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Glossary: Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2019 Edition

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Glossary: Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2019 Edition

CPMS Annex: Glossary


Abandoned explosive ordnance

Explosive ordnance that has not been used during an armed conflict, that has been left behind or dumped by a party to an armed conflict, and which is no longer under control of the party that left it behind or dumped it. Abandoned explosive ordnance may or may not have been primed, fused, armed or otherwise prepared for use.  See also Explosive ordnance and Unexploded ordnance.


A deliberate act with actual or potential negative effects upon a child’s safety, well-being, dignity, and development. It is an act that takes place in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust, or power. 


The proportion of the population that can use a service or facility.


Entails the removal or mitigation of barriers to people’s meaningful participation. These barriers and the measures needed will vary according to disability, age, illness, literacy level, status of language, legal and/or social status, etc. 


The process of using power responsibly, taking account of, and being held accountable by, different stakeholders, and primarily those who are affected by the exercise of such power.

See Quality.

Adequate care

Where a child's basic physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs are met by his or her caregivers and the child is developing according to his or her potential.


Defined generally as a person 9–19 years. In the CPMS, the term refers specifically to persons aged 9–17 years old, given the focus on children as defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Adolescence can be broken down into the following sub-group: pre-adolescence (9–10), early adolescence (10–14), middle adolescence (15–17) and late adolescence (18–19). 

Alternative care

The care provided for children by caregivers who are not their usual primary caregiver.

See Kinship care and Foster care

See online version for Institutional care and Residential care.

Alternatives to detention or to deprivation of liberty

Measures (legislation, policy, or practice) aimed at preventing the unnecessary detention of persons, including children being formally processed through the criminal justice system and children who are migrants.  Alternatives to detention do not involve deprivation of liberty.




See informed assent.


The process of establishing the impact of a crisis on a society, including needs, risks, capacities and solutions. 

See Standard 4 on Programme Cycle Management for information on types of assessments for Child Protection.

At-risk groups / individuals

Children who are at risk of their protection rights being violated.

See Risks and Vulnerability.


Barriers are defined as factors that prevent a child from having full and equal access to and participation in humanitarian assistance and protection. These can be environmental, including physical barriers (such as the presence of stairs and the absence of a ramp or an elevator) and communication barriers (such as only one format being used to provide information), attitudinal barriers (such as negative perceptions children with disabilities), and institutional barriers (such as policies that can lead to discrimination against certain groups). Some barriers exist prior to the conflict or natural disaster; others may be created by the humanitarian response.

Best interests of the child

The right of the child to have his or her best interests assessed and taken as a primary consideration in reaching a decision. It refers to the well-being of a child and is determined by a variety of individual circumstances (age, level of maturity, the presence or absence of parents, the child's environment and experiences). See Principle 4. 

Best Interests Determination

Best Interests Procedure


A formal process with strict procedural safeguards designed to determine the child’s best interests for particularly important decisions affecting the child. It should facilitate adequate child participation without discrimination, involve decision-makers with relevant areas of expertise and balance all relevant factors in order to identify and recommend the best option. (UNHCR Best Interests Determination Handbook 2011, p. 110)

UNHCR’s individual case management procedure to ensure that the best interests principle (set out in Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) is respected in work with individual children of concern. It is a multi-step process that goes through identification, assessment, case action planning, implementation, follow-up and case closure. It includes two important procedural elements: the Best Interests Assessment (BIA) and the Best Interests Determination (BID).  States and other actors are also obliged to establish formal procedures for assessing and determining the best interests of an individual child or a group of children where decisions would have a major impact on the child or group of children. (See CRC General Comment No. 14)

Capacity building

The strengthening of knowledge, ability, skills and resources to help individuals, communities or organizations to achieve agreed goals.


An individual, community, or institution (including the State) with clear responsibility (by custom or by law) for the well-being of the child.  It most often refers to a person with whom the child lives and who provides daily care to the child.

Caregiving environment

The direct physical and human environment children live in, and is unique for every child. 

Case management

An approach to address the needs of an individual child and their family in an appropriate, systematic and timely manner, through direct support and/or referrals.


The key worker in a case who maintains responsibility for the child’s care from case identification to case closure, in a case management approach. Other social service practitioners (such as social workers) or even other professionals (such as health workers) may take on a caseworker role as well.

Cash and voucher assistance (CVA)

All programmes where cash transfers or vouchers for goods or services are directly provided to recipients.

Centrality of Protection

The recognition that the protection of all persons affected and at risk must inform humanitarian decision-making and response, including engagement with States and non-State parties to conflict. Protection is recognised as the purpose and intended outcome of humanitarian action and must be central to preparedness efforts, as part of immediate and life-saving activities, and throughout the duration of humanitarian response and beyond.


Persons below the age of 18 years.


