Defence for Children International (DCI) is an independent non-governmental organisation that has been promoting and protecting children�s rights on a global, regional, national and local level for over 25 years.  The movement was founded in July 1979 by Nigel Cantwell and Canon Moerman, the chair of the International Year of the Child, at a time when children's rights were not the main focus of many organizations. The International Year of the Child instigated the dissemination of an unprecedented amount of information about children's rights violations such as torture, prostitution, economic exploitation, arbitrary detention, and trafficking and sale. At the time, few international structures were dedicated to a human rights-based approach to the many problems faced by the world's children.  DCI was established in direct response to this void.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

DCI mobilized the NGO community to become actively involved in the drafting process of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The resulting NGO Ad Hoc Group, established in mid-1983, made significant contributions to the Convention's final text. In 1987, the NGO Ad Hoc Group joined with UNICEF in publicly promoting the objective of having the Convention ready for adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989.

Following the unanimous adoption of the Convention by the General Assembly on 20 November 1989, DCI national sections successfully lobbied their governments to ratify the new Convention. DCI sections were often the first to take the initiative of producing an NGO Alternative Report for the Committee on the Rights of Child, or to initiate national coalitions.

Through DCI�s major role in co-ordinating NGO input to this drafting process, it developed substantial links with other NGOs and established itself as a centre of expertise and resources. DCI has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Council of Europe, and working relations with UNESCO, UNICEF and the ILO.  Please click here for more details

The network

From 1985 onwards, DCI developed into a worldwide network through the creation of national sections and the establishment of partnerships with associated members.

DCI�s International Secretariat, located in Geneva, is the focal point of the movement.  It represents the movement at the international level and develops programs and projects which promote child rights globally and which support the activities and growth of national DCI sections and associated members.

Through its sections, in 45 countries across the globe, DCI carries out concrete programmes to promote and protect the rights of children.
All national sections and associated members focus their intervention and design their programmes according to the specific needs and priorities of the children in their respective countries, focusing on various areas of work, including juvenile justice, child labour, child rights� education, child participation and children in armed conflict, among others. 

 DCI also works on specific children's rights concerns through the creation of international programmes such as the International Child Labour Programme, coordinated by DCI Costa Rica, the International Programme on Juvenile Justice, and the No Kids Behind Bars! Global Campaign.   

DCI networks and coordinates with various players in the child rights� area, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Thanks to the reliable information received from the field, DCI is able to make effective advocacy interventions, addressing the CRC and other United Nations bodies.