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Core Commitments

for Children

are the core UNICEF policy and framework for humanitarian action

CHILD PROTECTION

Strategic Result

Children and adolescents are protected from violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and harmful practices

Commitment

Benchmarks

  • Child Protection Sector/ Area of Responsibility (AoR) coordination and leadership functions are adequately staffed and skilled at national and sub-national levels

  • Core leadership and coordination accountabilities are delivered

1. Leadership and coordination

 

Effective leadership and coordination are established and functional 

See 2.1.2 Coordination

  • Mechanisms to assess, analyse, monitor and report child protection concerns and their root causes are established and functional at national and local levels

  • Mapping of the social service workforce is conducted, and capacity-building plans are developed accordingly

  • Integrated case management system, including referral pathways for services and a safe information management system, is functional

  • Families and communities are supported in their protective functions, with measures in place to mitigate and prevent abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against children

  • Civil registration systems provide accessible and safe birth registration and certification for children and their families 

2: Strengthening of child protection systems 

 

Child protection systems are functional and strengthened to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and harmful practices

 

See 2.2.4 Linking humanitarian and development

  • Family and community support systems are identified and strengthened to provide MHPSS activities and protection with meaningful participation of children, adolescents, and caregivers

  • MHPSS interventions and referral mechanisms ensure access to support across the IASC MHPSS pyramid of interventions for children, adolescents, caregivers, and communities, as per the Operational Guidelines on Community-based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Settings

  • All children, adolescents, and caregivers identified through MHPSS service entry points (including child protection, education and health) as needing specialised mental health services, are provided or referred to appropriate services 

3: Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS)

 

MHPSS needs of children, adolescents, and caregivers are identified and addressed through coordinated multisectoral and community based MHPSS services

  • Causes of child separation are identified in a timely manner and actions to prevent separation, including use of behavioural change strategies, are promoted

  • All UASC are identified, are in family-based care or in a suitable, safe, alternative care arrangement; and are provided with an individual case management/care plan

  • In close coordination with mandated agencies[63], UASC are registered, safely reunified and reintegrated with primary caregivers or other family members

4: Unaccompanied and separated children (UASC)

 

Separation of children from families is prevented and responded to, and family-based care is promoted in the child’s best interest

  • A mechanism is in place that monitors grave violations against children and informs advocacy and programmes

  • Where the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM)[65] is activated, UNICEF co-chairs the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting or equivalent working group and reports to the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict

5: Monitoring and reporting on grave violations[64] 

 

In situations of armed conflict, grave violations against children and other serious rights violations and protection concerns are documented, analysed and reported, and inform programmatic response and advocacy interventions

  • Drivers and causes of child recruitment and use are identified, prevented and addressed

  • Children who have exited armed forces or groups are identified and provided with safe, community-based reintegration services in accordance with the Paris Principles

  • Coordinated advocacy against illegal and arbitrary detention and for adherence to international standards of juvenile justice[66] for conflict-affected children is undertaken, including for their immediate release to child protection actors

6: Children associated with armed forces and groups and detention of children in the context of armed conflict

 

Child recruitment and use by armed actors, as well as illegal and arbitrary detention and criminal processing of conflict-affected children, are prevented and addressed

  • At-risk children and communities have access to age-appropriate education about the risks of explosive weapons

  • Formal/informal injury surveillance systems and priority-setting mechanisms for mine action intervention, and child-focused victim assistance, are in place

  • Advocacy activities are implemented to promote humanitarian mine action and compliance with international instruments related to explosive weapons

7: Mine action and weapons

 

The use of landmines and other indiscriminate or illicit weapons by state and non-state actors is prevented and their impact addressed

  • Quality, coordinated, survivor-centred and age- appropriate response services are timely, available and used by survivors of GBV

  • GBV prevention programmes are implemented

  • Child protection programmes implement actions that address and reduce risks of GBV

8: Gender-based Violence

 

Survivors of GBV and their children can access timely, quality, multisectoral response services and GBV is prevented

  • All children have access to safe, accessible, child and gender-sensitive reporting channels

  • Child survivors of SEA are promptly referred to and access quality, integrated GBV/child protection response services and assistance based on their needs and wishes

9: Protection from sexual exploitation and abuse

 

Children and affected populations are protected from SEA by humanitarian workers

 

See 2.1.5 PSEA

  • Children, their caregivers and communities are aware of available protection services and how and where to access them

  • Children, their caregivers and communities are engaged in community-led processes designed to support positive social norms and practices; promote gender equality; address the causes of child protection risks; and increase the focus on participation of children, adolescents and marginalised groups in their communities

10:  Community engagement for behaviour and social change  

 

At-risk and affected populations have timely access to culturally appropriate, gender- and age-sensitive information and interventions, to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation, abuse, neglect and harmful practices

 

See 2.2.7 Community engagement for behaviour and social change

Key Considerations

Advocacy

  • Advocate for the fulfilment of the CRC and its Optional Protocols.

