Child Rights: Translating Policy into Practice

7 June 2019

Playground War Child

3 p.m.

War Child DR Congo child parliament
Our latest Masterclass will see Professor Ton Liefaard explore whether universal child rights principles reflect current realities - and what more needs to be done to uphold the rights of children and youth worldwide. Find out more...

Child Rights: Translating Policy into Practice

Child rights have grown in importance since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. This almost universally ratified human rights treaty stipulates that children must be recognised as bearers of human rights and fundamental freedoms. But do these principles reflect the current reality? And what role can War Child play to ensure that the fundamental rights of children and youth are upheld?

These issues will be explored in the next War Child Masterclass with child rights expert Professor Ton Liefaard. The event will also see a reflection from Tjipke Bergsma, Managing Director of War Child Holland.

Ton Liefaard War Child Masterclass

Speaker Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard

Tjipke Bergsma directeur War Child

Tjipke Bergsma, Managing Director War Child Holland

Reflections on child rights

The fundamental rights of children and youth are outlined in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). And to understand the breadth and scope of these rights it is often helpful to summarise them in four pillars: survival, protection, development and participation.

War Child began operations in 1995 during the Balkan War in support of children affected by the often traumatizing events of this bloody conflict. This period saw the organisation primarily focus on filling the gap in the psychosocial support needs of children.

While addressing the most immediate needs in food security, War Child began operations intuitively by securing safe spaces and offering children recreational activities encompassing music and sport for emotional healing and recuperation.

In the mid-1990s the impact of the CRC on child-focused programming was not yet widely understood - or even translated to rights based programming. Yet in hindsight one can conclude that War Child has from its inception worked to fill the gap between survival and development needs.

As War Child grew and began to more fully understand the needs of children, the year 2000 saw the organisation add Education to its core programme approach. This was mostly because children and parents asked for it - but also because our evaluations demonstrated that an important element of support for children affected by conflict was to offer structure and a return to a sense of normalcy. Education offers exactly this.

This period also saw War Child take a deep dive in organising its programme offer - expanding its set of core interventions to encompass both a rights-based as well as evidence-based approach. Rights-based programming in humanitarian contexts in particular required a greater focus on protection, as child protection had become established as a minimum standard in humanitarian interventions.

Enshrining CRC principles

Taking into account this history of the development of insights in the application of the CRC, it is now fair to say that War Child’s programme interventions - while primarily focused on the domains of psychosocial support, protection and education - do also cross-cut through the pillars of the CRC. It should also be noted that child and youth participation has become a standard in our programme approach.

Given that same history, however, we can also conclude that from the outset War Child’s core competencies are centred around psychosocial support, child protection and education interventions. This has also seen us consistently and emphatically advocate for psychosocial support - and not just protection - to become a minimum standard in humanitarian contexts. After all, what happens within the safe space is as important as the safe space itself.

Nevertheless, we are convinced about and committed to the right to protection - as much as any other right - and therefore aim to work in partnerships with others that have more advanced or stronger competencies in this domain.

Professor Ton Liefaard - and his faculty at the University of Leiden - is one such expert and we are very happy to work closely together and present this subject in the latest War Child Masterclass.

Main speaker

Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard is Vice-Dean of Leiden Law School and holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the Director of the Master’s Programme (LL.M) Advanced Studies in International Children’s Rights. He also coordinates the Leiden Summer School on International Children’s Rights. In 2015, he received the award for best lecturer of Leiden Law School. You can read more about Ton Liefaard here.

Date and location

Friday 7 June
@Playground War Child
Helmholtzstraat 61-G
1098 LE Amsterdam


3 PM - Welcome

3:30 PM - Masterclass

  1. Introduction by Prof. Dr. Mark Jordans
  2. Masterclass by Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard
  3. Reflection by Tjipke Bergsma, Managing Director War Child Holland

4:45 PM - Discussion moderated by War Child global advocacy advisor Dr. Eamonn Hanson

5 PM - Drinks