Working methods that do not discriminate against children and that take into account their age, evolving capacities, diversity and capabilities. These methods promote children’s confidence and ability to learn, speak out, share and express their views. Sufficient time and appropriate information and materials are provided and communicated effectively to children. Staff and adults are approachable, respectful and responsive.

Child friendly spaces (CFS)

Safe spaces where communities (and humanitarian actors) create nurturing environments in which children can access free and structured play, recreation, leisure and learning activities.

See Standard 15: Group activities for child well-being.

Child-headed household

A household in which a child or children (typically an older sibling) assumes the primary, day-to-day responsibility for running the household, and providing and caring for those within it.

Child in conflict with the law

Any child who comes into contact with law enforcement authorities because he or she is alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the criminal law. Children may be arrested for activities that are officially criminalized in legislation but which the international human rights community calls to be decriminalized as a matter of urgency (e.g. status offences).

Child in contact with the justice system

Any child who comes into contact with the juvenile justice system or the criminal justice system as a victim/survivor, witness or in conflict with the law, and/or any child who comes into contact with the civil and/or administrative justice systems. This term is broader than ‘child in conflict with the law’.

Child labour

Work carried out to the detriment and endangerment of a child, in violation of international law and national legislation. It either deprives children of schooling or requires them to assume the dual burden of schooling and work.

See Standard 12: Child labour and Worst Forms of Child Labour.

Child participation

The manifestation of the right of every child to express his or her view, to have that view given all due consideration, to influence decision-making and to achieve change. It is the informed and willing involvement of all children, including the most marginalised and those of different ages, genders and disabilities, in any matter concerning them. 

See Principle 3.

Child protection in humanitarian action (CPHA)

The prevention of and response to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against children in humanitarian action.

Child safeguarding

The responsibility that organisations have to make sure their staff, operations, and programmes do no harm to children.  It includes policy, procedures and practices to prevent children from being harmed by humanitarian organisations as well as steps to respond and investigate when harm occurs. 

Child well-being

Child well-being is a dynamic, subjective and objective state of physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual and social health in which children:

  • Are safe from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence;
  • Have their basic needs, including survival and development, met;
  • Are connected to and cared for by primary caregivers;
  • Have the opportunity for supportive relationships with relatives, peers, teachers, community members and society at large; and
  • Have the opportunities and elements required to exercise their agency based on their evolving capacities.

Child marriage

Child marriage is a formal or informal union where one or both parties are under the age of 18.  All child marriage is considered forced, as children are not able to give full consent to marriage.

Civil society

Citizens who are linked by common interests and collective activity but excluding for-profit, private sector organisations. Civil society can be informal, or organised into NGOs or other associations.

Cluster approach

The Cluster Approach was part of the 2005 Humanitarian Reform Agenda to enhance predictability, accountability and partnership.  Clusters are groups of humanitarian organizations, both UN and non-UN, in each of the main sectors of humanitarian action (e.g. protection, health and logistics). They are designated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and have clear responsibilities for coordination.

Code of conduct

A clear and concise guide of what is and is not acceptable behaviour or practice when employed or engaged by the organisation.

Cognitive processes

Mental processes such as thought, imagination, perception, memory, decision-making, reasoning and problem-solving.

Community capacities

Initiatives, structures, processes and networks led and organized by individuals and members of the community (including children themselves) that promote children’s rights, safety, development, well-being and participation. 

Community-led child protection

Approaches that are led by a collective, community-driven process rather than by an NGO, UN agency or other outside actor.

Community-level approaches

Approaches that seek to ensure that community members are able to protect children and ensure their right to healthy development. 


The obligation that information about an individual will not be disclosed or made available to unauthorised persons without prior permission.  There may be limits on confidentiality for children in accordance with their best interests as well as mandatory reporting obligations.


The process of interpreting or adapting the standards to context; the process of debating, determining and agreeing upon the meaning of global guidance in a given local situation; “translating” the meaning and guidance of the Standards for the context of a country (or region) so as to make the content of the Standards appropriate and meaningful to the given circumstances.


Coping mechanisms

See informed consent.

Coping is the process of adapting to a new life situation, managing difficult circumstances or making an effort to solve or minimise stress or conflict. Some coping mechanisms are sustainable and helpful, while others may be negative, with potentially long-term harmful consequences.


See Humanitarian crisis and Humanitarian action.


An immediate threat to a child’s safety, indicating circumstances where hazards are present that have the potential to cause harm or injury. It is also a general word for liability to all kinds of injury, both close by and certain, or remote and doubtful.

Deprivation of liberty

Any form of detention or imprisonment or the placement of a person in a public or private custodial setting, from which this person is not permitted to leave at will, by order of any judicial, administrative or other public authority. This includes any form of residential placement including prisons, police lock-ups, remand homes, borstal institutions, reform schools, education and re-education centres, training centres and schools, treatment centres and secure institutions, whether they are facilities specifically for children or for adults. The term applies regardless of the reason why children are deprived of liberty, whether the declared aim is protection, rehabilitation, punishment or something else.


