On February 12, 2019, child rights advocates and supporters around the world commemorated Red Hand Day. Also known as the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, Red Hand Day serves to raise public awareness of the thousands of children around the world used by armed forces or groups as soldiers, spies, porters, sexual slaves, or in other roles. According to a new study by Child Soldiers International, the number of recorded cases of children used in armed conflict around the world has more than doubled since 2012, with a 159 percent rise and almost 30,000 verified cases of child recruitment.
In New York, UN Member States showed their support for affected children by organizing a number of events to mark the day. The UN Security Council held an Arria Formula meeting on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict where the operating space for humanitarian actors is shrinking. The meeting was organized by Belgium, the Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and France, in partnership with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC). The meeting highlighted positive examples from CAR, including the engagement of child protection actors with parties to conflict.
At the Arria, several States highlighted the need to mainstream children and armed conflict in the Security Council’s regular program of work, including by ensuring adequate resources at the field level. Sweden, former chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, urged the Council to integrate children and armed conflict perspectives into its discussions on UN peace mission mandates, budgets, and efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace. Russia underscored the important role of UN child protection advisers, noting their unique role especially in engaging with parties to conflict and the challenges posed as a result of consolidation.
That same afternoon, France and Save the Children International hosted a side event on the Paris Principles and Commitments on children associated with armed forces or groups. Since their adoption in February 2007, the Paris Principles and Commitments have been endorsed by 110 States who have committed to identify and implement durable solutions to combat the unlawful use and recruitment of child soldiers in conflicts.
Several States encouraged fellow UN Member States to commit to strengthening the protection of children affected by war by endorsing the Paris Principles, as well as the Vancouver Principles on peacekeeping and the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
On Red Hand Day, Djibouti and the Dominican Republic announced their endorsement of the Paris Principles. That same week, San Marino announced its endorsement of the Vancouver Principles, bringing the total number of UN Member State endorsements to 72.