12 February 2012: 10 years Red Hand Day – A Worldwide Initiative to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Feb 12, 2012

For many children, a peaceful childhood is only a dream. Children are even used as soldiers in armed conflicts in many regions of the world. Each year on 12 February, Red Hand Day raises awareness about their situation.
Ten years ago, on 12 February 2002, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force. The day of action known as Red Hand Day was launched two years later. The red hand represents a gesture of saying no to the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

“Children need to have the right and the opportunity to grow up in peace and security,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on the occasion of this year’s Red Hand Day. Westerwelle added that the German Government would continue working to improve the situation of children who had been robbed of a childhood through violent conflict.

He praised the engagement of children and young people who have taken part in the day of action in Germany and have protested against the recruitment of child soldiers: “Your involvement can help spare children around the world from the fate of becoming child soldiers,” said Westerwelle, who has been sent some 2000 red hands in recent weeks from children throughout Germany.

According to United Nations estimates, about 250,000 children worldwide are being deployed as soldiers in conflict zones. The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict supplements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To date, 143 countries have ratified it. The German Government ratified the Optional Protocol in 2004 and has since worked hard to ensure its implementation. Germany is also working in other ways to improve the situation of children affected by conflict: it chairs the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and collaborates closely with Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative on this issue.

More Information about the day of action is available at: http://redhandday.org/

The campaign "zero under 18"

In 2010,the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy along with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, UNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights launched a two year campaign to achieve universal ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

For more information: http://zerounder18.org/

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