Dear readers,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the website of Defence for Children International. If you have opened this page, it means that you take an interest in child rights. As advocates of children's rights worldwide, we at DCI can only hope that your interest will translate into action, and that you too may become, if you have not already become, active advocates for children's rights. Many people who are unfamiliar with our organization may ask what advocating for children's rights means. They may look at our mission statement and ask themselves how they can effectively protect and promote the rights of children all over the world so that it will actually make a difference and not just remain a rhetoric, albeit positive and constructive, but with no results. Before asking ourselves this question however, perhaps we should ask ourselves what specific results we are expecting. If we differentiate between tangible and intangible results, we could say that tangible results are what all child rights advocates are ultimately aiming for; i.e. a decrease in the number of children suffering abuse, unable to go to school, living on the streets, locked up in prison, being sold as slaves, forced to work to their own detriment, etc. Yet, in order to reach this tangible stage of results, an intangible process must first occur: a consensus on what each and every child is entitled to in order to achieve their holistic well-being must be reached among all adults who hold a stake in this very well-being (whether they be parents, guardians, teachers, police officers, policy decision makers, policy implementers, social workers, etc). In other words, in order to bring about change on the ground, the change must first occur in our minds. A change in attitudes and mentality must precede a change in behaviour. And it is on this level that DCI mainly operates, especially in the international arena.

Several of our national sections also provide much-needed services to children, such as free legal defence, counselling or educational training (see link on sections on this website), but our main job is bringing about this change of attitudes, followed by a change in behaviour of the people directly responsible for the well-being of each child. Thus, DCI are interested, first and foremost in structural change, with special focus on the field of juvenile justice. We are guided in our actions by the principles espoused in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which was ratified in 1989, which stipulates that children are not only dependants and in need of protection but are also true actors in building and participating in our society. 16 years on, Somalia and the United States are the only two nation states in the world not yet to have ratified the UNCRC. While the latter is lamentable, the fact that all other nation states have adopted the UNCRC shows that, at least on a formal political level, almost all the world's governments share the UNCRC vision of children and their role in society. This is a start, but there is still a long way to go. Needless to say, DCI needs your help in fulfilling its mission. While many people are eager to help children, most prefer to focus their help on mitigating the immediate effects of child rights' abuses. This reaction is perfectly understandable and commendable, but we cannot emphasise enough the absolutely dire need for more help in combating the root causes of these child rights' abuses. If the root causes are effectively addressed, there will be fewer abuses and hence fewer effects that need to be mitigated. So how can you help us in our quest? In many ways. By browsing the rest of this website, you will find out more information on our programmes and campaigns and the �how to help� link is also useful. We also look forward to hearing from you directly; you can write to us at [email protected]. 

Again, on behalf of DCI, I congratulate you for your interest in promoting and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable collective in the world and I hope that 2007 will be a year in which we, all together, truly make a difference.

Warm greetings

Rifat Odeh Kassis
Defence for Children International