The capacity to make one's own deliberate choices and consequently to be acknowledged as a free subject. It reflects the integrity of the person and is the source from which all human rights derive. The foundation of life with dignity is the assurance of access to basic services, security and respect for human rights. Equally, the way in which humanitarian response is implemented strongly affects the dignity and well-being of disaster-affected children, families and communities.


Results from the interaction between persons with physical, psychosocial, intellectual or sensory impairments and barriers of attitude and the environment that prevent their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Children with disabilities are diverse; in any humanitarian response, their unique capacities, socio-economic, educational, family and other background and resources and barriers they face need to be considered.

Disaggregated data

Statistics separated according to particular criteria.  As a minimum level of data disaggregation, CPMS proposes sex, age and disability data disaggregation.

Sex disaggregated data means separate population statistics for males and females.  “Gender” implies a more nuanced disaggregation and should be used for qualitative data.

Age-disaggregated data separates population statistics by age groups.  The CPMS proposes the following ages groups for data disaggregation for children:  infants (0-2 years), toddlers (3-5 years), early school age (6-8 years), pre-adolescence (9-10 years), early adolescence (10-14 years), middle adolescence (15-17 years).  It is recognised that a wide variety of age groupings are used among different agencies and governments.

The CPMS proposes disability disaggregated data follows the recommendations and tools provided by the Washington Group on Disability Statistics. The collection of qualitative data on barriers and risks faced by children with disabilities is as well required.


See Humanitarian crisis.

Disaster risk reduction (DRR)

The concept and practice of reducing the risk of disaster through systematic efforts to analyse and manage causal factors. It includes reducing exposure to hazards, lessening the vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness for adverse events. Risks can be caused by both climate (e.g. drought, floods and landslides) and non-climate related disasters (e.g. earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis). DRR contributes to strengthening resilience and therefore to the achievement of sustainable development.


Diversion means the conditional channelling of children in conflict with the law away from judicial proceedings through the development and implementation of procedures, structures and programmes that enable many to be dealt with by non-judicial bodies, thereby avoiding the negative effects of formal judicial proceedings and a criminal record.

Do no harm

The concept of humanitarian agencies avoiding unintended negative consequences for affected persons and not undermining communities’ capacities for peace building and reconstruction. It underscores unintended impacts of humanitarian interventions and is an essential basis for the work of organisations in conflict situations.

Duty bearers

Those responsible for fulfilling the rights of rights-holders.

Early childhood 

Children from 0-8 years. This can be further specified as:
Infants: 0 - 2 years
Pre-school age:  3-5 years
Early school age:  6-8 years.

Early childhood is a critical period when the brain develops most rapidly and has a high capacity for change, and the foundation is laid for health and well-being throughout life. 

Early childhood development (ECD)

A comprehensive approach to policies and programs for children from the prenatal period to eight years of age as well as for their parents, their caregivers and their communities. Its purpose is to uphold children’s right to develop their full cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential.

Early recovery

A multi-faceted process of recovery guided by development principles that builds on humanitarian programmes and encourages sustainable development opportunities. It aims to generate self-sustaining, nationally owned, resilient processes for post-crisis recovery. It encompasses the restoration of basic services, livelihoods, shelter, governance, security and rule of law, environment and social dimensions, including the reintegration of displaced populations. 

Economic recovery

The process of stimulating the growth of an area’s local economy through developing markets, strengthening new and existing enterprises, and creating jobs in the private sector and public institutions, including reconstructing needed infrastructure that will allow for trade and commerce to take place in local, national, regional, and international markets. Economic recovery following conflict or disaster should be a transformative process of building back both better and differently. 


See Humanitarian crisis. 

Emotional maltreatment

Maltreatment that causes harm to the psychological or emotional well-being of the child. This could include restricting a child’s movements, denigration, ridicule, threats and intimidation, discrimination, rejection, caregivers being emotionally unavailable or chronically inattentive to a child and other nonphysical forms of hostile treatment that deny the child an appropriate and supportive environment. Also called psychological maltreatment. 


Occurs when an infectious disease spreads rapidly to many people. See Infectious Disease Outbreak.


An assessment of performance, focused on results (outcomes and impacts) that can be internal or external. Evaluations can provide assessments of what works and why, and highlight intended and unintended results for accountability and learning purposes.


Information on which a judgment or conclusion can be based. In humanitarian work, many different sorts of evidence are used, including subjective and qualitative information. Qualitative information is not necessarily information of a lower quality than quantitative information. ALNAP uses six criteria to judge the quality of evidence used in humanitarian action: “accuracy; representativeness; relevance; generalisability; attribution; and clarity around context and methods”.


