Retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire speaks at the 2019 Vancouver Principles Workshop in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo by Laura Mulkerne

Dallaire Institute spotlights child protection

By 
  • September 27, 2020

The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security will take its second annual Knowledge for Prevention (K4P) International Symposium online Sept. 28-Oct. 2 to foster the conversation about protecting children living in conflict environments.

Academics and seasoned practitioners from around the world will deliver keynote presentations and participate in panels that will delve into topics that include:

  • Children’s roles within the global peace and security agenda.
  • The legacy of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which acknowledged how women are increasingly targeted in armed conflicts while also being left out of peacebuilding efforts.
  • Discussing the dynamics and nuances involved in preventing child soldier recruitment.
  • Rethinking global child protection and recruitment prevention.

“We really want the world to understand that in order to achieve global peace and security, we need to put children at the heart of our processes and strategies,” said Dr. Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security.

Whitman and Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, will deliver opening remarks.

Retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, 74, will also speak on day one of the virtual conference. The Order of Canada recipient has made it his mission to try to rescue and rehabilitate child soldiers and prevent child recruitment activities through the creation of the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative in 2007. Receiving institute status from Dalhousie University in Halifax inspired the name change to the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security.

The humanitarian and former senator witnessed many atrocities during his term as commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda peacekeeping force while the Rwandan genocide unfolded in 1994. He admitted years later that the experience left him with guilt feelings and shattered his Catholic faith, but over the last five years he has re-discovered his faith and its value in dealing with crisis situations.

Dallaire wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register he is delighted with the work of the institute that bears his name.

“I am very proud to have witnessed our mission expand over the past decade to this important point. We knew in the aftermath of Rwanda that we did not yet fully comprehend how children were being recruited and used in violence, and how we could prevent it,” said Dallaire. “Now we understand that there are vulnerability factors, like poverty and lack of access to education, that need to be addressed to prevent this atrocity. This expanded agenda will bring us one step closer to making the recruitment and use of children in violence unthinkable.”

Other day-one speakers at the conference include Toronto Raptors’ president and Giants for Africa founder Masai Ujiri and Canada’s Minister for National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan.

There will also be youth delegates contributing to the five-day online summit, which was originally conceived in a pre-pandemic world as an in-person event in Brussels, Belgium.

“Some of them have been refugees, others have been recruited as soldiers or have grown up in conflict zones,” said Whitman.

“Some are also ambassadors and have formed their own initiatives to promote peace in the world,” she said. “They range from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, places in Latin America to some who are now residing in Canada.

“I can imagine they will offer a sense of hope for the future. That is one of the greatest aspects of their participation. In other forums, I have found older people to be more jaded about what’s not possible. They are also innovative in their approaches and that is something important for us to listen to throughout the week.”

See dallaireinstitute.org/k4p/.

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