Statement to Commemorate Red Hand Day

Dr. Shelly Whitman

February 12, 2023

Letter from Dr. Shelly Whitman

Executive Director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

Some 250 million children are affected  armed conflict around the globe. Today, in every conflict that exists, children are vulnerable to being recruited and used by adults. Their tactical and strategic use sustains and increases the severity of conflict while tearing at the fabric of societies affected by war.

This February 12th, the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers (Red Hand Day), offers us an opportunity to reflect on this sober reality and discuss how we can ultimately work towards ending the use of children as soldiers.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative continues to be at the forefront of this fight, developing innovative tools and training for the security sector - military, police, prison personnel and peacekeepers—while creating ground-breaking research and high-level advocacy to create new solutions.

To mark Red Hand Day we are launching the third edition of our landmark publication, Child Soldiers: A Handbook for Security Sector Actors and the first edition of our maritime handbook, Children Used in Maritime Piracy: A Handbook for Maritime Security Sector Actors. These two handbooks aim to proactively and positively engage the security sector actors to prioritize the prevention of the use of child soldiers as a critical element to the protection of children and conflict prevention measures.

Canada has now taken the lead to ensure this ethos and approach is undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces through the development of a Doctrine on Child Soldiers. The significance of this doctrine cannot be understated. Within its lines, not only is a baseline set for how Canada understands and actively assists in preventing the use of child soldiers, but how we will better prepare the men and women who face this reality in the field. Read our full statement on this important step forward here.

In a world of competing priorities, it is important we elevate the need to protect children from violence and abuse. A Children’s Rights Upfront approach will build points of collaboration and create momentum on the international peace and security agenda.  The concerted efforts of many are required to create a world where children are no longer used as weapons of war.

All forward together,

Dr. Shelly Whitman