When an individual in a position of power and/or trust takes or attempts to take advantage of a child for their own personal benefit, advantage, gratification, or profit. This personal benefit may take different forms: physical, sexual, financial, material, social, military, or political. Exploitation may involve remuneration in cash or in kind (such as social status, political power, documentation, freedom of movement, or access to opportunities, goods or services) to the child or to a third person/s. 

Explosive ordnance (EO)

Items which are defined under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC); Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (APII CCW); Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (Protocol V CCW); and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). This includes for example landmines, unexploded and abandoned explosive ordnance including from cluster munitions, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mortars, shells, grenades, cartridges, ammunition, etc.  See also unexploded ordnance and abandoned explosive ordnance. 

Feedback and reporting mechanism

A formal system established and used to allow recipients of humanitarian action (and in some cases, other crisis-affected populations) to provide information on their experience with a humanitarian agency or the wider humanitarian system. Such information is then used for different purposes, in expectation of a variety of benefits, including taking corrective action to improve some element of the response. Feedback can also be provided informally.  Feedback and reporting mechanisms should designed to be accessible to all children. 

Foster care

Situations where children are cared for in a household outside their family. Fostering is usually understood to be a temporary arrangement, and in most cases the birth parents retain their parental rights and responsibilities. The care arrangement is administered by a competent authority whereby a child is placed in the domestic environment of a family who have been selected, prepared and authorised to provide such care, and are supervised and may be financially and/or non-financially supported in doing so.

  • Traditional or informal fostering refers to situations in which the child lives with a family or other household that may or may not be related to the child’s family. No third party is involved in these arrangements, though they may be endorsed or supported by the local community and may involve well-understood obligations and entitlements.
  • Spontaneous fostering refers to a situation in which a family cares for a child without any prior arrangement. This is a frequent occurrence in humanitarian contexts and may involve a family from a different community than that of the child.
  • Arranged fostering refers to a situation in which a child is cared for by a family as part of an arrangement made by a third party. This arrangement may not be covered by formal legislation.


The social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys. It differs from sex which is defined most often at birth based on biological anatomy.  Non-binary gender identity refers to any gender identity or expression which does not fit the male/female or boy/girl binary.

WHO defines gender to be “the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. The concept of gender includes five important elements: relational, hierarchical, historical, contextual and institutional. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places. When individuals or groups do not “fit” established gender norms they often face stigma, discriminatory practices or social exclusion – all of which adversely affect health.”

Gender-based violence

An umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivations of liberty. These acts can occur in public or in private. Some harmful practices, such as child marriage and FGM/C, are also forms of GBV. GBV has significant and long-lasting impacts on the health and psychological, social and economic well-being of women and girls and their families and communities.  See also Sexual Violence and Sexual and Gender  Based Violence.

Gender transformative approach

Interventions that are designed to address the root causes of gender-based discrimination and hence question gendered power relations.

Harmful practice




Traditional and non-traditional practices which inflict pain, cause physical or psychological harm and ‘disfigurement’ of children. In many societies, these practices are considered a social norm and defended by perpetrators and community members on the basis of tradition, religion, or superstition. Harmful practices perpetrated primarily against girls, like female genital mutilation and child marriage, are also forms of gender-based violence.

Potentially damaging physical events, natural phenomenon or human activity that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption or environmental damage. Some definitions suggest hazards are dangers that can be foreseen but not avoided.

Hazardous work

Work which, by its nature or by the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety and morals of children, and which must be prohibited for children under the age of 18 years (even when this is above the general minimum working age). The ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation, 1999 (No. 190), the non-binding guidelines that accompany Convention No. 182, give some indication as to what work should be prohibited. It urges member States to give consideration to:

  • Work that exposes children to physical, emotional or sexual abuse;
  • Work underground, under water, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces;
  • Work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involves the manual handling or transport of heavy loads;
  • Work in an unhealthy environment, which may, for example, expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes; or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health; and
  • Work under particularly difficult conditions, such as work for long hours or during the night, or work that does not allow for the possibility of returning home each day.

Human rights / child rights

Rights that every human being is entitled to enjoy simply by virtue of being human. They identify the minimum conditions for living with dignity that apply to all of us. They are universal and inalienable: they cannot be taken away.  As human beings, children are human rights holders.  Additionally, they have a specific set of human rights – often referred to as child rights – pertaining to persons under the age of 18 and enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989.

Humanitarian action

The objectives of humanitarian action are to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during and in the aftermath of man-made crises and natural disasters, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations. Humanitarian action has two inextricably linked dimensions: protecting people and providing assistance. Humanitarian action is rooted in humanitarian principles - humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence. See Humanitarian response.

Humanitarian actors

Wide range of authorities, communities, organizations, agencies and inter-agency networks that all combine to enable international humanitarian assistance to be channelled to the places and people in need of it. They include UN agencies, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local government institutions and donor agencies. The actions of these organizations are guided by key humanitarian principles: humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality.

