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Advocacy: child participation and international engagement

War Child delivers direct services to children in conflict affected areas. Through our projects, we aim to support children to improve their self-confidence and regain a sense of future. However, these services alone cannot solve the root causes of conflict. War Child believes children can and should be involved in finding solutions for the issues that affect them, which is why we also support children to advocate for their rights through safe, meaningful and participatory processes, particularly at the local level. We also work to bring children’s voices and priorities to the international arena, where we engage with groups, networks, and platforms on the national (Netherlands), European, and global levels to further the rights of children affected by conflict.

Advocating with and on behalf of children affected by armed conflict is key to our mission and work. In 2013, we worked towards four key advocacy goals:

Goal 1. Children are involved as agents of change in at least three countries

Identifying issues of greatest concern to them, children led the development of advocacy strategies in our South Sudan, DR Congo and Sri Lanka country programmes in 2013. The Partnership for Peace project (funded by the EU) provided additional opportunities to further support children to advocate for change in South Sudan and DR Congo. The Kampala conference recommendations on reintegrating children affected by conflict into their communities, developed as part of the Kampala conference organised by War Child and the Centre for Children in Vulnerably Situations, were developed using the input of over three hundred children from Uganda and Colombia.

Goal 2. Expert-level participation in three UN activities

In 2013, War Child actively participated in several international networks. We took a lead in the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Violence Against Children by establishing a focus group on Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC). In the Paris Principles Steering Group, (PPSG) we provided input for a handbook on the reintegration and rehabilitation of CAAC, stemming from the recommendations generated at the Kampala conference. The recommendations from the Kampala were also endorsed by the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary General (O/SRSG) on Children and Armed Conflict, the highest-level UN body working to ensure the rights and well-being of children affected by armed conflict. Finally, we submitted an application to ECOSOC, which—when approved—will gain War Child official UN recognition, allowing us to submit statements to the Human Rights Council and other high-level UN bodies.

Goal 3. Expert-level participation in one activity in Europe and one in the Netherlands

War Child’s participation in these two activities aimed to contribute to existing standards on the prevention of the recruitment of children by armed groups, psychosocial support programming for children affected by armed conflict and the reintegration of children affected by armed conflict. At the conference on Children and War in Salzburg, we presented evidence on our work on reintegration, psychosocial support and the arbitrary detention of children. We also developed a report on the psychosocial impact of the Syrian conflict on children and the need to provide psychosocial support in emergency settings.

Goal 4. Combining War Child Holland and War Child UK’s advocacy strength in a joint event

Although approached, War Child UK chose not participate in the Kampala conference, neither did the two organisations’ intentions to embark on a joint advocacy and fundraising campaign succeed. Conversely, War Child UK organised a high level policy forum on sexual exploitation in London in which War Child Holland was not involved. The organisations did succeed in gaining membership to the New York-based network, Watchlist, which lobbies the UN Security Council and other key international stakeholders, and works with the O/SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict.


Lessons learnt

Strong commitment and increased effort is required to mainstream advocacy into our work at all levels. In particular, the level of children and young people’s meaningful participation in various advocacy activities varies greatly. Sometimes meaningful child participation, often facilitated through the use of creative activities such as drama and video, drops off the agenda. Influencing policy and practice, beliefs and behaviours, at the local and international level takes time. In addition to long-term commitment, War Child needs to provide sufficient support to ensure that results are not compromised. We could better tailor our role in several important networks to focus on promoting and demonstrating the meaningful participation of children in advocacy, including the use of effective and proven methods. The development of the Kampala Recommendations with input from children and young people in Uganda may serve as a positive example.

Upcoming campaign on the impact of conflict on access to quality education

The campaign, based on War Child’s work in the field, will be spearheaded by the Advocacy, Campaigning and Communications Department, and was approved by the management team to begin in 2014. A project plan was developed outlining activity development and implementation toward the achievement of the campaign’s objectives. Implementation is planned to begin in late 2014 with the first milestones achieved close to the end of the year or in early 2015. The active engagement of War Child’s constituency in the campaign will be a key indicator of the campaign’s success in the Netherlands. Ultimately, the campaign will work toward facilitating tangible change in the lives of children in the areas in which we work.

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