Kindernothilfe. Working together.

Helping children in need means: realising their rights

What do children need to lead a good life? There is a clear answer to this question: They need an education, a violence-free upbringing, recreational activities and much, much more to protect them, foster their development and give them a voice in important decisions.

What's more, they have a right to all of that, as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, which has been embraced by virtually every country in the world. But there is still a long way to go before  the rights of children are consistently realised and safeguarded. There are still a billion girls and boys who live in poverty. More than 171 million are exploited and over 200,000 are used to fight in wars and armed conflicts.

Kindernothilfe has made it its mission to help advance the rights of children and youth. After all, anyone who wants to help children in need must do exactly that – contribute to realising their rights. How do we do this? With very specific working practices, known as the child rights approach, which has a guiding influence on our projects abroad along with all of our educational and campaign work in Germany.

Show more

What is the child rights approach?

Working according to the child rights approach primarily means treating children as individuals with their own personalities and involving them in important decisions. It means relying on clear values – the rights of children – and pursuing a clear objective: realising the rights of children.

In addition to collaborating with our local partner organisations to remedy the violation of child rights, such as violent abuse, this involves influencing social and political structures to make them fairer over the long term, so people and institutions safeguard and realise the rights of children.

Show more

Realising child rights instead of violating them: Who is responsible?

It is primarily the world's governments that are responsible for guaranteeing that children have access to education and health care, that they are not exploited and abused, that they have access to recreational activities and much more, so they can grow up freely and live self-determined lives. When they ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the nations of the world committed themselves to making this a reality by establishing the required institutions and providing them with ongoing funding.

But parents, relatives and all members of civil society also bear a responsibility for making children's rights a reality by, for instance, not beating children and by sending them to school instead of having them toil in fields and factories.

There are many reasons why children's rights are not adequately respected: Governments lack interest and sufficient funds, for example, or they invest in other areas such as the military. To make matters worse, government agencies along with parents and large segments of civil society often lack an awareness of the rights of the child, or they purposely disregard them and oppress children.

Realising child rights: How do we achieve this?

In our bid to advance the rights of children, we work with our partners and projects to eliminate grave children's rights violations. But we also influence social and political structures to make them fairer and to empower people and institutions to make ongoing efforts to safeguard and realise the rights of the child.

Every project begins with an analysis of the local environment, which reveals the most serious children's rights violations that affect girls and boys. Based on this, our partners work with the project participants to adopt appropriate measures that safeguard the rights of children. This happens at three levels.

  1. The individual level: Whenever there are grave children's rights violations, we intervene as quickly as possible to rectify the situation. Here are some examples: When children have no access to education, we make sure that this is provided for them. If children are victims of exploitation, we protect them from further exploitation. When children have no food and no access to medical care, we make sure that all of this is provided for them.
  2. The civil society level: Working together with local partners, we support children, their families and civil society, for example, by explaining about children's rights and their importance, along with how to advance, realise and safeguard them. At the same time, we help people organise themselves and network to make their voices more powerful and effective.
  3. The political level: Our partners on the ground influence politicians and agencies with lobbying and advocacy work, for example, by urging that more money be allocated to the educational sector.

Realising children's rights through political lobbying and campaign work in Germany:

Also in Germany we do everything in our power to advance the cause of children's rights in developing countries. Working in alliances at a national and international level, we pressure politicians to stand up for children's rights in developing countries and improve the legal conditions there.

One example of this is the UN right of petition for children, which has finally become a reality after 10 years of political lobbying. Based on campaign work in Germany, such as the Action!Kidz campaign, we enlighten the German public about the living situations of children in developing countries and encourage people to support our work.

Advocacy on behalf of children's rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. It is one of the cornerstones of our work and plays a vital role in shaping our political activities. Through our advocacy work, we can raise the awareness of political decision-makers for violations of children's rights and, together with local and global actors, improve the situation of children.

Text: Frank Mischo, photos: Kindernothilfe, Jakob Studnar / © Kindernothilfe

Growing inequality, extreme poverty and violence, demographic challenges, rapid urbanisation and climate change are global trends that threaten the realisation of children's rights. Putting a stop to these trends and creating sustainable structures to realise these rights is one of the core tasks of our advocacy work and an integral part of many overseas projects. If we are to improve our effectiveness, it is vital that this work is (inter)linked and co-ordinated with that of our partners to allow us to take advantage of valuable synergies.

That is why Kindernothilfe surveyed all overseas partner organisations in the summer of 2019 with respect to their advocacy activities. Most were interested in co-operating in this area. Based on their responses, we developed working areas that will shape what we do in the future: in the context of children's rights, almost all partners stressed that the violation of the right to protection against violence was in most urgent need of being addressed, and the one that jeopardises all other positive developments. The right of children and young people to participate in all matters concerning them is also gaining in importance among partners. This is a right that must be fulfilled, if we are to achieve targeted, meaningful improvements. Children and young people want to stand up for their own rights; we must ensure that they are given the opportunity to do so.

The survey also clearly revealed that, in many countries, civil and political rights are being increasingly restricted. This means that civil society organisations are confronted with shrinking spaces in which they can operate. Joint strategies and support through work within alliances and networks create new opportunities for political participation as a means of improving the situation of children. For example, in 2019, the Philippine government wanted to lower the age of criminal responsibility for children from fourteen to nine. It can be problematic for local child rights organisations to openly challenge the government. Thus, Kindernothilfe launched a worldwide campaign to support its partners. The government subsequently reviewed its decision and is now proposing to lower the age of criminal responsibility to twelve. Kindernothilfe and its partners are still contributing actively to the debate.

In 2020, we will start the systematic implementation of specific advocacy initiatives through joint activities at all levels, from local to global – with Kindernothilfe alliance partners in Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland, our country co-ordination offices, our partners, other advocacy alliances and networks and, last but not least, with the children and young people themselves, e.g. by supporting their self-organised initiatives. 

Show more

International Youth Conference

Together with its partner organizations, Kindernothilfe is organizing a youth conference on the topic of "climate".
Read more

International Youth Conference

Together with its partner organizations, Kindernothilfe is organizing a youth conference on the topic of "climate".
Read more