Ending Violence against the World’s Children Post 2015: Targets and Tempered Optimism

by Orla Kelly

“…sustainable development, without the protection of children from violence and abuse, is impossible.”

Get InvolvedThe mission to end all forms of violence and abuse against the world’s children will likely be included in the post 2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the form of the following targets:

  • the elimination of violence, abuse and torture against all children (16.2)
  • the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls (5.2)
  • the elimination of harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM (5.3)
  • the end of child labor in all forms including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and the universal provision of a non-violent and inclusive learning environments (4 a).

Last week, an informal meeting hosted by the UN Foundation convened representatives from national governments, intergovernmental organizations such as UNICEF and the WHO, and academic institutions to discuss how to advance child survival in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The event centered on a report recently published by New York University’s Center on International Cooperation entitled If Not Now, When? Ending Violence against the World’s Children.

The inclusion of these targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) reflects a realization by national and international actors that sustainable development, without the protection of children from violence and abuse, is impossible. The appetite of the international community to address the pervasive problem of violence against children has fostered a sense of cautious optimism about the attainability of this goal. However, attendees at the workshop and indeed the international community more generally are keenly aware that critical groundwork must be completed before first working day of the SDGs on January 1, 2016.

First, and perhaps most critically, heads of states from countries at various levels of economic development will need to step forward and become champions of this cause. The leadership of “Pathfinder Countries”[i] is critical to transforming aspirations into sustained action. These countries have the potential to act as a beacon for the international community through long-term advocacy and the identification and dissemination of best practices.

Second, the elimination of violence against children is possible only if strategies and resources are directed towards the most vulnerable. As noted by the UNICEF report marking the 25th anniversary of the widely embraced Convention of the Rights of the Child, while progress is being made on child rights issues, there exist unacceptable gradations of rights on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and location. As such, real progress depends on concerted national and international efforts to reach the marginalized, particularly those whose vulnerability is increased through migration, national disasters, and conflict.

A third challenge is the urgent need to secure a substantial increase in child protection funding. At the international level examples abound of bilateral and multilateral aid commitments that have not been fulfilled. If the international community is serious about ending violence against children, funding commitments need to be realized ahead of the January 2016 deadline. At the national level, budgets will need to allocate significant resources to the implementation of far-reaching child protection policies. At present, many countries exert onerous child protection mandates on departments of social welfare that are desperately under resourced.

Finally, children and adolescents need to be involved in the process of setting national child protection implementation plans. In keeping with the mandate of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, national and international action plans to address violence should enable children and adolescents to advocate for themselves. Young people, particularly those who themselves have been victimized, are best poised help formulate response strategies. They also have the cultural currency to inspire behavior change in their own communities.

Putting in place a robust framework for action gives countries the best opportunity to make meaningful strides in addressing child violence and neglect throughout the course of the SDGs. Failure to act will jeopardize the health and well-being of another generation of the world’s children.

Related Content: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015

[i] See Steven, D. 2014. If Not Now, When? Ending Violence Against the World’s Children. Center for International Development, New York University.