40 years fighting for Children’s Rights

(C) DCISierraLeone

The Defence for Children International (DCI) Movement is celebrating this year its 40 anniversary supporting child rights around the world. Symbolically, 2019 is also the year the world celebrates the thirty years anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Born to alert the world about child rights violations

Back in the 70s, Nigel Cantwell, a child protection professional, rang the alarm bells about the general disregard for child rights issues within mainstream charities. At the time, the non-profit sector focused most of its efforts on health and education programmes, while very little was invested into the human rights of children. These questions were generally considered politically too sensitive and hard to fund. Nigel decided eventually to fill that gap and created a new organization with a few peers. Defence for Children International was born on the 5th of July 1979 in Geneva.


The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: a huge victory for the children

DCI became in 1983 the Coordinator of the NGO group drafters of the  Convention on the Rights of the Child, until the treaty was adopted in 1989. The UNCRC is now the most universally ratified binding international treaty the world has ever agreed on. The Convention changed perceptions about children from passive objects of care and charity to full human beings with a distinct set of rights. But a treaty, no matter how universal, is only a piece of paper until it is effectively applied. Since the convention was adopted, DCI has focused on its implementation through lobbying and direct actions.


Global reach, local impact

We can do so thanks to our strong network of grassroots child rights activists. Indeed, soon after its creation, DCI grew into an International Movement. Preeminent local Human rights leaders started setting up sections in their countries. Today, our Movement is active in more than 35 countries across 5 continents.


The fight continues

Despite political pressures and other difficulties, 40 years later, our dedicated staff and volunteers across the world keep up the hard work to support children in claiming their basic rights. This has never been more important. Despite progress during these last 40 years, millions of children dramatically continue to be left behind and have their rights denied.

“During the first Palestinian Intifada against the Israeli occupation in 1987, I was arrested several times by the Israeli Occupation Forces. I met many Palestinian children inside the Israeli prisons who were not represented by lawyers or visited by their families due to the movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the Palestinians. This gave me the idea to form a movement to help these children. At that time, I was introduced to DCI and became interested together with other colleagues in forming a Palestinian section.”

Rifat Odeh Kassis, Founder of DCI Palestine in 1987 

“I am a doctor and I was always involved in the defence of human rights. During the military dictatorship in Argentina, from roughly 1976 to 1983, kidnapping, torture, assassinations took place and thousands of Argentinians ‘disappeared’.I was myself imprisoned for a very long time. My involvement with human rights and child rights only grew stronger with this experience. When I was finally freed, I decided to create a section of DCI in my country. One of our first activities was to try locating more than 500 disappeared children from the dictatorship. DCI at a national and international level collaborated actively with the Association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) who have accomplished and continue accomplishing a remarkable work in the recovery of identity. Through the collaboration, twenty children were found.” 

Norberto Liwski, Founder of DCI-Argentina in 1986 and current President, Former member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

“‘At the time we set up DCI-Belgium, there were quite a few NGOs and associations working on child rights’ related issues, but they were isolated from each other, there was no NGO coalition. DCI was the right forum to bring together all these efforts in one strong social movement.”

Geert Cappelaere and Benoit van Keirsbilck, Founders of DCI Belgium in 1991 

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