Genocide Prevention Seminar Takes Place in Ottawa

Original Article Link

uOttawa hosts 3rd Professional Training Program on the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

By: Paul Molpeceres

A Concordia-based research institute held a three-day seminar on genocide prevention geared towards professionals, diplomats, students and the military last week.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) gave presentations on topics ranging from violence prevention technology, such as aerial drones and translation apps, to the child soldier crisis in Africa, to the mass atrocity crimes committed in Darfur and Syria.

Kyle Matthews, deputy director at the institute, led the training program with the likes of Roméo Dallaire, former force commander for the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1993 genocide and Amy Pate of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.

Day one included presentations from Dallaire and Shelly Whitman, an expert on child soldiers with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

That evening, participants were invited to the home of the Swedish ambassador to Canada for a speech by Parliament Hill genocide prevention advocate and former Attorney General of Canada, Irwin Cotler.

“It is our duty to fight this heinous crime against humanity that is taking place as we speak—dare we utter its name,” said Cotler. “On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the fight against genocide has never been more urgent.”

On day two, Walter Dorn, scientist and professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, gave an emotional account of his experiences as a UN electoral officer in East Timor during the country’s 1999 referendum.

At the height of the reign of terror, the UN officials in Dili, East Timor, signed a declaration that they would not accept evacuation unless all the Timorese who had sought refuge in their mission headquarters were also allowed to leave. The UN relented and flew out some 1,500 Timorese people to safety in Australia, a first in UN history.

When asked what he thought about the training program at its conclusion, Dorn replied, “It was excellent. It gave a good introductory overview as well as depth on some issues.”

Dorn was asked what he’d like to see done in Ottawa on the issue of genocide prevention.

“I’d like to see the government sign the Arms Trade Treaty and have parliament ratify it,” he said. “That would help move Canada into the norms of civilized regulation of weaponry that can be used to violate human rights.”

Following Dorn’s presentation, Amy Pate of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland gave a presentation on Boko Haram, followed by a group exercise serving to encourage collective thinking through participant interaction.

Pate spoke about a troubling shift in thinking on the part of today’s most active terrorist factions.

“The old adage that terrorist groups don’t want body counts, they want media counts, is shifting,” said Pate on the recent mass killings by Boko Haram and ISIS.

The consensus over the course of the training program was that the Canadian government is not nearly active enough in the fight against genocide.

Noah Schouela, a student at the University of Toronto and an intern at MIGS, said the three-day experience was useful for the people he met.

“What I really gained from helping to put on this seminar was taking part in the conversations that were had among the participants,” he said.

“I left the conference hopeful that based on our diverging perspectives and what was discussed among us, there is hope for the future.”

Event coordinator Kyle Matthews was pleased with the result at the culmination of the three-day seminar.

“It exceeded my expectations in that we gained the support of numerous Canadian members of parliament and the Swedish Embassy to Canada,” he added.

The MIGS team is already looking ahead to next year’s training program.

“Next year I would love to find an international partner to hold something similar outside of Canada,” said Matthews.

Child Soldiers and ISIS

By: Dr. Shelly Whitman

Original Article Link

Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF claimed that 2014 was the most devastating year ever for children. It is not hard to see why. With over 15 million children directly affected by conflict and children used as soldiers in 14 countries, by 50 armed groups and seven state armies, violence continues to be a mainstay in many children’s lives. One of the most significant reasons for these staggering numbers was the rise of ISIS, who are flagrant in their use and recruitment of children.

While the use of children as weapons of war may appear counter intuitive at first glance, armed groups such as ISIS use child soldiers for their real and perceived strategic advantages. Children can fill and undertake roles that adults are either unwilling or unfit to do. Worryingly, ISIS has used children in its current fight that have not appeared in other conflicts, such as providing blood transfusions to injured adult fighters on the frontline. This is in addition to their use of children as suicide bombers, checkpoint guards, or in sexual servitude, among others.

Alarmingly, ISIS has documented this use of child soldiers with the rigour and professionalism of a major media outlet. Images of children partaking in executions or their indoctrination in training camps continue to be shared far and wide, encouraging young women and men around the globe to join their fight. Their images are even inspiring other armed groups to emulate their use and documentation of children being used as soldiers.

We have witnessed elsewhere in the world that the use of child soldiers increases the severity and longevity of conflict. Their use may also coincide with instances of mass atrocities and create a cyclical nature to conflict. Therefore, the ongoing use of child soldiers by ISIS creates a generational aspect to the current fight. Even if adult fighters from ISIS are removed from the battlefield today, they have already indoctrinated the next generation to take up their fight.

While a solution to the issue of child soldiers may not appear apparent, there are pathways forward. Our global approach must be multifaceted, including not only humanitarian programs or responses and international law deterrents, but also the security sector actors who are often in a position to prevent the use of child soldiers in the first place. Through framing the issue of children in armed conflict as a specific priority concern for security sector actors, we can develop better policies and strategies to limit the use of children as weapons of war, remove their strategic advantage and ultimately prevent their recruitment.

Dr. Shelly Whitman is the Executive Director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative was established in 2007 by retired lieutenant-general the honourable Roméo Dallaire, former force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).  Our mission is to progressively eradicate the use of child soldiers through a preventative security sector approach. To achieve this important objective, the Dallaire Initiative conducts activities on three fronts: (1) It conducts world-class interdisciplinary research to build—and share—knowledge, which in turn leads to newsolutions; (2) It engages in high-level advocacy activities to create and promote the political will to end the use of children as soldiers; (3) It delivers tactical, prevention-oriented training to security sector actors, so as to promote broader security sector reform.