By Tamara Tutnjevic Gorman*
NEW YORK, Jul 16 2019 (IPS) – Despite what you might have heard, things are getting better, every year. We are making amazing progress on fighting diseases, reducing the preventable deaths of children, and investing huge amounts to advance medicine and knowledge and to create better living conditions.
However, this progress is too slow for some of the world’s most vulnerable children; those who have yet to experience the progress of the past 20 years. It’s hard to believe, but governments still allow violence against children to continue.
Approximately 1.7 billion children still experience some form of violence every year. To understand the reasons why, World Vision has investigated the commitments by 20 governments to address violence against children and has found that, while there has been tremendous progress in prohibiting violence, there are still too many gaps in legislation.
Cracks in laws, data, coordination, accountability and funding are becoming big gaps that ruin children’s lives and futures.
As a global community, we made exciting promises to end violence against all children 30 years ago when we adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In those 30 years, we’ve developed laws and policies, come to better understanding about the complexity of violence and its forms, discovered and agreed to evidence-based solutions, and created a movement that has shone a spotlight on the issue.
We renewed our commitment to ending violence against children by committing to the Sustainable Development Goals four years ago. Yet, the inconsistent stats we have and self-reported data show that violence against children is not reducing at the pace necessary to meet the important target of ending all forms of violence against children.
This means today’s children, and their children, will live with violence’s life-long consequences – pushing them to life at the margins of society: severe health problems, difficulties acquiring an education and a decent job, and relationship issues. The lack of decisive action to end violence against children is simply not good enough.
Where legal bans exist, they do not yet cover all forms of violence. Ambitious declarations about National Plans of Action are not followed by the resources necessary to implement them. Fragmented initiatives are not enough to support victims, or more importantly, to ensure prevention.
There is some reporting on progress, but far too little new data to report on. And out of all the children experiencing violence, far too few have been consulted on the policies that affect their lives.
World Vision believes that it takes each and every one of us to end violence against children. A critical step in the right direction is for governments to make all forms of violence illegal and to put in place a comprehensive set of national laws and policies that provide for strong prevention and response measures.
The lack of commitment to zero tolerance is perhaps the most worrying. Government policies often turn a blind eye to socially or traditionally acceptable corporal punishment in schools, beating at home, child marriage and more.
Millions of children are unnecessarily drawn into a cycle of violence because of the failure to prevent it. When a child survives such violence and doesn’t get justice or appropriate support, the message they receive from authorities is that violence is permitted, or even condoned by those in power. This sends a powerful message that as society we have agreed to accept certain levels of violence.
Moreover, when families or communities experience crisis due to conflicts or natural disasters, the boundaries of what violence is considered acceptable tend to stretch. This makes it difficult to stop. Before we know it, violence can become a way of life. As a global community, we all must do more to plug the gaps that persist.
As governments at the High-Level Political Forum (July 16-19) present on progress so far and work on plans for the future, it is important that they address the seven cracks that have been identified in current efforts to end violence against children. This means they must commit to:
- Prohibiting all forms of violence against children in all settings.
2. Investing in prevention programs and reporting mechanisms.
3. Being a global champion for the prevention of violence against children.
4. Increasing funding and transparency in budgets allocated to interventions to end violence against children.
5. Prioritising and investing in regular data collection.
6. Mandating, resourcing and planning for child consultations in policy development, reviews, monitoring and reporting.
7. Increasing government delivery of community education and awareness campaigns.
The 193 UN Member States have incredibly diverse energy, expertise and resources. We are calling for each and every one of them to join us and become champions for ending violence against children. It takes political leadership, and the time to drive action is now
To read the full report Small Cracks, Big Gaps: How governments allow violence against children to persist click here.
*Tamara Tutnjevic Gorman is Policy Manager – Ending Violence against Children, World Vision