Today, February 12, is the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. Belgium considers this day of great importance as the issue of child soldiers is still particularly relevant today.The recruitment and use of children is only one of six serious violations against children in conflict situations, as defined by the UN Security Council in the “Children and Armed Conflict” mandate. The other five violations are: killing and/or maiming children; rape and other forms of sexual violence; child abduction; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of access to humanitarian aid. By 2022, the UN has been able to verify more than 27,000 serious violations against children. This figure may be the tip of the iceberg, and the trend in 2023 is anything but hopeful. Worldwide, thousands of children are recruited and used in conflict situations. In the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, the United Nations (UN) was able to verify more than 1,500 cases of children being recruited or used in 2022. These include both girls and boys, sometimes as young as 5 years old, deployed for combat, espionage or surveillance missions or logistical support. Children also continue to be recruited and used by conflict parties in many other countries, such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Yemen, Mali and Syria. In the framework of its EU Presidency, Belgium, in cooperation with the office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the European Commission, is organizing the photo exhibition “From despair to hope: children beyond armed conflict” at BOZAR in Brussels from March 21 to April 28, 2024. This exhibition of works by internationally renowned photojournalist and humanitarian correspondent Paddy Dowling seeks to capture the complexity of children’s lives in the midst of conflict, highlighting both the tragedy of their stories and their strength and belief in a better future. After all, despite the horrors they have endured, children do have a chance to recover from atrocities and become positive forces of change within their communities. The exhibition is free to all. Children are the most vulnerable victims of war and conflict. Protecting children in conflict situations and promoting their rights has been a Belgian foreign policy priority for many years. During the current Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, “children and armed conflict” is one of the priorities in the field of human rights. Belgium is a strong supporter of the mandate of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and our country also funds UNICEF’s monitoring and reporting mechanism, which is essential to get an accurate picture of the extent and nature of serious violations against children.