World Refugee Day - Every action counts to protect a generation of children that constitute half of the world's refugees

New York, 20 June 2020 - Children constitute more than half of the world’s refugees.  Refugee children are already among the most vulnerable with high risks of violence, abuse and exploitation child labor, trafficking for sexual exploitation, or child marriage. The COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns and the economic downturn have further exacerbated these pre-existing vulnerabilities and protection risks.

Even before the pandemic, refugee children were twice as likely to be out of school as other children. With the current disruption in the education system there is a real risk that progress in areas of child protection, such as declining numbers of child labourers and child marriages, will be reversed  and many children, in particular girls, will never return to the education system.  

The Global Compact on Refugees, set objectives aligned with the commitment to leave no one behind captured in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, despite these global agreements families and caregivers of these children lack access to services and to appropriate support. Host communities are not provided with the support required to ensure inclusion and integration of refugees in national protection, social, education and health systems and services. Responses are still fragmented, confined in emergency or resettlement camps, and not embedded in the local and national system and services. 

"We need to do better and act faster to ensure an enabling, inclusive, protective, healthy and empowering environment for refugee and displaced children, including support to families, caregivers and to host communities.” said Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the UN Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence against Children issued an Agenda for Action to protect children’s right to freedom violence and their well-being during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. It calls for concrete actions to ensure children’s access to social protection, health, education and protection services so that all children can thrive and reach their full potential. Guidance is clear, much more action is needed.

2020 World Refugee Day is commemorated on the first year of the Decade of action to deliver the SDGs by 2030 and in the context of the COVID 19 global pandemic. Let’s use this opportunity to recommit to multilateralism, international solidarity and to ensure that we do not leave this generation of refugee children behind.

Every action counts to protect them and the time to act is now!