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Kids shouldn't go to war

Vancouver is poised to become a symbol for protecting children and preventing the use of child soldiers when a series of commitments bearing the city's name is rolled out at this week's peacekeeping summit.

The international community has been quietly working on the so-called Vancouver Principles for some time, which a senior UN official hoped would give a shot in the arm to efforts to protect children in conflict.

"It's a way of re-energizing the mobilization of the international community, and I think this is very important," said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN's undersecretary general of peacekeeping operations.

"The notion of having states committing to a set of principles to do certain things and not to do certain things is also very important."

Canadian officials have said little about the initiative, which will be unveiled when representatives from about 80 countries gather in Vancouver starting Tuesday for the two-day peacekeeping summit.

But Australia's ambassador to the UN, Gillian Bird, described it last month as including "concrete steps on how to prioritize and further operationalize child protection within UN peacekeeping."

Sources have revealed that retired lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire, one of the world's most fervent advocates for ending the use of child soldiers in war, will be attending the Vancouver meeting.

Dallaire's Child Soldiers Initiative helped the Canadian military develop a series of guidelines to ensure Canadian troops are properly trained and emotionally prepared for dealing with child soldiers.

The UN released a report last month that found more than 8,000 children were killed or injured in conflicts around the world in 2016 and thousands of children had been recruited or used by warring factions.

The number of children in Syria who were recruited or used in conflict more than doubled to 851 verified cases, according to the report, while more than 1,900 were recruited or used in Somalia.

There were also more than 1,000 verified cases of children being recruited or used in South Sudan and 442 reported cases in Mali, which is considered a strong candidate for a future Canadian peacekeeping mission.



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