Children's and young people's rights

Children's and young people's rights in German development policy

Children sleep on the ground after arriving from Pakistan to a refugees transition center near Kabul, Afghanistan.

Human rights – and therefore the rights of children and young people as well – are the foundation on which the democratic, economic, social and cultural development of a country is built. Respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights is therefore the guiding principle of German development policy.

Germany has ratified the fundamental international human rights treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has thus given an undertaking to realise children’s and young people’s rights. At the end of the 1990s, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) was one of the first bilateral official donors in the world to address issues specifically concerning children and young people.

A large number of development measures address children and young people. For example, programmes to improve the food situation, measures concerned with basic education or health, and programmes to fight the worst forms of child labour, including child trafficking, and to prevent violence target them directly. And they are the indirect target group, for example, of projects concerned with advising governments on policy and promoting economic development, projects to protect the environment and natural resources, and projects for rural or urban development.

The BMZ is currently contributing directly to strengthening children's and youth rights with some 300 projects and programmes in government development cooperation. In addition, there are some 60 projects in cooperation with church agencies and social service providers as well as more than 200 projects supported by private agencies.

The human rights-based approach in German development cooperation

In order to deepen the systematic mainstreaming of human rights in German development policy, the BMZ presented its strategy paper Human Rights in German Development Policy (PDF 484 KB) in May 2011. The BMZ’s human rights strategy makes it clear that realising human rights is the basis and the goal of Germany’s development cooperation.

The human rights-based approach expressly includes the rights of young people, which means the rights of children and of youths up to the age of 24.

The action plan 'Agents of Change – Children and youth rights in German development cooperation activities'

A young girl attends a school near Bhairawaha, Rupandehi, Nepal.

In adopting the action plan Agents of Change – Children and youth rights in German development cooperation activities (2017, PDF 686 KB) the BMZ has set itself the goal of expanding its work to support and promote young people worldwide and integrating children’s and young people’s rights more systematically into official German development cooperation projects.

The central topics covered by the action plan are closely linked with the goals of the 2030 Agenda: health, education and vocational training, poverty and nutrition, fair working conditions and the elimination of exploitative child labour, protection against violence and discrimination, birth registration – and these are all topics that are reflected in the action plan.

Furthermore, the strategy paper is geared towards realising the guiding principle of leaving no one behind. Young people are perceived and valued as agents of change. Their participation is a crucial aspect in ensuring the successful implementation (and monitoring) of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The action plan also envisages close cooperation with the private sector and civil society and with multilateral organisations such as UNICEF, and the deepening of international partnerships with relevant organisations worldwide.

"Agents of Change – Innovation for children and youth rights" competition

"Innovation needs children and children's rights need innovation!" Under this slogan, the competition "Agents of change - Innovation for Children's and Youth Rights" was launched in March 2018. In twelve pilot projects, children's rights are strengthened in an innovative way. For example, an app in Madagascar enables children to register quickly and easily. Especially in rural areas, many children are not registered after home births. Without a birth certificate, however, they have no access to education, social security and health care. The project aims to register 7,000 children from 14 rural communities in the Diana region of northern Madagascar.

All results of the competition were documented and presented in November 2019 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at an event on the BMZ's Action Plan on the Rights of the Child.

Multi-level activities

The development activities aimed at realising the rights of children and young people address a range of different levels:

  • At the political level, partner country governments receive advice on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international agreements. For example, they are assisted in elaborating, refining and implementing appropriate legislation and political strategies, and in drafting national and local action plans for children and young people.
  • At the institutional level, development support is used to build the capacity of ministries, local authorities working with children and young people, and civil society organisations that offer youth programmes. Networking between these players is also an important element.
  • At the individual level, the focus is on training youth workers, youth social workers and youth group leaders. Especially at the local level, children and young people are encouraged to voice their interests and to become actively involved in national and local development processes.

Children’s and young people’s rights are specifically promoted and realised in the following areas of development policy work:

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