Colombia takes stand against recruitment of child soldiers
Colombia - Tuesday (12/2) marked the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers and over 2,000 Colombians stepped forward to oppose the recruitment of children, teenagers and youth by illegal armed groups through the “Right to Dream” campaign.
The campaign, which was launched in September 2012 by the Colombian Government, USAID, IOM, and the “Mi Sangre” Foundation and its founder Colombian singer Juanes, reached another 8.8 million people through Twitter.
Singer Miguel Bosé, Olympic cyclist Mariana Pajón and other celebrities have now joined the campaign and thousands of Colombians are using social networks to share information and establish a protection network to raise awareness and combat the recruitment of children.
The total number of child soldiers exploited and abused by armed groups in Colombia is unknown. But the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, with support from USAID and IOM, has helped over 5,000 children rescued from such groups since November 1999.
Since March 2001, IOM, with funding from USAID, has implemented a programme to support child ex-combatants and children at risk of recruitment by strengthening the government´s capacity to protect their rights.
The “Right to Dream” campaign is supported by Colombia’s Vice President, the Ministries of Education and Culture, the Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), the Reintegration Agency (ACR), the National Ombudsman´s Office, the “Mi Sangre” Foundation, the Antonio Restrepo Barco Foundation and the Norwegian Counsel for Refugees. USAID, the World Bank, UNICEF and IOM also support the initiative.