20th Anniversary of Red Hand Day:

German government must present action plan for the protection of children in armed conflicts

Osnabrück/Berlin, 2022/02/10. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Red Hand Day on 12 February, the child rights organisation terre des hommes Germany and GLOBAL NET – STOP THE ARMS TRADE (GN-STAT) call for concrete steps by the German government to protect children in armed conflicts. An estimated 250,000 boys and girls are currently exploited as soldiers in at least 24 countries around the world; every day children are forcibly recruited as soldiers, killed, maimed, used as spies, or combatants, to carry loads, and are sexually abused.

“On the 20th anniversary of Red Hand Day, we call on the new German government to adopt an action plan with concrete steps to protect children in armed conflicts. In the coalition agreement, the governing parties announced a restrictive arms export policy and an arms export control law – this is overdue, because German small arms also end up in the hands of child soldiers. It is high time that no more German weapons are delivered to regions of war and crisis and that no children under the age of 18 are recruited as soldiers,” says Ralf Willinger, child rights expert at terre des hommes. “Germany is the fourth largest arms exporter in the world and has again exported more military equipment than ever before during the last legislative period. A significant part of these exports go directly to states involved in armed conflicts and grave human rights violations, such as the killing or recruitment of children. These include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Brazil, India, Pakistan or Thailand. Arms exports to such countries must be urgently stopped and legally banned, this must be a central part of the arms export control law announced by the new German government.”

“To make the full extent of the violation of children’s rights clear, terre des hommes and GLOBAL NET publish the case study GN-CASE 07 ‘Child Soldiers and Arms Exports’. Former child soldiers who fought with German weapons or were injured by them have their say”, says Dr. Helmut Lohrer of the medical organisation IPPNW, GN-STAT spokesperson. “The sad reality is that German small arms and ammunition reach regions of war and the hands of children in large quantities via other countries, for example via the USA or Turkey. Exports of small arms and ammunition must therefore be completely banned by law and urgently stopped. From the corporations that have made profits from arms exports, we demand the establishment of a victims’ fund, the money from which is also available for the rehabilitation of child soldiers who have been severely traumatized.”

Red Hand Day first took place on 12 February 2002 in Geneva to celebrate the entry into force of the so-called “Child Soldiers Optional Protocol” to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict). On that day, terre des hommes and other children’s and human rights organizations used the symbol of the red hand for the first time at an action in Geneva to draw attention to the exploitation of children as soldiers. The Optional Protocol was initiated and pushed through by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, which was also founded by terre des hommes. Since 2003, the Red Hand Campaign has been organized annually by terre des hommes and other organizations in Germany and many other countries.


New case study “Child Soldiers and Arms Exports” (10.2.2022) (terre des hommes & GLOBAL NET – STOP THE ARMS TRADE & RüstungsInformationsBüro RIB e.V.): www.gn-stat.org

Study “Small arms in small hands – German arms exports violate children’s rights (2020) (terre des hommes, Brot für die Welt, BITS): www.tdh.de/kleinwaffen

On the issue of child soldiers: www.kindersoldaten.de

On Red Hand Day: www.tdh.de/redhandday , www.redhandday.org

Central demands of terre des hommes and GLOBAL NET on Red Hand Day:

– No recruitment of children under the age of 18 as soldiers anywhere in the world – this includes the German armed forces.

– A legal ban on arms exports to countries involved in armed conflicts and serious human rights violations.

– A legal ban on the export of small arms and their ammunition.

– No licence for the production of German arms abroad or transfer of know-how.

Further demands in the above-mentioned publications and websites.


Ralf Willinger, terre des hommes, r.willinger@tdh.de, +49-541-7101-108

Dr. Helmut Lohrer, IPPNW & GLOBAL NET – STOP THE ARMS TRADE, lohrer@ippnw.de , +49-172-777 3934