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The events that characterise complex emergencies: situations of armed conflict, forced migration and natural disasters, can pose a serious risk of violation of children's rights. Psychosocial interventions in such contexts are generally implemented from a ‘needs’ perspective, and children's human rights are not integrated into the conceptual framework. This article describes the legal and moral obligations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and outlines the process of human rights based programming and evaluation. It is suggested that psychosocial interventions would better meet children's needs and rights if planning, implementation and evaluation were informed by the guiding principles of the CRC.