Red Hand Day Arrives

Today, former child soldiers and other youth representing a grassroots campaign from around the world will present thousands of symbolic “red hands” to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to demand stronger action by international leaders to end the use of child soldiers. A UN treaty prohibiting the forced recruitment or use of children under the age of 18 in armed conflict, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, has been ratified by 126 countries and entered into force on February 12, 2002, a date commemorated annually as “Red Hand Day.” But child soldiers are still being used in 15 countries or territories, including some that have ratified the treaty.

Young people and others from 101 countries have collected more than 250,000 “red hands” – the symbol of international efforts to end the use of child soldiers – as part of a global “Red Hand Day” campaign. They have made red handprints on paper and banners and inscribed personal messages calling for an end to the use of child soldiers.

The campaign calls for:

  • Stronger UN action against governments and armed groups using child soldiers, including Security Council arms embargoes and other sanctions against persistent violators;

  • Prosecution of military leaders who recruit or use child soldiers;

  • Universal ratification and enforcement of the optional protocol; and

  • Increased support for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers.

Thanks to all who participated!

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