  • Advocate for the signature, ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on children and armed conflict, Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (Protocol V and Amended Protocol II) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, as well as other soft law instruments such as the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.

  • Advocate for and support universal application of legal frameworks related to refugee protection, statelessness, internal displacement, migration and children affected by armed conflict, and of international standards of juvenile justice, fair trial and the rule of law.

  • Advocate for the inclusion of child protection in national and sub-national emergency and recovery response plans.

  • Advocate for the inclusion of all children, including refugees, migrant and internally displaced children, in national child protection system(s) and for services to be made available to all children without any form of discrimination.

  • Advocate for the end of all forms of detention of refugee, stateless and migrant children based on their or their parents’ migratory status. Especially, advocate for their access to health, education, accommodation, and the broad range of services that they require.

  • Seek commitments from armed groups and forces to end grave violations, including to stop recruiting and using children, and to release children in their ranks, including girls, unconditionally.

  • Advocate for children who have been recruited and used by armed forces and groups to be considered and treated primarily as victims, not perpetrators.

  • Advocate against selective implementation of the law, whereby children associated with certain armed groups or children above a certain age, face lower standards of legal protection.

  • Advocate for safe reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups into families and communities.

  • Advocate against the arbitrary detention of children and facilitate access to legal and protection services as well as other assistance for children in contact with the law in a child- friendly criminal justice system. Advocate for the understanding that detention can only be used as a measure of last and temporary resort, in line with international standards.

  • Advocate for universal birth and death registration within Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems so that: 1) all children have a birth certificate, including to prevent statelessness; 2) preparedness and response plans are in place for CRVS; 3) CRVS systems are modernized, and data is backed up, stored off-site and interoperable with health, education and social support systems.

  • Advocate for immediate family-based care and other emergency care for unaccompanied children, and to prevent separation during displacement and extreme economic hardship.

  • Advocate against the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

  • In cases of intercountry adoption, advocate for the best interest of the child as the paramount consideration. Adoption (domestic or intercountry) is not an appropriate response during or after an emergency in accordance with the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.

Coordination and Partnerships 

  • Disseminate, contextualize and apply the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS) and the Interagency Minimum Standards for Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (GBViEMS).

  • Contribute to the effective establishment and functioning of an interagency PSEA network from the outset of the humanitarian response, through internal coordination with other sectors and external collaboration with interagency partners.

  • Lead the Child Protection AoR within the wider Protection Sector/Cluster and ensure the development and implementation of a comprehensive protection strategy, building on existing systems, and reflecting adequately children's issues in prevention and response.

  • As Lead of the Child Protection AoR, collaborate with all relevant stakeholders from the other sectors including Education, Health, Nutrition, Food Security, Livelihood Support and Social Protection, for multi-sectoral and integrated programming that mitigates and responds to child protection and GBV risks and vulnerabilities.

  • In situations characterized by the presence of asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and returnees, collaborate with the UNHCR-led Refugee Protection Working Group and lead the sub-group on child protection as agreed in country.

 

Quality Programming and Standards

  • Foster multisectoral and integrated approach.  Collaborate with all relevant stakeholders from the other sectors including Education, Health, Nutrition, Food Security, Livelihood Support and Social Protection, for multi-sectoral and integrated programming that mitigates and responds to child protection and GBV risks and vulnerabilities; and design child protection activities in close collaboration with Education, Community Engagement for Behaviour and Social Change, Gender, Disability and Adolescent Development and Participation

  • Collect, process, analyze, store, and share information according to international child protection and GBV principles and with full respect for confidentiality, data protection and information-sharing protocols, in line with the CPMS and the GBViEMS.

See 1.4.9 Ethical evidence generation and data protection

  • Invest in advanced data systems (e.g. Primero), build capacity of staff and partners to use these systems and consider Real Time Evaluations to generate evidence quickly enough to enable timely decision-making.

See 1.4.9 Ethical evidence generation and data protection

  • Ensure the use of endorsed, policy-compliant child protection and GBV data systems for confidentiality, data security and accountability, in line with the CPMS and GBViEMS.  Such systems avoid insecure collection of data, promote referrals and data-sharing, prevent data silos and minimize duplicative data collection and revictimization[67].

