May 16th 2019
Peace Palace in The Hague



On Thursday May 16th 2019 the Stop the War on Children Global Symposium took place in the Peace Palace, The Hague, The Netherlands. The day was co-hosted by Her Royal Highness Princess Viktória, patron of Save the Children - The Netherlands. We were joined by the Mayor of the Municipality of The Hague, Pauline Krikke and the Director of the Carnegie Foundation, Erik de Baedts.

At the symposium, global decision makers such as Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative to the UN Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict, Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and Samuel Kofi Woods, former Liberian Minister of Labour and Public Works, experts and journalists.

Representatives from countries like Afghanistan, Argentina, Japan, Colombia, Syria, Spain, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark and The Netherlands, joined children from conflict areas to make commitments to better protect children in conflict areas.


The program of the day contained keynote speeches and high-level panels on the three campaign pillars of Save the Children’s Stop the War on Children campaign:

1) SAFETY: Uphold international laws and standards to protect children in conflict 

2) JUSTICE: Accountability for perpetrators of violations of children’s rights: Hold perpetrators to account and bring them to justice 

3) PRACTICAL HELP: Proper funding and effective implementation of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) 

Michelle Bachelet said:

“It is absolutely critical to have this discussion now, as millions of children suffer in conflict every day. The rights and well-being of children – including in conflict – should be a priority for all of us, and we need stronger and more consistent systems to hold to account the perpetrators of crimes. The ten points launched today are an important reminder to all governments of the commitments they have made to children's rights. They reinforce the work being undertaken by the UN and other actors to protect children in conflict situations."

Children presented Charter to protect children in conflict

In the afternoon, hundreds of Dutch school children joined us for the Stop the War on Children March. They stood up for their peers and marched to the Peace Palace, where they arrived with white flags, calling for surrender, and raised their hands in a STOP sign, symbolising the urgent need to protect children living through conflict.

Children from Syria and Nigeria then presented a 10-point Charter to Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Princess Viktória. The children called on governments around the world to recognize the role they must play in ending grave violations against children, including ending arms sales to countries that indiscriminately bomb civilian areas. Please see below for the 10 action points.

The Charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict-affected areas. Children in conflict face severe and multiple violations of their rights, like killing and maiming, sexual violence, recruitment and obstruction of humanitarian aid. The Charter outlines what states and armed groups can and must do to ensure children are protected from war and supported in their recovery.

Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said:

“1 in 5 children are now growing up in areas affected by conflict, and those children are seeing and experiencing things that no child ever should. Homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields, and children end up trapped on the frontline. Explosive weapons kill and maim children indiscriminately, and aid is used as a weapon of war.

The world seems to be accepting an outrageous new normal of the conventions of war being treated with flagrant disregard, and children are paying the price. It is shocking that in the 21st Century we are retreating on a principle that is so simple – children should be protected.

Today we brought together leaders in the Peace Palace in The Hague to try to end this culture of impunity. The failure to protect children in conflict not only robs children, but also their countries—and the entire world—of a better future. All governments and warring parties can make a difference by backing up the Charter to protect children in conflict.”

Thank you to all our speakers and panellists, and everyone who was part of this exciting day!

More pictures and a compilation video will follow soon.


Some 420 million children are living in conflict-affected areas across the globe. Almost one in five children run a daily risk of being killed or maimed by armed violence, they live in the fear of being abducted, sexually abused or recruited by armed forces, they regularly witness their schools or hospitals being bombed or go hungry and uncared for because humanitarian aid is denied to them.

What is being done to children in conflicts all over the world, is unacceptable.

We call on every government and every armed group to affirm and adhere to international laws, human rights provisions, rules and standards designed to protect children. Individually and collectively, we are committed to working towards a world in which: 

  • All children are protected against killing and maiming.
  • Schools and health centres are treated as zones of peace and protection.
  • Every child is protected from rape and sexual violence.
  • No child is recruited into armed forces or groups.
  • All children in conflict are safe from abduction, detention and displacement.
  • No child is denied access to humanitarian aid in conflict.
  • Violations of the rights of children in conflict are rigorously monitored, reported and acted on.
  • Those committing, overseeing and ordering violations against children in conflict are brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.
  • Every child harmed or affected by conflict receives practical help and support to cope, recover and rebuild their lives.
  • All children affected by conflict, including refugees and those internally displaced, have access to a good-quality education.

Stop the War on Children Report

For the second year in a row, the report includes the most comprehensive collection of data on the number of children living in conflict-affected areas. It reveals that more children — almost 1 in 5 — are living in areas affected by armed conflict and war than at any time in more than 20 years.

Please follow this link to read the Stop the War on Children report.