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We are glad to inform you that after our pleasant experience with the Italian blog, the IIMA Human Rights Office has decided to open a new blog in English.

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Using comic books to prevent child soldier recruitment.

The 12th of February 2016, on the occasion of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, or “Red Hand Day” in support of the victims, IIMA assisted a talk at the UN Library on how to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers through the use of comic books.

There has been a huge development in International Law to protect children from recruitment in armed conflicts including: the Additional Protocol to the CRC entered into force 14 years ago; the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which targets specific measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, including child soldiers; the UNSC Resolution 16/12; and the Paris Guiding Principles of 2007.

However, according to Mr. Ulrich Seidenberger, the German Permanent Representative to the UN, there are still 250.000 children who were forcefully recruited to be soldiers, guards, concubines, and suicide bombers even today. He pointed out that in order to prevent these practices, it is very important to raise awareness among children and communities.

Nikhil Seth, UNSG Assistant and UNITAR Executive Director, commented that the use of comics in Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR) as an educational tool to prevent recruitment is a very innovative approach to raise awareness about these practices, developed by UNITAR and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.

Svenja Vollmer, a UNITAR fellow, explained that the comics are based on real stories of former child soldiers. The comics look at the villages, map and identify places and times of the day that are most risky, eg. looking for wood alone at a certain time. The characters are represented with the typical characteristics of the population. The comics were distributed at the Don Bosco Centre (Salesians) in Colombia. 

Why are children recruited as soldiers? According to Michel Chikwawine, a former child soldier from DRC, recruitment happens because they are easy to control and in many occasions they are forced to take drugs to make them more violent. As a former child soldier, he is now writing a mainly graphic novel to inspire young people, especially 10 to 14 year old children who would rather see images than read a book.

Child recruitment remains a tough battle today that requires a combination of governmental law policies and an increase of awareness.

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