Advocacy: Our Campaigns for Change
War Child advocates for vital psychosocial support to be prioritised in international humanitarian responses. We want to see a rapid adoption of this approach with the global humanitarian agenda - and in 2019 we enjoyed some major campaigning successes.
Advocacy in the Netherlands
The year saw our advocacy efforts decisively centred around the first-ever International Conference on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crisis Situations - held on 7 and 8 October in Amsterdam. The event - hosted by Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation - called for increased resources to be directed towards humanitarian mental health responses. Professor Mark Jordans - our Director of Research and Development - co-chaired a working group during the conference on the support package that should be made available to children and youth in conflict zones. The group stressed the importance of acting early and identifying mental health problems among children and caregivers.
This led to attendees - including government ministers, humanitarians, policy makers and sector experts - agreeing to adopt and scale up our approach. This represented a major development for our campaigning portfolio.
War Child also works to ensure the voices of children and youth are heard - and influence the decision-making processes that affect their lives. We invited five young people from conflict-affected countries to the conference - to share their direct experience and opinions about mental health challenges. They also took part in speed-dialogues with key policy makers across the two days.
The event also saw Michaela DePrince - War Child Ambassador and Dutch National Ballet soloist - call on government and international organisations to commit five per cent of their humanitarian budget towards mental health responses. DePrince experienced armed conflict herself as a child growing up in the midst of the civil war in Sierra Leone - and she did much to underline the importance of developing the resilience of children and youth.
An additional highlight - War Child presented a petition with 200,803 signatures calling for the Dutch government to allocate an additional US$200 million per year to expand the provision of psychosocial support in crisis situations. The petition was handed over to Minister Sigrid Kaag by Patrick from South Sudan - who related his own call for increased action. War Child supporters from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany came together to sign the petition as part of our #DrawTheLine campaign. You can learn more about this campaign in our War Child in the News chapter of this report.
In parallel to our work in the Netherlands, we facilitated the participation of Heba Alibrahim (22) - Syrian refugee and former War Child volunteer - in the launch of the UN’s new ACT to Protect campaign. The launch event took place in April at the European Parliament in Brussels - and saw Heba share her powerful story of life in the midst of war. In addition, War Child staff member and former child soldier Peter Majok was given the floor at the UN Security Council. This was the first time that War Child was able to advocate directly to UN countries at the highest level.
We accelerated our work - as part of the Dutch Palestinian Children’s Rights Coalition (Palestijnse Kinderrechten Coalitie) - to strengthen the protection of Palestinian children from torture and other forms of degrading treatment - particularly those in the criminal justice system. A letter calling upon the Dutch government to take steps to ensure that Israel upholds international human rights accords regarding the detention of children and youth was presented to parliamentarians in April. Child rights in the occupied Palestinian territory have come under increasingly violent assault in the wake of 2019 protests at Gaza’s border.
Whenever we see that children’s rights are being violated - no matter by whom - we take action.