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Ambassador King Remarks on Child Protection in Humanitarian Action
November 1, 2012

October 29, 2012

A woman speaking at a podium as a group looks onPhoto Gallery

Thank you Katy.

I am very happy to be here to help launch these important guidelines.  We can all recall some of the vivid scenes from the massive earthquake that hit Port au Prince in 2010.  The damage and 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 good intentions do not always translate into good programs for children and that, in fact, they can do more harm than good.

These guidelines give the humanitarian community a tool that did not exist in 2010.  Unlike the Haiti response, we now have a set of principles and best practices to guide our interventions — principles that are based on solid research and experience that span a number of years, giving us a strong basis for our commitments – something that was sorely lacking in the past.  This is a pre-requisite to good programming and it is something that I have underscored across a broad spectrum of activities and agencies here in Geneva – be it health, human rights, or the environment.   These guidelines also give us criteria for assessing child protection programs as well as the work of child protection practitioners.

We can compare this effort with the elaboration of the SPHERE standards –another humanitarian undertaking which was launched in 1997 in Geneva and which now represents the normative framework for humanitarian interventions.  Like SPHERE, the new Child protection guidelines – address a “gap” in terms of our knowledge and our articulation of best practice, making them a vital complement to the SPHERE work.

Last year, I had the honor to launch the Child Protection Working Group’s seminal report, “Too Little, Too Late,” which underscored the chronic underfunding of child protection activities in emergency settings, largely due to the factors I just mentioned.  We sincerely hope that these guidelines will not only build awareness of the vulnerabilities of children in crises and raise the standards of all humanitarian practitioners, but also will encourage donors to give this sector priority consideration in their funding decisions.

Child protection is and has been a key area of concern for the US government in our humanitarian assistance activities.  Through the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration we have supported child protection programs around the world and relentlessly pushed child protection to the top of the agenda in multilateral forums.  In the last fiscal year alone, USAID spent $13 million on programs specifically targeting child protection in emergencies.  These programs identified, registered, and traced children who were separated from their families, established child friendly spaces to provide psychosocial support for children in the aftermath of disasters, enabled internally displaced children to attend school, and strengthened local government capacity to care for acutely vulnerable children.

Here in Geneva, we will engage with humanitarian partners and member states to advocate for the use of these standards in emergencies.   The Child Protection Working Group has developed a useful implementation plan which can serve as a road map to illustrate how to support the roll out of the Minimum Standards.  Working together, we can achieve an improved quality, predictability and accountability of child protection responses in humanitarian situations.

I would like to end by extending my congratulations to the Child Protection Working Group for your tireless efforts to bring these guidelines to fruition.  I would now like to open the floor to any comments or questions.