UNICEF in emergencies

Guiding principles

International law and principles that guide UNICEF's action in emergencies

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
This convention bans discrimination against children and provides for special protection and rights appropriate to minors. The preamble recalls the basic principles of the United Nations and specific provisions of certain relevant human rights treaties and proclamations. It reaffirms the fact that children, because of their vulnerability, need special care and protection, and it places special emphasis on the primary caring and protective responsibility of the family. It also reaffirms the need for legal and other protection of the child before and after birth, the importance of respect for cultural values of the child's community, and the vital role of international cooperation in securing children's rights.
Convention on the Rights of the Child [pdf]

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2000)
The protocol sets 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for recruitment into armed groups, and for compulsory recruitment by governments. States may accept volunteers from the age of 16 but must deposit a binding declaration at the time of ratification or accession, setting out their minimum voluntary recruitment age and outlining certain safeguards for such recruitment.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF, 1998)
Under each article of the Convention, this fully revised edition of the Handbook records and analyses the interpretation by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the internationally elected body of independent experts established to monitor progress worldwide. The Handbook adds analysis of relevant provisions in other international instruments, comments from other UN bodies and global conferences, as well as illustrative examples.
Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women.  Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women [pdf]

 

The Geneva Conventions (1949) and their Additional Protocols (1977, 2005)
The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).
Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols

Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (UNICEF, 2010)
The Core Commitments for Children (CCCs) in Humanitarian Action are a global framework for humanitarian action for children undertaken by UNICEF and its partners. The updated CCCs reflect recent humanitarian developments, including humanitarian reform. The CCCs provide guidance for each sector in both rapid-onset and protracted humanitarian situations. The sectoral interventions are results-based, and preparedness and early recovery are now explicit commitments.
Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies [pdf] 
Learn more about UNICEF's commitments.

Emergency Field Handbook: A Guide for UNICEF Staff (UNICEF, 2005)
This handbook has been developed as a practical tool for UNICEF field staff to meet the needs of children and women affected by disasters. It is the result of extensive consultation.
Emergency Field Handbook [pdf]

Growing the Sheltering Tree - Protecting Rights Through Humanitarian Action (IASC, 2002)
The aim of this book is to share the unique, often ingenious methods that humanitarian workers have developed to help people under threat survive, for instance, civilians living in zones of conflict or under opressive regimes. It will be especially useful for field practitioners as it describes practical methods developed to promote respect for fundamental rights and human dignity. It is intended to provide a way to exchange, test and create new information on the promotion and protection of rights through humanitarian work.
Growing the Sheltering Tree

Multilateral Treaty Framework: An Invitation to Universal Participation. Focus 2001: Rights of Women and Children (UN, 2001)
Read the core list of treaties related to the rights of women and children.

Multilateral Treaty Framework: An Invitation to Universal Participation. Focus 2004: Treaties on the Protection of Civilians (UN, 2004)
See the list of 24 Multilateral Treaties on the Protection of Civilians.

Frequently Asked Questions on International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Refugee Law (IASC, 2004)

This document has been prepared by the IASC Task Force (until 2003, known as the IASC Reference Group) on Humanitarian Action and Human Rights as a complement to Growing the Sheltering Tree. The text seeks to respond to questions commonly asked by humanitarian workers on the legal framework that serves as a basis for assistance and protection activities in situations of armed conflict. It sets out the relevant international instruments and offers examples of their provisions and application.
Frequently Asked Questions on International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Refugee Law [pdf]


 

 

PATH training programme

A Principled Approach to Humanitarian Action (PATH) is a 3-day training programme which aims to reinforce understanding and practical application of the international legal and ethical standards that guide UNICEF's humanitarian action.

Learn more about PATH

The Sphere Handbook (Sphere Project, 2004)

Sphere is based on two core beliefs: first, that all possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising out of calamity and conflict, and second, that those affected by disaster have a right to life with dignity and therefore a right to assistance. Sphere is three things: a handbook, a broad process of collaboration and an expression of commitment to quality and accountability.
The Sphere Handbook [pdf]

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