The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement on the occasion of Red Hand Day (12 February 2014):
In situations of armed conflict it is the children who suffer most: from death, hunger, injuries or recruitment as child soldiers, from attacks on their homes and schools or the loss of their loved ones.
Each year on Red Hand Day we remember the child soldiers who year after year suffer the consequences of the many violent conflicts in the world. I sincerely hope that the international community will use this day as an opportunity to draw attention to the fate of child soldiers worldwide, who still number more than 250,000.
Although we have achieved a great deal in recent years, we need to take even more decisive action. We must not shirk this responsibility. For it goes without saying that we cannot remain silent while children are forced to kill others. That is why the Federal Government is campaigning strongly for the protection and promotion of children’s rights.
Through various projects we are enabling traumatised children to return to a safe way of life and to enjoy a normal childhood again. We are promoting support and education programmes, therapy and public relations work in connection with the issue of children’s rights and engaging in political dialogue with conflict parties, both in the world’s trouble spots and here at home.
Red Hand Day is a special opportunity to take a joint stand with civil society against the deployment of child soldiers. It is also a day when children show solidarity towards other children. It is a good example of civil society involvement. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all participants for this most important work!
The idea of Red Hand Day originated in Germany. The red hand symbol was adopted by an international alliance of NGOs known as the “Coalition to stop the use of child soldiers”. This day of action is intended to be a reminder of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 12 February 2002 and is dedicated to protesting against the use of child soldiers. The Protocol stipulated that young people under the age of eighteen may not be compulsorily recruited into a country’s armed forces. Germany ratified the Optional Protocol on 13 December 2004.