November 2012, Munzanze, Rwanda – UNITAR together with the Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA) and the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative held a training on the “Protection of Civilians in Peace Operations” with a special focus on Child Soldiers. This one-week course (22 - 29 November) brought together both military and police actors involved in peacekeeping activities from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. The unique approach of this training was to focus on two of the most vulnerable groups in modern armed conflicts - civilians in general and children more specifically.

Civilians in times of conflict are increasingly suffering from systematic violence and mass atrocities. At the same time, children are not only passively taking part in conflicts. they are, in several armed conflict, used as combatants and turned into soldiers. The first part of the course therefore aimed to enhance the participants’ capacities to work with the UN institutional and legal frameworks for the protection of civilians in the context of UN peace operations. This includes working on challenges related to the planning and implementation of protection activities, as well as the protection from sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.

In his opening remarks, Colonel Jill Rutaremara, Director of the Rwanda Peace Academy, highlighted the importance of focusing particularly on the role of children and child soldiers in armed conflicts. The practical focus  in the second part of the course consisted of identifying strategies for preventing the recruitment and re-recruitment of children as soldiers. As members of the military and police are usually the first point of contact with child soldiers, they play an important role in preventing their recruitment and abuse. This training is a first step in preparing civilian and military personnel on what to expect and how to deal with children being abusively used as soldiers.