Humanitarian crisis 

Serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts that exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources and therefore requires urgent action. It can refer to slow- and rapid-onset situations, rural and urban environments and complex political emergencies in all countries.

Humanitarian response

One dimension of humanitarian action. It focuses on the provision of services and public assistance during or immediately after a specific emergency in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety, maintain human dignity and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected. It should be governed by the key humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. It can be used interchangeably with Humanitarian assistance and Intervention.  Response all includes mitigation efforts.  See also Mitigation.


A significant deviation or loss in body functioning or structure. Impairments may be either temporary or permanent, and people may have multiple impairments.


A rights-based approach to programming, aiming to ensure all people who may be at risk of being excluded have equal access to basic services and a voice in the development and implementation of those services. It requires that organisations make dedicated efforts to address and remove barriers to access services. Inclusion also refers more broadly to providing a welcoming environment for all children and designing a service to meet the needs of a diversity of children.

Infectious disease outbreak

When an infectious disease occurs in greater numbers than expected in a community or region or during a season. An outbreak may occur in one community or even extend to several countries.

Informal justice system

Forms of justice enforcement and dispute resolution that are not an integrated part of the formal justice system and which have a degree of effectiveness, stability and legitimacy within a designated local constituency. Most often based on a normative framework deriving from tradition/custom, and/or religion, on occasions with integrated elements from the national legal framework and/or international human rights standards. In many cases informal justice systems draw on a variety of legal sources.  Also called customary justice systems.

Informal settlements

Areas where groups of housing units have been constructed on land that the occupants have no legal claim to or occupy illegally; or unplanned settlements and areas where housing is not in compliance with current planning and building regulations (unauthorized housing).

Informed assent




Informed consent

The expressed willingness to participate in services. Informed assent is sought from children who are by nature or law too young to give consent, but who are old enough to understand and agree to participate in services. When obtaining informed assent, practitioners must share, in a child-friendly manner, information on: services and options available, potential risks and benefits, personal information to be collected and how it will be used, and confidentiality and its limits.

Voluntary agreement of an individual who has the capacity to take a decision, who understands what they are being asked to agree to, and who exercises free choice. When obtaining informed consent, practitioners must share, in a child-friendly manner, information on: services and options available, potential risks and benefits, personal information to be collected and how it will be used, and confidentiality and its limits. Informed consent is usually not sought from children under age 15. See also Informed assent.

Integrated approaches



Internally displaced persons

An integrated approach allows two or more sectors to work together towards a shared programme outcome(s), based on capacities and joint needs identification and analysis, and, thus, promotes equal benefits or mutually beneficial processes and outcomes among all involved sectors. See Pillar 4: Standards to work across sectors.

Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border.

International human rights law

The body of international treaties and established legal rules (including customary international law) that govern States' obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.

International humanitarian law

Besides the provisions of human rights law, situations of armed conflict are also governed by international humanitarian law. The specific provisions that apply depend on whether the conflict is international or non-international (civil) in character. Various instruments, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols, regulate the conduct of hostilities and place duties on both State and non-State armed actors.

International refugee law

A set of rules and procedures that aims to protect, firstly, persons seeking asylum from persecution and, secondly, those recognised as refugees under the relevant instruments.

Kinship care

The full-time care, nurturing and protection of a child by someone other than a parent who is related to the child by family ties or by a significant prior relationship.

Informal kinship care is any private arrangement provided in a family, whereby the child is looked after by kin.

Formal kinship care describes arrangements that have been ordered or authorized by an administrative body or judicial authority; it usually involves an assessment of the family for the child and the provision of some kind of continuing support and monitoring.

L3 Emergency

Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) Level 3 (or L3) Responses. An L3 emergency is the classification for the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis. An L3 declaration means that a system-wide mobilization is required to significantly scale up a humanitarian response and improve overall assistance.

Level 1 emergencies are responded to at country level, and Level 2 emergencies are responded to at regional level.

Life skills

Skills and abilities for positive behaviour that enable individuals to adapt to and deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. They help people think, feel, act and interact as individuals and as participating members of society. Life skills can be general (for example, analysing and using information, and communicating and interacting effectively with others), or they may concern specific topics such as risk reduction, environmental protection, health promotion, HIV prevention, prevention of violence and peace-building. The need for life skills often increases in situations of crisis, requiring increased emphasis on building life skills that are relevant and which apply to the emergency and local contexts.


The capabilities, assets, opportunities and activities required to be able to make one's living. Assets include financial, natural, physical, social and human resources, for example: stores, land and access to markets or transport systems. A household's livelihood is sustainable or secure when it can cope with and recover from shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and productive assets.


Any action, including the failure to act, that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Maltreatment is commonly used as an umbrella term for abuse and neglect.

The World Health Organisation defines child maltreatment as "the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.”  In the context of the CPMS, it is expanded to cover harm inflicted by those unknown to the child.

