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Discovering the new edition of the Child Protection Minimum Standard: An interview with Save the Children’s Susanna Davies

The second edition of the Child Protection Minimum Standards. Photo: Sphere


The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, one of Sphere’s partner standard initiatives, released the second edition of the Child Protection Minimum Standard (CPMS) in October. The CPMS handbook guides humanitarian professionals in preventing harm and supporting the recovery of children caught up in crises.

Sphere talked to Susanna Davies, co-lead of the CPMS Working Group for the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (on behalf of Save the Children) and CPMS representative in the Humanitarian Standards Partnership, to learn more about the new elements it contains.


This new edition updates the first Child Protection Minimum Standards handbook, which came out in 2012. What has changed in the humanitarian sector since then?

Humanitarian crises have evolved. They’ve become more complex, long-lasting and widespread. The average crisis now lasts for more than nine years. More than half of the world’s 27 million refugees are now children. Most importantly, it is estimated that one in four children worldwide are affected by humanitarian crises. The child protection sector has had to evolve and become more and more professional to respond to the needs of children and families affected by crises, not only to keep children safe but also to promote their well-being.

Around 1,900 contributors and 85 humanitarian agencies across 82 countries took part in the revision process. What challenges did you face in consulting such a broad group?

Above all, it meant we felt more confident that the updates would be accepted and supported by the global child protection community. There was strong consensus on a number of issues, including additional guidance on refugee children, infectious disease outbreaks and the gender aspects of child protection.

Some of the contributors were children. What did you learn from them?

One of the things children agreed on was the value of child-friendly spaces. This was reflected in the comments of many frontline workers, but much less so among researchers and advisors at the global level. Children found child-friendly and other safe spaces to be important sanctuaries where they can have fun and be supported by caring adults in the community.

What are the main new elements in the new edition?

The 2019 edition is a “one-stop shop” for all the latest resources on child protection in humanitarian action. Whether you’re planning a new rapid response or looking for ways to improve the well-being of children during a protracted crisis, the CPMS handbook provides key actions, indicators and guidance notes on a range of approaches, and links to additional resources.

The standards can now be applied more clearly to a wider range of humanitarian situations, especially refugee crises, mixed migration flows and infectious disease outbreaks. The latest CPMS also incorporates new learning and evidence to help raise the quality of child protection programmes, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation in humanitarian settings.

Were any of the lessons learned from the Sphere Handbook revision process useful while updating CPMS?

Yes, there were many. One of the people leading the CPMS revision process had been deeply involved in drafting the 2018 Sphere Handbook as child protection expert, and she was able to make clear links and ensure the two handbooks are coherent.

CPMS and the Sphere standards are both rights-based and part of the Humanitarian Standards Partnership (HSP). What added value does HSP “membership” bring to the alliance?

The partnership is a collaborative forum for improving how we promote humanitarian standards and strengthening quality and accountability to affected populations. The cooperation with Sphere and the other HSP members has been hugely valuable for CPMS. We were able to exchange lessons learned on standard revisions and innovative ideas for the training of field practitioners.

An example of how Sphere and CPMS complement each other can be seen in CPMS Pillar 4, called “Standards to work across sectors”. This section focuses on the need to place protection at the centre of all humanitarian response, and on the positive impact of using various sets of standards jointly. Practitioners delivering water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) assistance, for instance, can use standard 26 to learn how to make toilets and other WASH facilities child-friendly and reduce risks for children.

The CPMS handbook is also accessible via Sphere’s Interactive Handbook platform. How does this make it easier for practitioners to work with the standards?

The online version of CPMS is a great leap forward. Practitioners can browse through the handbook using the internal links to jump from one section to another, and there are also external links to further guidance and tools.

The digital platform, both the web-based version and the mobile app, also helps to get CPMS before people’s eyes well before we can get the handbook into their hands. In an emergency or a situation in which the needs of children and families are changing quickly, practitioners from any sector can find immediate guidance online.