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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

On 'Red Hand Day', children call for an end to their forced use in conflict

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0105/Markisz
Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN Claude Heller (left), UN Special Representative Radhika Coomaraswamy, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sign ‘red hands’ petition.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, USA, 13 February 2009 – Children from 101 countries have appealed to international leaders to take stronger action to end the use of child soldiers.

Red Hand Day, 12 February, marks the anniversary of the signing of a protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that forbids the use of children in conflict.

But despite the existence of this protocol, more than 250,000 children are still being forced into conflict in at least 17 countries – including some that have ratified the treaty.

Secretary-General receives petition

To try and end this abuse, children circulated a petition and collected more than 250,000 painted 'red hands'. In a ceremony at UNICEF House in New York yesterday, former child soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia – along with youth activists from Germany and the United States – presented them to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0105/Markisz
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) stands with youth delegates from the Red Hand Day campaign. From left: Julia Price from the US, Madeleine from DR Congo, Yina Paola from Colombia and Anne Maria Anders from Germany.

"The issue will remain a high priority for the United Nations," he said.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman leant her full support to the petition, noting that entire generations of children have known nothing but war.

Veneman, the Secretary-General, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN Claude Heller and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, also added their signatures and 'red hands' to the petition. 

'Recruitment violates international law'

The young people appealed for urgent action.

"Former child soldiers like me are encouraged to have youth from all over the world standing up for our rights," said Yina Paola Moreno Soto, 20, from Colombia. "We hope that world leaders and commanders using child soldiers will pay attention."
Ban added: "This is a truly impressive effort to engage children around the world in one of the most appalling human rights abuses.... Recruitment violates international law and human decency. I am determined to stamp out such abuse."




12 February 2009: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the efforts of young people themselves to end the practice of forcing children into armed conflict.
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