Red Hand side-event

Statement by Ambassador Mona Juul at a virtual side-event for the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers (‘Red Hand Day’), 11 February 2021. The event was organized by Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, Save the Children, War Child UK, and World Vision International (WVI).

Thank you to the organisers for gathering us here today to highlight this important issue, and important day.

Events like this, and the overall contribution of civil society are a valuable part of our joint efforts, including in the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.

Norway is committed to ensuring the meaningful participation of civil society and academia in our work.

And I am glad to join you in a national capacity today.

Every year, thousands of children who have been recruited and used by armed forces or groups are released without any safety net to assist and protect them.

Governments are increasingly treating children affected by armed conflict as criminals and security threats. 

And in conflicts involving designated terrorist or violent extremist groups, governments have become more likely to detain children than to provide them with rehabilitation and reintegration.

Children formerly associated with armed forces or groups require survivor-centred, and gender-sensitive reintegration support that is addressed to their individual needs.

The importance of psychosocial support cannot be overestimated.

Reintegration programmes should be long-term and sustainably funded.

And we must raise awareness and work with communities to avoid stigmatization of these children.

Above all, non-custodial measures should always be sought.

This applies to all children under the age of 18, including those associated with non-state armed groups.

Handover protocols can be a useful measure to avoid detention of children, and we support their use.

They are a practical tool of the CAAC agenda, and they enable the UN to engage directly and constructively with governments.

Engaging with governments to end the detention of children is a crucial step towards their successful reintegration.

It is also an important contribution to building sustainable and peaceful societies.

Colleagues, I would also like to highlight the role of education.

Safe access to quality education is both a protective and a preventive measure. And is key in the reintegration process.

It anchors children in the local community, provides skills and prospects for the future.

The endorsement and implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration is an important avenue to achieve this.

Excellencies, colleagues,

Norway really welcomes discussions like this one here today.

To bring together the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, and to promote youth participation towards more sustainable, and successful, reintegration.

May Red Hand Day remind us all that children should be children, not soldiers.