Canada and the UN: Mending Broken Childhoods in the DRC

A participant at the exhibit.
Ambassador Ginette Martin and the Personal Representative of the Head of State on issues of sexual violence and child recruitment, Ms. Jeanine Mabunda.
Ambassador Ginette Martin and members of the delegation of the UN Security Council mission to Kinshasa.

Children, violently torn from their homes, families and lives, have been thrust into conflicts across the world. The practice of using child soldiers has deprived many of the world’s youth of a healthy and safe childhood, as well as making their return to a normal adult life extremely challenging. Combating the exploitation of child soldiers is a priority for the Government of Canada and our partners in central Africa.

Canada has long been recognized as a leading advocate on children and armed conflict. Canada hosted the first International Conference on War-Affected Children in Winnipeg in 2000, galvanizing support from the international community to address children and armed conflict issues.

An International Initiative

The United Nations has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2000, and has returned more than 35,000 child soldiers to civilian lives. The process of bringing these kids out of conflict and reintegrating them into normalized life is difficult. Child soldiers fear prosecution and face discrimination from the general population. Providing the public at large with a narrative for the experiences of these children is an important step towards building understanding and acceptance for children who are ‘coming out of the bush’ and returning to daily life.

We are working to protect and empower children in the DRC, with a collective goal of successfully reintegrating these children into a normal daily life and eventually ending the use of child soldiers all together.

The Exhibit

The Embassy of Canada in Kinshasa, DRC hosted the ‘Children of War, Broken Childhood’ photo exhibit from the United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Launched in collaboration with the Congolese Department of National Defense and the Security Sector Reform – Child Protection Unit of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), the photo exhibit served to expand public awareness of the extreme conditions faced by children associated with armed conflict, to provide personal narrative for child soldiers and to highlight the efforts of the national Government and the United Nations.

The exhibit provoked thought and dialogue around the issue of child soldiers in the DRC, and provided a sympathetic perspective on the lives and stories of these vulnerable children. Canada’s goal was to advocate for strengthening the national response in this matter, and to spotlight Canada’s role and commitment in the fight to end child recruitment.

The exhibit was introduced by a presentation of ‘children and armed conflict in the DRC, challenges and prospects in the DRC’ which focused on issues during armed conflict and after it.

The Embassy was very proud to host representatives from high levels of government, public institutions, civil society, and a delegation of the UN Security Council mission to Kinshasa and is committed to continuing working with our international partners to secure a conflict-free future for children around the world, and to ensure a safe return for those who have been the victims of conflict.