Mental health conditions

A wide range of disorders that affect an individual’s cognition, emotion and/or behaviour, and interfere with one’s ability to learn and function in the family, at work and in society. Most of these conditions can be successfully treated. They include mental and substance use problems, severe psychological distress, intellectual disabilities and suicide risk. For pragmatic reasons, some neurological conditions such as epilepsy and dementia are usually part of programmes for mental health conditions in humanitarian emergencies.

Mental health

A state of psychological well-being (not merely the absence of a mental health condition) in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community. 

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS)

Any type of local or outside support that aims to protect or promote psychosocial well-being and prevent or treat mental health conditions. MHPSS programmes aim to (1) reduce and prevent harm, (2) strengthen resilience to recover from adversity, and (3) improve the care conditions that enable children and families to survive and thrive. See mental health, psychosocial and child well-being.

Minimum standards

Specify the minimum qualitative levels to be attained in humanitarian response.


Reducing harmful impacts or consequences. For humanitarian action, it may include physical infrastructural measures as well as improvements to the environment, strengthening livelihoods or increasing public knowledge and awareness. See Response.


At programme level, monitoring is an on-going, internal process of data collection focused on inputs and outputs. At coordination level, monitoring both the situation and the response is central to optimizing the impact of efforts to protect children in emergencies.  Situation monitoring is the on-going and systematic data collection and analysis of child protection risks, concerns, violations and capacities in a given humanitarian context. Response monitoring is the on-going and coordinated measurement of the humanitarian response in a humanitarian context (i.e. activities planned and carried out by humanitarian actors). See Standard 6: Child protection monitoring.


The intentional or unintentional failure of a caregiver – individual, community, or institution (including the State) with clear responsibility by custom or law for the well-being of the child – to:
(a) protect a child from actual or potential harm to the child’s safety, well-being, dignity, and development or
(b) to fulfil that child’s rights to survival, development, and well-being
when they have the capacity, ability and resources to do so.
Harm may be visible or invisible. An act may be categorised as neglectful whether or not the caregiver intends to harm the child.


The principle that unfair distinctions should not be made between children, people or communities on any grounds, including age, sex, gender, race, colour, ethnicity, national or social origin, sexual orientation, HIV status, language, civil documentation, religion, disability, health status, political or other opinion, or other status. It does not mean that everyone should be treated in the same way, but is about equality of access and outcomes, requiring different types of assistance and support based on actual needs and capacities.  See Principle 2


The processes and activities that allow crisis-affected people to play an active role in all decision-making processes that affect them. Real participation includes all groups, including the most vulnerable and marginalized. It enables people and communities to take part in decision-making processes and to be involved in actions on issues that are of concern to them. It is a way of recognising dignity, identifying and mobilizing community resources, and building consensus and support. Participation is a right and is voluntary.  See Child participation and Principle 3.


Activities and measures taken in advance of a crisis to ensure an effective response to the impact of hazards, including issuing timely and effective early warnings and the temporary evacuation of people and property from threatened locations.


Adapted from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) definition of prevention:

  • Primary Prevention entails addressing root causes of child protection risks among the population (or a sub-set of it) to reduce the likelihood of abuse, neglect, exploitation or violence against children.
  • Secondary Prevention entails addressing specific source of threats and/or vulnerabilities of a child who is identified as being at particularly high risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation or violence, due to characteristics of the child, family and/or environment.
  • Tertiary Prevention entails reducing the longer-term impact of harm and reducing the chance of recurring harm to a child who has already suffered abuse, neglect, exploitation or violence.

Primary data

Any data that is collected directly from its original source for the objective in question. The objective of primary data collection is to establish a reliable source of information from the affected populations and areas, including where the affected population might have moved to. Primary data is only collected when it does not exist elsewhere. See also Secondary data.


All activities aimed at ensuring the full and equal respect for the rights of all individuals, regardless of age, sex, gender, ethnicity, social or political affiliation, religious beliefs, or other status. It goes beyond the immediate life-saving activities that are often the focus during an emergency. Protection is in accordance with the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law, namely Human rights law, International humanitarian law, and Refugee law. 

Child Protection is an Area of Responsibility within the Protection Cluster within the Cluster system.

Protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA)

Term used by the UN and NGO community to refer to measures taken to prevent, mitigate and respond to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by their own staff and associated personnel, including community volunteers and government officials engaged in the provision of humanitarian assistance.

