July 16, 2007 10:38 ET

LGen. Romeo Dallaire and UNICEF Helping Child Soldiers

Canada Leading International Team in Ghana to Help End Use of Child Soldiers

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 16, 2007) - Lieutenant-General The Honourable Romeo Dallaire (Ret), in partnership with UNICEF Canada, is leading an international exercise in Ghana aimed at ending the use of child soldiers.

"At any given time, more than 250,000 children are recruited or used in armed conflict," said LGen. Dallaire. "When left unchecked, the use of child soldiers can destabilize entire countries and regions and deeply disrupt the lives of innocent people, especially children."

The Child Soldiers Simulation Exercise, named "Exercise Prodigal Child," led by Dallaire, together with UNICEF Canada President and CEO Nigel Fisher, will bring together 55 participants from around the world from a variety of disciplines, all of whom have substantial experience with child soldiers. Two participants are former child soldiers. The group will assemble July 16-20 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana.

"Having spent much time working on behalf of children in conflict zones, I have seen the results of carefully planned interventions to prevent children from this horrific form of exploitation," said UNICEF's Nigel Fisher. "This week's exercise offers an important opportunity to find new and innovative solutions to end the use of child soldiers."

Participants of the Child Soldiers Simulation Exercise will be given scenarios for which they will develop realistic and plausible solutions to many of the issues related to the use of children as soldiers. The exercise will take place in a hypothetical African conflict zone.

The exercise is part of the Child Soldier Initiative (CSI) founded in August 2006. It brings together representatives from civil society, international humanitarian organizations, the legal community, the military and academia.

Partners in the Child Soldier Initiative include Search for Common Ground, UNICEF Canada, USAID's Displaced Children and Orphans' Fund, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Canada and the Office of Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire.

"It is only by successfully integrating the knowledge, skills, and experience of all stakeholders that we can begin to hope to resolve this issue," said LGen Dallaire.

LGen Dallaire brings to CSI and Exercise Prodigal Child expertise developed through his research, notably as a fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, and will offer a unique perspective having served as the UN Force Commander in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

UNICEF is committed to the protection of children through programmes worldwide including preventing the recruitment of children into fighting forces. But once recruited, UNICEF is instrumental in demobilizing, disarming, reintegrating and rehabilitating affected children. Nigel Fisher was responsible for such programmes in numerous regions, including while he was head of UNICEF in Rwanda following the genocide.

UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing nations. A global leader in emergencies with six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.

Contact Information

  • UNICEF Canada
    Karen Snider
    (416) 482-4444 Ext 831
    Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping
    Training Center in Ghana
    John Opoku
    CELL: 011 233 244 053 585