist traveled to Ottawa for the International Review Workshop on the Implementation Guidance for the

Vancouver Principles. Hosted by the Canadian government from February 5 to 7, the workshop brought together endorsing Member States, UN officials and staff, and civil society from around the world to share their expertise and best practices to inform the development of the guidance.

Launched on the margins of the UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial conference in November 2017, the Vancouver Principles are a set of commitments that seek to prioritize and further operationalize child protection within UN peacekeeping, with a focus on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Principles are intended to build upon and complement existing frameworks, including the Paris Principles and relevant Security Council resolutions. To date, the Vancouver Principles have been endorsed by 72 UN Member States.

Following the adoption of the Principles, the Canadian Government initiated a process to develop an implementation guidance, in collaboration with other stakeholders, including civil society. Watchlist and its members have been actively participating in this process since mid-2018. Led by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and Canada’s Department of National Defence, the February workshop in Ottawa was a culmination of this process and featured a variety of panelists, speakers, and substantive participation throughout the sessions and breakout groups.

The conference opened with a high-level public event, where Lieutenant-General (retired) Roméo Dallaire of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative gave a keynote address. Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Pamela Goldsmith-Jones delivered opening remarks, and the event concluded with a panel discussion that featured Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) Virginia Gamba; Lieutenant-General (retired) Derick Mgwebi of South Africa (former UN Force Commander to the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO); artist/activist and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal; and Guillaume Landry, Director General of the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR).

Watchlist’s Advocacy Officer Lindsey Hutchison delivered remarks during the workshop’s first session on February 6, speaking on the importance of including child protection-provisions in peacekeeping mandates (Vancouver Principle 1), as well as in peace processes and agreements (Vancouver Principle 14). She also spoke about the Security Council’s resolutions on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) and other existing international frameworks that complement the Vancouver Principles and their implementation guidance.

Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan opened the final day of the workshop, emphasizing Canada’s commitment at the highest levels of government to this process and to children affected by war.

The two-day workshop underscored the importance of incorporating the Vancouver Principles and other frameworks for child protection into trainings for national militaries, police, and peacekeepers. It also acknowledged the crucial role of peacekeepers in proactively preventing the recruitment and use of children, as well as the challenges and implications of peacekeepers’ encounters with children associated with armed groups. Gender was also a key area of focus, participants noting the importance of mainstreaming gender into peacekeeping training and operations, as well as in addressing the unique needs of girls associated with armed forces or groups.

Canada will present the final Aide Memoire on the Vancouver Principles Implementation Guidance on the margins of the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial in New York on March 29.

Watchlist reiterates its call to UN Member States that have not yet endorsed the Vancouver Principles to do so.

To see a short video on the workshop, please visit the Canadian Department of National Defence’s Facebook or Twitter.