Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada


Table of Contents

Children at Risk: Some Key Numbers

A young man © ACDI-CIDA/David Trattles
Joffrey Twambo, whose parents are HIV-positive, received business and life skills training, and gained access to micro credit and learned how to use it responsibly.
  • 100 million children live on the street
  • By 2010, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to 50 million orphans
  • 15 million children have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS
  • 2.3 million children under the age of 15 years old live with HIV
  • Each year, 1.2 million children are trafficked
  • 50 million children under the age of five are not registered
  • 126 million children are engaged in the worst forms of labour, and they represent 40 to 50 percent of all victims of forced labour
  • 130 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation
  • 146 million children are malnourished, and 73 percent of them live in just 10 countries
  • 529,000 women and girls die each year of causes related to childbirth
  • Every year, 10.5 million children die before their fifth birthday—that's 30,000 children a day
  • 117 million children—among them 62 million girls—are still denied their right to education
  • Half of the children born in developing countries live in households without access to improved sanitation facilities, and one fifth of them live in households without access to drinking water sources

The Global Development Challenge

Projects at CIDA

  • Street children in Zambia receive training in business and life skills, as well as loans to start small businesses.
  • In Peru, a young boy attends the "School for Life," a learning community for children with disabilities.
  • In Sierra Leone, former child combatants are being reunited with their families.
  • Children in Angola learn about the dangers of antipersonnel mines through theatre, music, and dance.
  • Girls in northern Thailand, whose poverty puts them at high risk of being recruited into prostitution, receive scholarships so that they can continue their studies.

Development assistance has improved the lives of many of the world's children through programs in health, education, nutrition, access to water and sanitation, and family incomes. However, some children continue to be marginalized from these benefits, including:

  • working children;
  • children affected by armed conflict and natural disasters;
  • sexually exploited and trafficked children; and
  • HIV/AIDS-affected children.

Children remain a disproportionately large number of the poor, and poverty affects them at critical stages in their intellectual and physical development. Not only can this seriously hinder their own future well-being, productivity, and prosperity, it can undermine efforts to fight poverty in the community at large.

Children, especially girls, face many risks, including exploitation, abuse, discrimination, violence, and neglect. However, even vulnerable and excluded children are active and contributing members of the community.

Many run households, earn income, and have children themselves. More and more, they are not seen as passive receivers of charity but as key actors in their own development with the capacity, knowledge, and perseverance to make better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. This approach ensures that children can participate in developing, implementing, and evaluating initiatives meant to benefit them.

The International Vision

The global community has made strong commitments to realizing children's rights:

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been ratified by all states except Somalia and the United States, making it the most ratified UN convention in the world.
  • The Millennium Declaration emphasizes a human rights approach to supporting the most vulnerable groups, including children, and all of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) involve fulfilment of the rights of children. At the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children in 2002, UN member states deepened their commitment, agreeing on a set of targets and benchmarks as stepping stones to the MDGs. Most major donors, including Canada, have given greater visibility to children and youth in their programming.

Canada is a world leader on children's rights. Canada helped draft the CRC, co-hosted the World Summit on Children in 1990, and hosted the first major international conference on war-affected children in 2000. Canada was also a major influence in the formulation of international instruments related to children, including the optional protocol to the CRC on children in armed conflict. Over the last few years, Canada has acquired leading-edge expertise in many areas of child protection and in fostering the participation of children in the decisions that affect their lives.

CIDA's Strategy

A boy © ACDI-CIDA/Roger LeMoyn
Microfinance initiatives funded by CIDA are empowering children in Kabul.

Canada's international development policy includes governance as a priority, with human rights as a key focus area. Governance programming includes promotion of the rights of children, particularly those affected by conflict, gender-based violence, and natural disasters.

CIDA's strategy for children's rights and protection aims to increase the realization of the rights of children, particularly those in need of special protection (i.e. abuse, exploitation, and violence), through:

  • building the capacity of government and civil society organizations to implement commitments to all children;
  • supporting targeted social services, including health care, education and vocational training, rehabilitation, and reintegration; and
  • ensuring meaningful child participation in policy dialogue, research, and project implementation.

Areas of focus for Canada's investments in children's rights and protection are:

  • children affected by armed conflict and natural disasters;
  • child labour;
  • HIV/AIDS-affected children; and
  • sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

Highlights of CIDA's experience:

  • the adoption of a child-rights-based approach to working with children. This approach is based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which views girls and boys as full-fledged persons who are active, able, and necessary participants in their own development and that of their communities. It also analyses the structural causes that lead to violations of children's rights and advocates for a holistic response.
  • The promotion of children's participation in the development, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives designed to help them. For example, CIDA's Child Participation Pilot Projects seek to integrate the participation of young people in all phases of the projects, which focus on a number of different issues-from the reintegration of former child soldiers to the promotion of children's rights to access to formal education.
  • Research to fill critical gaps in our knowledge about the lives of vulnerable and excluded children. This kind of research allows us to base policy and programming on evidence about the realities girls and boys face around the world and how we can best support them. The 13 projects financed through CIDA's $2-million Child Protection Research Fund (CPRF) have already had an impact globally on policy and programming for children (read about the Conference on Children's Rights and International Development (June 12-14, 2006)). To read summaries of the reports as well as the full reports, visit the Child Rights Information Network's (CRIN) page on CPRF.
  • An awareness-raising program in which retired Lieutenant-General Romeo A. Dallaire travelled across the country and around the world to speak about protecting children and fostering peace in his role as Special Advisor on War-Affected Children to the Canadian International Development Agency and to the Minister of International Cooperation.
  • More than 25 publications: guides, tools, or discussion papers produced on issues related to child participation, war-affected children and child labour.
  • Capacity building through an annual course in children's rights, an extranet site, and other resources for CIDA personnel and partners.
  • Support to child protection through a range of available CIDA programs and through a variety of partners, from multilateral organizations such as UNICEF to non-governmental organizations and research institutions.

Find Out More

  • Learn the facts about child protection issues on the CRIN website.
  • Read A World Fit for Children, the outcome document of the UN Special Session on Children, and A Canada Fit for Children (see PDF below), Canada's plan of action in response to the Special Session.
  • Find out what young people are saying about issues of importance to them.
  • Watch Robbie Williams's short film More Precious than Gold, on child trafficking and exploitation.
  • Learn about UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund.

Note: Documents provided in an alternate format

If you cannot access the documents that are provided in an alternate format, refer to the Help page.

A Canada Fit for Children (PDF, 359 KB, 53 pages)