  • Ensure quality case management in line with the CPMS and GBViEMS, which advocate for strong supervisory structures that can provide ongoing supervision and coaching to case workers.

  • Promote access to information for populations in high-risk areas including on availability, locations of services and reporting child protection concerns.

  • Be aware that urban areas present specific challenges for child protection, bringing heightened risks of exploitation, violence, crime and drugs, particularly for the most disadvantaged children.

  • Ensure integrated support services/referrals are available to survivors who disclose experience of GBV, before initiating any GBV awareness or prevention activities.

  • Engage children, caregivers, community members and local authorities to decide if group activities, including Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) or Women and Girls’ Safe Spaces (WGSS), are appropriate, and how they can be safe, accessible, inclusive, high-quality and contextually/culturally appropriate. See the CPMS and the GBViEMS.

  • All group activities, including CFS or WGSS, should be provided by staff or volunteers trained in basic mental health and psychosocial support and equipped for safe and ethical interaction with children and women.

  • MHPSS programmes should avoid singling out sensitive groups (e.g. survivors of GBV or children formerly associated with armed forces and groups) through separate activities, in ways that further their discrimination and exclusion from communities. Instead, it is best to work towards broad support and promote the inclusion and wellbeing of all community members. It is critical to balance the need to improve scale of MHPSS interventions, while ensuring quality and equity.

  • Establish and enforce organizational mechanisms for staff and volunteer care, with an emphasis on persons involved in frontline protection and MHPSS work, and national workers who have been affected by the emergency.

  • Strengthen child rights monitoring and effectiveness of response through engagement with statutory actors, ombudspersons, CSOs and where feasible with children themselves.

  • Protect staff and minimize the risks associated with MRM and other monitoring and reporting mechanisms and frontline child protection work by measures to ensure staff safety and duty of care.

  • Start coordinated tracing and reunification activities for separated and unaccompanied children at an early stage, alongside emergency care and protection. Work with other sectors to actively prevent secondary separation of children from their families and/or caregivers.

  • Provide community-based reintegration tailored to individual needs of girls and boys that contributes to increasing social acceptance, empowering children, families and communities, developing appropriate relationships, minimizing stigma and emphasizing equitable access to services.

  • Where explosive ordnance is present, target first and more intensively the most vulnerable with mine action interventions based on ongoing injury surveillance (including MRM if applicable) and data on contamination and population movement.

  • Integrate GBV risk mitigation in all child protection programmes such as family tracing, reunification, reintegration and MHPSS services. Equip and train personnel on the GBV Pocket Guide.

  • Provide assistance to survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse in accordance with the principles and standards in the UN Protocol on the Provision of Assistance to Victims of SEA and serve as the provider of last resort for child survivors.

  • Ensure support services, referrals and case management systems are disability-inclusive. Map their accessibility and suitability. Train case workers in how to work with children and women with disabilities.

  • Using safe and confidential feedback and reporting mechanisms based on affected populations’ preferred methods of communication, systematically use their views to review, inform and correct protection interventions.

  • Ensure that children, adolescents, caregivers and communities participate in decisions that affect their lives and have access to safe and confidential complaints mechanisms.

Linking Humanitarian and Development

  • Strengthen existing national and local child protection and social protection systems, including local women’s and children’s organizations, to prepare for shocks and stresses, coordinate humanitarian response and recover. Introduce new or parallel systems only as a last resort.

  • Ensure that child protection and social services systems are accessible to all children and women by promoting inclusion of all, including those most marginalized such as minority and indigenous children and women, refugees and migrants.

  • Foster and build local partnerships to deliver child protection and GBV services in remote and high-risk settings.

  • Identify and address, the most common risk factors that lead to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect of children and women.

Footnotes

[63] Including the specific mandate of the ICRC and the National Societies, as well as that of UNHCR (for refugees). See Field Handbook on UASC.

[64] Grave violations include killing and maiming of children; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; abduction of children; attacks against schools or hospitals; denial of humanitarian access for children.

[65] The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) is a mechanism established by Security Council Resolution 1612. Through this and subsequent related resolutions, UNICEF is mandated to support monitoring and reporting on grave child rights violations to the Security Council. See above for the list of grave violations.

[66] CRC; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules); UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (Havana Rules); UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Rules); UN Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (Tokyo Rules); UN Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System (Vienna Guidelines).

[67] Mainstreaming standardized systems, such as Primero, across humanitarian responses increases speed of delivery, strengthens coordination and ensures data compatibility.

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