Save the Children’s strategy defines our activity as a child rights based approach. The tools for this provide international programmes with an approach tried and tested over many years – child rights programming (CRP). This means that in planning, carrying out and evaluating our programmes/work we comply with and promote the principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as other general human rights principles.

Human rights principles

Human rights are:

  • Universal: equally valid for everyone worldwide, and can only be temporarily limited in times of crisis
  • Inalienable: you have them from birth and no one can take them away
  • Indivisible and interdependent: the promotion of one human right usually furthers the realisation of others and, conversely, the violation or denial of one can undermine others.

Human rights encompass such things as the right to nutrition, a home and clean water, but also freedom of expression and security. International conventions stress that responsibility for these rights rests with states, which must implement them (education and social security), respect them (right to fair trial) and prevent their violation (policing).

Through our work we defend the rights of all comprehensively, particularly those of the most vulnerable children. While we are primarily interested in the livelihood of individual children and their physical inviolability, it is equally important to focus on their schooling, health care, social relationships and that they are heard and participate. We support state and municipal duty bearers to meet their obligations as service providers but when necessary we draw attention to things that should be better taken care of. Our work with children and families reinforces their knowledge and capacity so that they learn to be more effective in claiming their rights.

Main principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child

  • Non-discrimination: in Finland as well as abroad, we particularly work with those children, groups of children and families that are at high risk of discrimination, for instance due to poverty, disability or other problems, and we lobby decision-makers so that discrimination received greater attention. Because problems in families easily mount up, we pay attention to the prevention of all forms of inequality.
  • Right to survival and development: this is a particular focus of work on humanitarian crises. Our other work would be pointless if children could not survive. We view development in broad terms, influenced by health and nutrition as well as play and recreation. In Finland, we support the state in particular in the field of child protection, but in developing countries we assist governments develop such areas as social protection, crisis preparedness and education. All children are entitled to the full extent of their potential!
  • Participation: children must have the possibility to influence decisions that affect their lives. In Finland it is fairly natural for children to be heard in their family and school environments, but in many other countries we still have to help parents and teachers understand the importance and benefits of this. We support children everywhere to express their views, and we link them with decision makers at all levels, so that their voices are heard. See Child Participation.
  • Children’s best interests of course cannot be realised unless children are sensitively listened to, meaning we continually exert an influence to achieve more inclusive practices. In addition, we aim to make laws more child-friendly, for instance by clarifying the roles of parents. Since most laws at least indirectly affect children, we support legislators in making child impact assessments so that the interests of children can be considered in both the short and long terms.

Our rights based approach is put into practice by ensuring that our work contains all three of these pillars:

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The first pillar refers to practical action at local level by which we achieve immediate improvements in children’s lives. When we have analysed the violations of rights and developed good models for better realising children’s rights, we can disseminate these through our advocacy work and training. Through our own work we know about and have direct links with the most vulnerable children and youth, and this helps us in advocacy activity and in developing legislation and its implementation. The second pillar is focused especially on duty bearers – state and municipal actors – and aims for lasting systemic changes, such as the better allocation of resources.

Good laws are insufficient as long as people are ignorant of them. Therefore, with the third pillar we support children, their carers and civil society networks to demand their rights and to address shortcomings. Accountability is one of the guiding values of Save the Children’s work, and by realising it we are able to hold government  accountable.

Child rights situation analysis

Child rights based programming always starts with a thorough analysis of the situation. If we are to be able to make permanent changes in children’s lives, we must first locate the root causes of the violations of their rights: why are children being abused? Why did they run away from home? Why do so many drop out of school? In the long run we must impact the root causes and not just their symptoms. This is why Save the Children plays an active role in developing new laws, procedures and systems. Monitoring and evaluation are part of all processes, enabling us to be certain that gains are sustainable.

Children’s rights versus needs?

The realisation of children’s rights is not a question of charity. When we talk of meeting needs it is not a matter of responding with kindness but of an entitlement for which someone bears responsibility. In the case of children, this is usually the state or carers, but Save the Children is also a duty bearer in relation to its own undertakings and strategy – it is accountable to children. Of course, we are not in a position to save the world’s children on our own, which is why it is necessary to cooperate with other organisations, state authorities, businesses and private individuals.

Rights holders versus duty bearers

The state and municipalities are therefore the primary duty-bearers, and they have to oversee others too, but it is parents that take care of their children’s rights on a daily basis. NGOs, the media, businesses, educational institutions etc. also bear responsibility within their own fields for children’s rights, for instance by operating in an ethically correct way and by avoiding indirect ethical violations. Situation analyses must therefore clarify who are the duty-bearers concerning different rights and decision-makers on various issues. Children, and ultimately everyone else, are the rights holders, and they must not infringe the rights of others.

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It is only by knowing their rights and through that rights holders can hold the authorities to account. In countries like Finland, where remote hierarchy is no longer esteemed, this is markedly easier than in many of the developing countries in which we operate. Demanding transparency and gradually questioning power structures are a part of rights-based work, but we try to maintain a balance between the three pillars outlined above so as to retain dialogue with the state.

Further guidance on CRP is available from: