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Diplomacy in Action

A Milestone in Child Protection: Child Protection Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Action

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
November 16, 2012


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As some of you may know, the global Child Protection Working Group recently launched the Child Protection Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Action. We both had the pleasure of participating in the rollout in Geneva, where Neil delivered remarks on the historical significance of the standards, recalling the early days of Child Protection advocacy efforts and noting how far the sector has come since. These standards represent a milestone towards the professionalization of child protection as a critical component of delivering international assistance and protection during and after humanitarian crises. You can find the standards on the Child Protection Working Group’s website.

We can all recall the vivid scenes from the massive earthquake that hit Port au Prince, Haiti in 2010. The devastation wrought by that disaster affected children in a disproportionately harsh way. We watched as hundreds of well-intentioned organizations and individuals flooded into Haiti to help these children, many of whom were made homeless, had lost their families, and were left with little or no means of support or protection. What we learned from that experience is that especially in a chaotic situation with many new actors, good intentions do not always translate into good programs for children and that, in fact, they can do more harm than good.

The new standards give the humanitarian community a tool that did not exist in 2010. Unlike the Haiti response, we now have a single document to guide and bring accountability to our interventions – gathering together a set of principles and best practices that are based on solid research and experience, giving us a strong basis for our commitments – something that was sorely lacking in the past.

Date: 11/16/2012 Description: Uganda: Rwamwanja refugee settlement set up to accommodate new Congolese refugees. - State Dept ImageWith multiple new humanitarian emergencies in the past year – from Sudan to Syria to the Sahel – the importance of having these standards is only amplified. Catherine was recently in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to review the humanitarian response to new displacements caused by the renewed fighting in Eastern Congo. At the Rwamwanja refugee settlement set up to accommodate new Congolese refugees in Uganda, her visit with a group of unaccompanied boys in their communal shelter underscored the benefit of having clear guidelines to common child protection concerns in emergencies that can be disseminated and understood by all involved. To view the full set of photographs from Catherine’s trip, please visit PRM’s Flickr page at:

The Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action follow the structure of the Sphere standards. Each standard is Date: 11/16/2012 Description: Uganda: Rwamwanja refugee settlement set up to accommodate new Congolese refugees. - State Dept Imageaccompanied by key actions, indicators and guidance notes. In addition to standards on coordination, human resources, and the core child protection activities, they also include a section on mainstreaming that not only outlines how interventions by other sectors can promote the protection of children, but also ways for child protection programs to support the goals of other sectors such as WASH, nutrition and health.

While last week’s event dealt largely with the role played by child protection agencies and service providers, the U.S. believes that governments and donors have an important role to play in promoting stronger child protection interventions through the Minimum Standards and working with their partners to ensure the standards come to life on the ground in current response efforts.

To this end, State and USAID have agreed to pursue the following U.S. Government commitments to the Minimum Standards of Child Protection in Humanitarian Action. These efforts include:

· Ensure that our policies, guidelines and responses integrate the Minimum Standards of Child Protection in Humanitarian Action;

· Encourage protection clusters to utilize the standards to coordinate multiagency responses in humanitarian crises; and,

· Support implementation of the Minimum Standards through the creation of a multi-donor group.

The launch of the standards coincided with another important event – the annual meeting of the Child Protection Working Group. Practitioners from around the globe gathered to discuss key themes and issues within the sector, including the practical yet ambitious implementation plan for the standards, assessment and measurement priorities, and capacity-building strategies. Participants also had an opportunity to review new learning on topics such as the impact of cash transfer programming on child protection, and the challenges facing children in urban slums.

It is clear that only through joint action will we as a community be able to meet the protection needs of vulnerable children in emergency settings. It will take strong leadership and commitment to child protection by donors, governments, humanitarian organizations and practitioners. Monitoring protection results and outcomes can be challenging, but it is paramount to ensure that humanitarian programs make a positive impact on the lives of children. The U.S. Government is committed to taking up this challenge.

Many thanks, and kind regards,

Catherine Wiesner
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
U.S. Department of States


Dr. Neil Boothby
United States Government Special Adviser for Public Law 109-95
Senior Coordinator to the USAID Administrator Children in Adversity

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