World Vision International
publication • Tuesday, September 8th 2015

Putting children at the heart of the World Humanitarian Summit

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“Adults may want to do it themselves. They may think we don’t have the capacity – that we can’t do it. But actually, if given a chance and some guiding directions we children can do anything.” Child in disaster risk reduction programme in Thailand.[i]

Children comprise half or more of the affected population in any given crisis and are disproportionally affected by their impacts.  Emergencies can take up a significant share of a child’s formative years, influencing crucial stages of social, cognitive, emotional and physical development. While children have been active autonomously and under direction in humanitarian relief and recovery, their contributions are routinely underestimated and their voices are drowned out.

Failing to reflect children’s specific needs, consult them and actively engage them in the World Humanitarian Summit process means that the outcomes of the Summit will not be fully effective. In order to ensure that children’s perspectives are considered and their priorities and recommendations are reflected in the World Humanitarian Summit outcomes, a group of child-focused agencies have compiled in a report the views of more than 6,000 children from pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis settings in a range of countries, spanning over 10 years of their collective work with children in emergencies.

This report aims to contribute to the Summit discussion around future humanitarian challenges related to natural hazards and conflict as well as to address the following questions:

  • How engaging with children can improve humanitarian effectiveness, reduce vulnerability and manage risk
  • How children’s ideas and perspectives drive transformation through innovation
  • What are children’s perspectives on their needs in conflict

Building a humanitarian system that genuinely listens to, includes and responds to children requires action and change in several areas.  In order to achieve this transformative change as a result of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), a key outcome must be to ensure that the success of humanitarian action is measured by significant improvements in the situation of the most vulnerable children in countries which are highly susceptible to natural hazards, fragility and conflict.

“Decisions being taken today will affect me more than those taking the decisions.” – 15-year-old girl participating in the Bali Climate Conference, December 2007

Therefore, the report presents a set of very specific child-centered guiding principles and thematic recommendations seeking to ensure the especial recognition that children are not a minority, that they are agents of change with unique rights and needs that have to be addressed in an emergency. The WHS process must take children’s views and needs into genuine consideration. The success of the Summit and of future humanitarian action depends on it.


[i] Back, E., Cameron, C., Tanner, T. 2009 Children and disaster risk reduction: taking stock and moving forward no place: UNICEF and Children in a changing climate, p.26.