Protection, development, progress: this is the trilogy of promises carried by the international framework for protecting young people. Based on the analysis of the unicefUnfairy Tales project videos, this article aims to unveil the fierce battle over the meaning of children for the international arena. Specifically, how the compelling claim for an international responsibility to protect children contains a promise of a progressive future to global politics. The focus is on the discursive manoeuvres that articulate the so called ‘children on the move’ as the epitome of vulnerability, positioning them as requiring protection; and, at the same time, as the image of a future at risk, threatened by violence and the prospects of an uncivilised becoming. We intend to discuss how this ambivalent understanding of childhood might produce limits to contemporary application of child protection practices.