Across East Asia and the Pacific, vast numbers of children continue to experience grave violations of their rights and safety. Child protection is a critical issue in the region and one that is an increasingly important part of UNICEF’s work. The most common violations include:
Many of these problems cut across age, sex, race, religion and class. Children may suffer abuse whether their families are rich or poor. Nonetheless, inequality plays a role. Programmes and services that may help prevent violations or provide remedies are less available to the poor and marginalized.
For this reason, and because of the range and complexity of child protection issues, UNICEF advocates the development of national child protection systems or stronger child and family welfare systems, much like the education and health systems that countries established decades ago. This approach is more comprehensive than dealing with each protection issue separately. It requires collaboration from legal and regulatory systems, social welfare systems, and behaviour change systems.
By nature, a systems-building approach obliges governments to extend a wider range of services to all communities and groups, reducing disparities in the process. A systems-building approach is more effective, resource efficient and sustainable for achieving long-term positive impacts on protecting children. While governments provide leadership, this approach also requires partnerships with a broad range of actors including civil society, faith-based organizations, community leaders, social workers, teachers and law enforcement officers.
Strengthening social work as a profession is critical to building these systems. UNICEF has helped develop training programmes and guidelines for this in several countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Viet Nam.