The peace support operations in East and West Africa project yet again stands an opportunity to achieve a new milestone on the journey that Save the Children has been walking together with partners. Eva Molt, Area Director for Africa, Save the Children Sweden
Since 2012 Save the Children through the project, ‘Strengthening Child Protection in African Union Peace Support Operations in East and West Africa’, the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR), key stakeholders in East and West Africa, including the Economic Community of West African States Standby Force (ECOWAS-SF), the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF), Training Centres of Excellence (TCEs) and national armed forces have been in consultations developing a child protection training toolkit. The toolkit aims to ensure that child protection is incorporated as part of the mandatory trainings that peace support operations personnel undergo before being deployed. It has been reviewed and piloted in two TCEs namely, the Ecole de Maintien de la Paix/Peacekeeping School in Mali and the Rwanda Peace Academy, and in three troop contributing countries namely, Senegal, Mali and Cote D’ivoire.
The African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA) through a memorandum of understanding with the African Union (AU) is mandated to coordinate harmonization and standardization of the training courses, materials and curriculum within the continent. In recognition of the central role that APSTA plays within the content, on 22-26 February 2016, Save the Children together with APSTA organized a workshop to review and validate the child protection training toolkit and present it to the AU for endorsement. The workshop was hosted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), in Accra, Ghana.
The workshop was attended by participants from the AU Commission, EASF Coordination Mechanism, ECOWA-SF, member states, training institutions and child protection experts from Save the Children who appreciated efforts that have gone in the development of the toolkit.
The workshop participants had the following remarks:
Child protection is critical
Children suffer the most in times of conflict and they must be given special care. Anthony Ombara, Regional Child protection Coordinator. Save the Children International ESARO
Children are a vulnerable population and their needs and situations especially in conflict areas can easily overtaken by the events that area happening. Rebecca Theuri, Child Protection Programme Officer, Save the Children International ESARO
Key thing to reflect about is the realization by member states that child protection is an essential part in peace operations across Africa. Ben Aliwa, Director Regional and Multi Country Programme Unit (RMCPU), Save the Children International ESARO
Impact of child protection trainings
Over the last two years we at the African Union Mission In Somalia (AMISOM) have been able to ensure that child protection is integrated in pre-deployment training, further mandatory in mission child protection trainings have also been integrated for all peacekeepers deployed in the mission. Musa Gbow, Child Protection Advisor, AMISOM
Through our collaboration with Save the Children, at the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) we strive to ensure that peace support operations personnel (police, military and civilian) who are about to be deployed go through the child protection course as children are normally encountered during conflict. Joshua Karianjahi, Rostering & Coordination Officer EASF
Child protection training complements military activities and enable actors to become more aware of the vulnerability of children and the impact of conflict on children. Musa Gbow, Child Protection Advisor, AMISOM
ECOWAS Standy Force carries out integrated training which incorporates the police, military and civilian. Once trained we expect them to handle children differently and with the best form of professionalism. Danjuma Aku, Rostering & Training Officer, ECOWAS
Africa still has many conflicts implying that there are many missions for peace keepers and thus the need to better coordinate mission efforts by having the right knowledge, skills and competencies to handle children. Anthony Njoroge, Senior Programme Manager, Save the Children International ESARO
The proposed training harmonization by the African Union will enable troop contributing countries of EASF and ECOWAS to have a standardized training curriculum that focus on children in armed force. Col Charles Wacha, Director, Human Rights Affairs UPDF
Standardization and harmonization is key to ensure that all peace keeping personnel are talking and operating as one. Issa Bagayoko, Instructor, Ecole de Maintien de la Paix
We have one Africa Standby Force and therefore need for us to train in one doctrine, apply common policies and establish common stands for effective operation. Col Festus B Aboagye (Rtd), APSTA
Strengthening child protection structures
The training and rostering management system that we are developing will facilitate proper documentation of our work and information sharing among stakeholders. Evelyn Namvua, Knowledge Management Coordinator, Save the Children International ESARO
Working together with the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms is key to strengthening child protection structures by ensuring that child protection is considered within the peace and security agenda in the region. Eva Molt, Area Director for Africa, Save the Children Sweden
The AU which is central to the agenda together with the regional mechanism and their commitment to this work provides a great advantage to bridge the gap between policy and practice. Ben Aliwa, Director Regional and Multi Country Programme Unit (RMCPU), Save the Children International ESARO