Protection mainstreaming

The process of incorporating protection principles and promoting meaningful access, safety and dignity in humanitarian aid. The following elements must be taken into account in all humanitarian activities:
(1) Prioritize safety and dignity and avoid causing harm: prevent and minimize as much as possible any unintended negative effects of your intervention which can increase people's vulnerability to both physical and psychosocial risks;
(2) Meaningful Access: arrange for people’s access to assistance and services - in proportion to need and without any barriers (e.g. discrimination). Pay special attention to individuals and groups who may be particularly vulnerable or have difficulty accessing assistance and services;
(3) Accountability: set-up appropriate mechanisms through which affected populations can measure the adequacy of interventions, and address concerns and complaints; and

(4) Participation and empowerment: support the development of self-protection, capacities and assist people to claim their rights, including – not exclusively – the rights to shelter, food, water and sanitation, health, and education. 

Psychological distress

Unpleasant feelings or emotions that can impact your level of functioning and ability to navigate and participate in social interactions. It is psychological discomfort that interferes with your activities of daily living. Psychological distress can result in negative views of the environment, others, and the self. Sadness, anxiety, distraction, disruption in relationships with others and some symptoms of mental illness are manifestations of psychological distress.


The interaction between social aspects (such as interpersonal relationships and social connections, social resources, social norms, social values, social roles, community life, spiritual and religious life) and psychological aspects (such as emotions, thoughts, behaviours, knowledge and coping strategies) that contribute to overall well-being.

Psychosocial disabilities

Persons with psychosocial disabilities include those who have what is known in medical terms as ‘mental health conditions’, and who face significant barriers to participating in society on an equal basis with others. Persons with psychosocial disabilities may experience different thoughts, emotions and behaviour compared with other people. Rights- based language refers to psychosocial disability, in recognition of the impact of physical and social barriers, including discrimination, on equal access to opportunities for participation.

Qualitative data

Data collected through case studies, interviews, etc. to provide description, experience and meaning.


In the humanitarian sector, quality means effectiveness (impact), efficiency (timeliness and cost of a response or service), appropriateness (taking account of rights, needs, culture, age, gender, disabilities and context), and equity (non-discrimination and equal access) of elements of a humanitarian response.. It requires assessments and feedback from stakeholders on what an agency is doing well and how it can learn how to do better. It means measuring outcomes against recognised mechanisms and/or standards.  See Accountability.

Quantitative data

Data focused on numbers and statistics.  

Reasonable accommodation

Necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments where needed to ensure children with disabilities the enjoyment of equal rights as other children.  Modifications are made in consultation with the child and family.  Examples include reorganizing school or work activities to facilitate access (remote work, home-based education), enabling access to support personnel (e.g. sign language interpretation in a legal process) always within the boundaries of undue or disproportionate burden. Even when accessibility is considered in service design, budget should be planned for the provision of reasonable accommodation for punctual cases.  Denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes discrimination. 


The process of directing a child or family to another service provider because the assistance required is beyond the expertise or scope of work of the current service provider.  Community members, professionals in contact with children (teachers, police, etc.) and other humanitarian actors can direct a child or their family to social services or child protection workers in cases of suspected or actual abuse, neglect, exploitation or violence against children.  Caseworkers in a case management system also make referral to request formally services from another agency (e.g. cash and voucher assistance, health care, etc.) through an established procedure and/or form. 


All persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of a well-founded fear of persecution on one of the grounds listed in the 1951 Convention or because a conflict, generalised violence or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and who, as a result, require international protection.


Children’s ability to overcome the damaging effects of adversities, their adaptive capacity to find ways to realize their rights, good health, development, and well-being.  More generally in humanitarian context, resilience refers to  the ability of an individual, community, society or country to anticipate, withstand and recover from adversity - be it a disaster or crisis.


See Humanitarian Response.

Restorative justice

A way of responding to criminal behaviour which emphasises repairing the harm caused by the crime and ‘restoring’ harmony as much as possible between offender, victim/survivor and society. It mainly involves some form of mediation and conflict resolution and often results in apologies, reparation, compensation and community service.


Any form of physical or psychological abuse, harassment or assault perpetrated by a different offender to the initial victimisation. Re-victimization can also result from inadequate or non-professional handling of victims by protection or security agencies and institutions. It refers to a pattern wherein the victim of abuse and/or crime has a statistically higher tendency to be victimised again, either shortly thereafter or much later in adulthood in the case of abuse as a child. Research has shown that this pattern is particularly notable in cases of sexual victimisation.


In humanitarian action, risk is the likelihood of harm occurring from a hazard and the potential losses to lives, livelihoods, assets and services. It is the probability of external and internal threats occurring in combination with the existence of individual vulnerabilities. Risk is mitigated by protection against physical hazards, reduction of structural and non-structural risks, resources and skills for disaster-preparedness, and resilience and coping skills. 

For child protection, risk refers to the likelihood that violations of and threats to children’s rights will manifest and cause harm to children. Defining risk takes into account the type of violations and threats, as well as children’s vulnerability and resilience. See Hazard.

Risk assessment

A methodology used to review a hazard, how it may cause harm, and determine the probability of occurrence of harm and the severity of that harm. In child protection, it is used to determine the nature and extent of risk by taking into account potential hazards and existing conditions of vulnerability that together could harm children and families. Child protection risk assessments should also take account the safety and protection of the child, family and community and their capacity to resist or recover.

