On the eve of “Red Hand Day” – the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers – we were pleased to work with Netflix and Participant Media to host an event here at the White House featuring a panel discussion on ways to strengthen the global norm against the recruitment and use of child soldiers as well as a screening of the film Beasts of No Nation. By telling the wrenching story of a nine-year-old boy recruited into a brutal conflict, the film puts a human face on the scourge of child soldiering.
The panel—which was moderated by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski and included Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire (Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative), Uzodinma Iweala (author of the novel Beasts of No Nation), Jennifer Sklar (International Rescue Committee), and Eva Smets (Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict)—touched on ongoing challenges to estimating the true number of child soldiers around the world; ways to persuade security sector actors of the tactical, legal, and moral disadvantages of using child soldiers; the appropriation by military actors of schools in a number of ongoing armed conflicts; the need for a focus on vocational education in preventing recruitment and supporting the reintegration of former child soldiers; child soldier recruitment as an potential indicator of impending mass atrocities, and views on the Administration’s implementation of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act.
World leaders agreed last year under the UN Sustainable Development Goals to take immediate and effective steps towards ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers by 2025. The U.S. Government looks forward to working together with our many partners in civil society, international organizations, and other countries as we set our sights on that ambitious but profoundly necessary objective.