Ryian*, 15, wears his medal for coming first place in the Za'atari marathon outside his home in Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, Jordan.

Four times Britain has led by example, and one way it can do it again

Only 42% of Britons think that the UK sets a ‘good example’ to the world in protecting children in war. That’s according to YouGov polling commissioned by Save the Children, which also shows that only half of us think that Britain has ‘some’ power to help protect children in conflict.

But here at Save the Children, we believe that Britain has the power to help children in conflict, and that when the UK does the right thing, other countries in the world sit up and take notice.

Here are four times when Britain has led the way and helped make the world better than it was…

The Magna Carta

The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents ever written. Its name means ‘Great Charter of Liberties’, and it was written to limit King John’s right to rule in 1215. Since then, its words have inspired people around the world and helped make the case for many freedoms we now benefit from, including the right to a fair trial, and pointed the way to the creating a parliament to represent people’s needs and views. Nelson Mandela even referred to the Magna Carta in his own trial as he campaigned to end Apartheid in South Africa.


In another recent YouGov poll, the creation of the NHS came out as the top event that made people proud to be British. The NHS was the star of the opening of London’s 2012 Olympic games, and is quite rightly regarded as a national treasure, with 69% of Brits saying it makes them proud to be British. To this day, the NHS and its core principle of universal healthcare for all is copied all over the world.

The Rights of the Child

It was a Briton – Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children – who wrote the very first ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Child’ in 1923. Since then, her Declaration influenced the creation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, the most globally ratified Treaty in the world. The treaty gives every child key rights, including the right to education, the right to protection, and the right to a home, amongst many others. These rights, first laid out by Eglantyne, are now shared around the world, and people all over the globe fight to protect them every single day.

Our commitment to providing life-saving aid

Most recently, the UK Government enshrined in law a commitment to set aside 0.7% of our gross national income to providing life-saving aid to those who need it most. Since then, countries such as France and Ireland have committed to follow our lead, helping to tackle some of the most difficult situations facing people in the world today.

And what do all these things have in common?

People campaigned for them!

All these changes that Britain has made, and all the times these ideas have spread around the world, were because people spoke out and convinced those in charge to act – from the Barons of the Magna Carta speaking out against King John, to the British public who spoke out to convince the Government to enshrine 0.7% in law.

Which is what makes it so surprising that our survey found just 8% of people think they have an ‘important’ role to play in protecting children in war. We believe that everyone has a role to play – in fact, your role is absolutely vital!

One more thing Britain can do…

We know that Britain has an important role to play in protecting children in conflict. And we believe that if Britain steps up, the rest of the world will follow our example – just like they have countless times in the past.

That’s why we’re calling on the Government to come up with a plan to protect children in conflict by publishing a new Protection of Civilians Strategy.

We think that if Britain steps up, not only will it save children’s lives around the globe, it will convince other governments to do the same, and in turn protect the 420 million children worldwide affected by conflict today.

But we also know that the Government only steps up when its own people tell them to. It’s going to take all of us, speaking out and taking action all over the country to persuade the Government to act.

Over 60,000 people across the country have already made their voices heard on this issue – will you join them?

Leave a Reply


  • Yvonne Gateley

    We must do more to protect innocent civilians in war zones, especially children.


    Not only what we do. But why Wars..? Why Children suffer.?-Something must be done by G7.

  • Pamela Wheeler

    We need to protect every child.

  • All these predecessor grantings of rights are, indeed, of inestimable importance. Would it also be worth taking into account the UN and EU maintenance of the Charter of Human Rights, also originating from the UK? In another of my campaigning interests, particularly the upholding of good democracies, I have proposed the idea of many sovereign country’s constitutions being based on Human Rights, as a spine for the creation of good law and good governance. Such good governance would have no place at all for the mistreatment of children, and, it would provide for their wellbeing instead. Thus, Human Rights could be another important thread in the campaigning efforts of ‘Save the Children’?

  • Hugh Fitzpatrick

    We only have one Planet and the Children on this Planet are our Future, no matter where they come from on this Planet!

  • emily willcox

    This is a really worthwhile commitment and one that our government must get behind.

  • Maureen Taylor

    Children and young people are the future of the world. Children and young people living in war- torn places, lose their childhood, as well as possibly family, home and health.

    They deserve more.

  • Georgette Ratman

    We are so fortunate to live in this liberal, democratic country. We should help those less fortunate than ourselves!

  • Sally Lovett

    Graça Machel prepared a comprehensive – and moving report – on this matter over 20 years ago for the United Nations (Graça Machel, Promotion & Protection of the Rights of Children: Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. United Nations General Assembly A/51/306, 26 August 1996). Has anything changed as a result of her report? War and armed conflict have a devastating effect on children in both the short and long term. I wholeheartedly support this initiative which should aim to complement Machel’s earlier work. If anyone doubts that we have an obligation to protect children from armed conflict and warfare, they could begin by asking the children of Syria and Yemen.