The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security has called on members of parliaments (MPs) across the world, particularly in Africa, to endorse the Vancouver Principles on prevention of recruitment and use of children as soldiers. The Institute made the appeal on Thursday, October 13, during a panel discussion on the theme “the impact of war and atrocity on civilian populations”. This session was held by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)’s Standing Committee on Peace and International Security. It was in line with the IPU’s 145th Assembly taking place in Rwanda from October 11-15. During the session, Ferdinand Safari, Director of Dallaire Institute's African Centre of Excellence for Children, Peace, and Security – Rwanda, expressed concern that only 16 countries in Africa (less than a third of the continent's 55 States) have ratified the Vancouver Principles, yet it is where the problem of using children to fight in armed conflicts largely lies. 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. 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 help ensure that all peacekeepers—military, police, and civilians—are prepared and directed to take appropriate action. So far, he said, 105 countries around the world have ratified the Vancouver Principles, but surprisingly, only 16 African countries have endorsed these Principles. “And we know very well that Sub-Saharan Africa is the part whereby this plight is really very rampant,” he said. “We would like the Parliamentarians, for example, to advocate for endorsement of the Vancouver Principles on peacekeeping, recruitment and use of children as soldiers,” he said. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), thousands of children are recruited and used in armed conflicts across the world. Between 2005 and 2020, UNICEF indicated, more than 93,000 children were verified as recruited and used by parties to conflicts, although the actual number of cases is believed to be much higher. On November 3, 2021, UNICEF stated that West and Central Africa has been the region in the world with the highest number of children verified as recruited and used by armed forces and non-state armed groups and the highest number of children verified as victims of sexual violence. Since 2016, it exposed, West and Central Africa had recorded more than 21,000 children verified by the United Nations (UN) as recruited and used by armed forces and non-state armed groups, and more than 2,200 children victims of sexual violence. Talking about the impact of wars or armed conflicts on civilians, Safari said that in the humanitarian settings today, children are often half of the population affected by armed conflicts. He indicated that some of the children in question have been killed, married (prematurely), raped, and even recruited as combatants. “Millions of children have nothing else other than war, with serious consequences on their mental health. This is the case of conflicts that have taken so long, such as in Mozambique for example, Central African Republic, and in Somalia,” he said. Children, he said, are really innocent and can easily be manipulated, adding that the Dallaire Institute was created by retired Canadian General, Roméo Dallaire, to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. “We would like the parliamentarians to set up a working group on the issue of recruitment and use of children as combatants to help address it,” he said. Also, parliamentarians having the role of oversight and accountability in their own countries, he urged them to help bring perpetrators to account for the child rights violations they have committed. “We request parliamentarians again to ensure that international laws and instruments could not only be endorsed, but also executed,” he said.