Putting children at the heart of the World Humanitarian Summit
October 20 2015

SOS emergency director to global leaders: We can always do something to improve a child's situation

Children under 18 made up 50 percent of the refugee population in 2013 [1]. Their needs and viewpoints must be taken into account in global emergency response, SOS Children's Villages' international emergency director told World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation.

Andreas Papp, SOS Children's Villages International Director for Global Emergency Response, highlighted the importance of listening to children and their needs at a breakout session of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) Global Consultation, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 14-16 October.

Bringing the global community together

The WHS, which will be held from 23-24 May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey, is an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and aims to bring the global community together to find new ways of working together to reduce suffering around the world and save lives. SOS Children’s Villages took part in the Global Consultation to call for concrete actions on issues affecting children to be developed at the WHS.
Mr Papp contributed to a panel discussion on the topic of children in emergency zones, alongside a former child soldier and representatives from UNICEF, Save the Children and Plan International.

Together, the participants addressed the issue of how to ensure that children’s rights and needs are met as an outcome of the WHS in 2016 in addition to how the humanitarian system can be held accountable.

"Our work is only meaningful and of sustainable impact when we give children a voice," Mr Papp told the delegates.

Child participation is vital

Mr Papp highlighted that child participation must be placed at the heart of strategies around emergency situations, and thus there must be an emphasis on engaging with children.
It is also key for governments and private donors to commit to funding mechanisms that address the protection of children in emergencies.

One such initiative is the Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence against Children, of which SOS Children’s Villages is a part.

International Emergency Director Andreas Papp and a toddler make a drawing together at an SOS Child Friendly Space in Nepal. Photo: SOS Archives
"No matter how difficult the context is, we can always do something to improve the situation of a child. We need to listen to their voices and do the utmost we can to improve their situation. If we receive one smile – which might be the first one for days if not weeks – it’s worth all the efforts. We have to let children be children," Mr Papp added.
The panel discussed different aspects of the topic of children in emergencies. This included the need for international humanitarian law to have an impact on the ground, which requires strengthening NGOs running awareness raising campaigns in the field.

Also vital to supporting children in emergencies is for organisations to be in the field, and so understanding the realities of the people we work to help.

Mr Papp also highlighted the role of technology, which is not only a way for refugees to contact separated family members but also has great potential for interacting with children and young people and thus ensuring that their voices are heard.
The recommendations from the Global Consultation will be presented to the UN Secretary-General and will set the agenda for the World Humanitarian Summit 2016. 

[1] UNHCR (2014) Global Trends Report 2013