German development policy

A life in peace and security, protection for displaced persons

Children playing next to water tanks in the refugee camp 'Hasansham U3' near Hasansham in Iraq

Many girls and boys can only dream of a life in peace and security. According to UNICEF statistics, 535 million children – almost one quarter of all the children in the world – live in regions affected by conflicts or disasters. They are often exposed to grave risks. They experience violence and exploitation, are often forcibly displaced, or are recruited by armed groups to serve as fighting troops or support personnel.

Child soldiers

Kinder im Hilfsprojekt "Kinderrepublik Benposta" für ehemalige Kindersoldaten und misshandelte Kinder in Bogota, Kolumbien

An Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all parties to ensure that children under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities. Yet, roughly 250,000 children all over the world are being misused by state and non-state armed groups as combatants. They are either forced to join or voluntarily join because of poverty and because they have no other future. Girls suffer particularly because they are often subjected to sexual violence and many are forced to marry soldiers. With the eighth sustainable development goal (SDG 8.7) the international community has made a commitment to end the misuse of children as soldiers.

Displaced children

A Syrian family in a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border near Nizip

About half of all displaced persons around the world are younger than 18. In 2015, 10 million children were living as refugees outside their country of origin, and another 17 million had been internally displaced by war and violence. The number of unaccompanied minors who are refugees and migrants is now almost five times as high as it was in 2010.

For too many displaced children, the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child remain unfulfilled. For example, only 50 per cent of displaced children are able to go to primary school and only 22 per cent can attend secondary school. The physical and emotional impacts of violence and displacement on children and young people are terrible. Trauma, the erosion of the social fabric and of family networks, and the collapse of health and school systems are threatening to turn these children into a "lost generation".

However, children are very resilient and they have the potential to adapt to changed circumstances and shape them to their advantage. As agents of change they can also play a positive role with regard to long-term approaches for conflict prevention, non-violent conflict management and (re-)integration.

German activities

In host countries and in conflict areas, Germany provides targeted support to foster the rights of displaced children and young people, and to enhance their opportunities for the future. Children and young people are one of the main target groups of measures carried out under the special initiative 'Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees'.

The assistance provided includes psychosocial counselling and health care for children, repairing school facilities and developing school capacities in host countries, promoting income-generating measures for young people, setting up safe spaces for children in refugee camps and vaccinating infants.

Transitional development assistance is another instrument that takes the needs of children and young people into special account. The purpose of this assistance is to mitigate the impacts of crises, conflicts and natural disasters, and to serve as a link between humanitarian aid and the longer-term development cooperation that comes later.

On 1 June 2017, the Bundestag passed a law to combat child marriage that raises the age of consent for marriage from 16 years to 18. A marriage must be dissolved by a court ruling if one of the spouses had completed their 16th year but not yet completed their 18th year of life at the time of the marriage. Marriages where one of the spouses had not yet completed their 16th year of life at the time of the marriage are invalid on principle. These fundamental principles also apply to marriages with minors that have been validly concluded in accordance with foreign law.

Further information can be found in the sections dealing with the issues displaced people and peace.

BMZ glossary

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