Safe spaces

Interventions used by humanitarian agencies to increase children’s access to safe environments and promote their psychosocial well-being.  These include for instance Child-Friendly Spaces and Women and Girls Safe Spaces.


The condition of being protected from danger, risk or injury. Refers to people's physical and personal well-being and integrity as well as to their freedom from physical, environmental, social, spiritual, political, emotional or psychological harm.

Secondary data

Data collected by someone other than the user. 

Secondary trauma or stress

Changes in psychological, physical or spiritual well-being experienced by practitioners over time as a result of seeing and listening to other’s distressing experiences. Practitioners may become overwhelmed by what they see and hear. Depending on the nature and degree of their exposure, witnesses may also suffer primary trauma. Secondary trauma may also affect family members and close associates of trauma victims as a result of the closeness of the relationship. 

Separated children

Children separated from both parents or from their previous legal or customary primary caregivers, but not necessarily from other relatives. These may, therefore, include children accompanied by other adult family members. 


The biological attributes of a person, and, therefore, generally unchanging and universal.  See Gender

Sexual abuse

Actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. See Sexual violence against children.

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)

Any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will that are based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and can take the form of a denial of resources or access to services. It inflicts harm on women, girls, men and boys. 

Sexual exploitation

Any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. 

Sexual violence

Any form of sexual activity with a child by an adult or by another child who has power over the child. Sexual violence includes both activities that involve body contact and that without body contact.  Also referred to as child sexual abuse.

Social norms

Rules of behaviour that are generally expected and supported in a given context.  Abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence can be prevented by positive social norms or can be upheld by social norms, such as the ‘right’ of parents to hit their children.  Humanitarian situations can provide opportunities to evaluate and change social norms.


Any designated representative of an organisation, including national, international and permanent or short-term employees, as well as volunteers and consultants.


A person, group or institution with interests in a project or programme.

Status offence

Acts that would not be criminal if they were committed by adults but can involve arrest and detention for children. Examples include curfew violations, school truancy, running away, begging, bad or anti-social behaviour, gang association, and even simple disobedience.


A relationship that supports the child protection worker's, including caseworker’s, technical competence and practice, promotes well-being and enables effective and supportive monitoring.


meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It includes being economically viable, environmentally sound and socially just over the long term.

Threat and violations

Something that may happen (threats) and something that has happened or is happening (violations) of children’s rights based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Unaccompanied children

Children who have been separated from both parents and other relatives and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so.

Unexploded ordnance

Explosive ordnance that has been primed, fused, armed, or otherwise prepared for use and used in an armed conflict. It may have been fired, dropped, launched or projected and should have exploded but failed to do so.   See also Explosive ordnance and Abandoned explosive ordnance.

Universal design

The design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. All services and facilities in humanitarian action should use universal design.

Urban contexts

The definition of ‘urban’ varies from country to country. An urban area can be defined by one or more of the following: administrative criteria or political boundaries (e.g., area within the jurisdiction of a municipality or town committee), a threshold population size (where the minimum for an urban settlement is typically in the region of 2,000 people, although this varies globally between 200 and 50,000), population density, economic function (e.g., where a significant majority of the population is not primarily engaged in agriculture, or where there is surplus employment) or the presence of urban characteristics (e.g., paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage).

Violence against children

All acts that involve the intentional use of power or verbal or physical force, threatened or actual, against a child or against a group of children that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in actual or potential harm to the child or children’s safety, well-being, dignity, and development. Possible forms of harm include injury; death; disability; decreased psychological, psychosocial, or mental health; or maldevelopment.


The extent to which some people may be disproportionately affected by the disruption of their physical environment and social support mechanisms following disaster or conflict. Vulnerability is specific to each person and each situation.

For child protection, vulnerability refers to individual, family, community and societal characteristics that reduce children’s ability to withstand adverse impact from violations of and threats to their rights.


See Child well-being.

Worst forms of child labour

A term defined in ILO Convention No. 182. These forms of child labour must be prohibited for all people under the age of 18 years and includes the following:

  • All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
  • Using, procuring, or offering a child for prostitution, the production of pornography, or for pornographic performance;
  • Using, procuring, or offering a child for illicit activities—in particular, for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; and
  • Work which, by its nature or because of the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of the child.  See also Hazardous work.

Ws - Who does What, Where and When (and for Whom)

The 4Ws are a coordination tool used to provide key information regarding which organizations (Who) are carrying out which activities (What) in which locations (Where) in Which period (When). This information is essential to child protection and other sector cluster coordinators and organizations to coordinate their activities effectively and ensure that humanitarian needs are met without gaps or duplication.  The 5Ws add the element of "for Whom" to the 4Ws.

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