On Universal Children’s Day, UN says violence against young hobbles development
Drawing a direct link between violence against children and poverty, United Nations officials marked Universal Children’s Day with a call to make child protection a priority in the global development agenda for the decades to come.
“Violence against children does more than harm individual children, it undermines the fabric of society, affecting productivity, well-being, and prosperity,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake said. “No society can afford to ignore violence against children.”
UNICEF noted that violence against children takes many forms, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and harsh disciplinary practices, and often occurs in situations of war and conflict. It can inflict both physical harm and psychological damage on children.
“Too often, abuse occurs in the shadows: undetected, unreported, and - even worse – too often accepted,” Mr. Lake said. “We all have a responsibility to ‘make the invisible, visible’ – from Governments enacting and enforcing laws to prohibit violence against children, to private citizens refusing to be silent when they witness or suspect abuse.”
Universal Children’s Day marks the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and five independent UN child rights experts called on Governments to make protection from violence a priority in the post-2015 development agenda and back their commitments with proper funding.
The agenda will succeed the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme adopted by a UN Summit in 2000 and scheduled to end in 2015.
“Every day, millions of children are affected by conflict, suffer from violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation at home, in schools, in institutions, in the community and in places where they work. These situations are not inevitable and they can be effectively prevented,” the experts said.
Countries affected by violence tend to lag behind, with higher levels of poverty and malnutrition, poor health and school performance and special risks for vulnerable children including those who migrate or belong to minorities. Violence is often associated with poor rule of law and a culture of impunity. It has far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital.
“The post-2015 development agenda should address inequalities that heighten the risks of violence, abuse and exploitation of children. Governments should meet their obligation to protect children from violence,” the experts emphasized.
The five experts `are: Kirsten Sandberg, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children; Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and Susan Bissell, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection.