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Putting Children at the Heart of the World Humanitarian Summit

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The first World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2016, will bring together governments, humanitarian organisations, and people affected by humanitarian crises to propose solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. In the months leading up to the Summit, ensuring that children’s voices are heard in these discussions is a key priority for Plan International.

Together with partners, Plan International has developed a report that draws from consultations conducted with over 6,000 children. Children expressed what was most important to them before, during and after an emergency, and the report stresses the importance of involving children in any humanitarian response.


All children have the right to be heard and participate in decision-making that affects their lives – whoever they are, and wherever they are. Yet girls and boys’ perspectives are often overlooked. This is especially true in the chaos of an emergency when practical, organizational, cultural and ethical issues can create barriers to meaningful participation.

The right to be heard is a guiding principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) -- the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in the world.7 Children can and do play an important role in their own protection and in their communities’ response to an emergency. For humanitarian actors, child participation is a vital way of ensuring accountability and effectiveness. Children who recognize abuse and violence against themselves and others, and who are empowered to participate in the humanitarian response, contribute to long-term development after the crisis. They build safer communities where vulnerability and risk are reduced, children speak out and their needs are prioritized.

This literature review reflects the thoughts and opinions of over 6,000 girls and boys. It draws on recent consultations with children during and shortly after armed conflicts, disasters, displacement and other emergencies. Aiming to contribute to discussions at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit around “Future humanitarian challenges related to natural hazards and conflicts”, it asks the following questions:

  1. How can engaging children improve humanitarian effectiveness?

  2. How can engaging children reduce vulnerability and manage risk?

  3. How can children’s ideas and perspectives drive transformation through innovation?

  4. What are children’s perspectives on their needs in conflict?