A meeting convened yesterday at UNICEF's New York headquarters sought to ensure that the issue of violence against children be placed on the development agenda after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 26 March 1013 – International experts gathered at UNICEF House yesterday to discuss how to advocate more effectively for the issue of violence against children.
The high-level event, 'The Prevention of Violence Against Children and its Place in the Post-2015 Agenda', was co-chaired by the Governments of Canada and Liberia. Its purpose was to ensure that the issue be explicitly placed on the development agenda after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
"Facing a pandemic"
President of the Canadian International Development Agency Margaret Biggs told the meeting that millions of children suffer from some form of violence, ranging from unsafe child labour to trafficking and domestic violence.
"Millions more are at risk of being involved in the worst forms of child labour, sexual exploitation, trafficking and other forms of violence. And more than 150 million girls under the age of 18 have experienced sexual violence," she said.
"The numbers are staggering. We're facing a pandemic, and we don't know it yet," said United States Government Special Advisor and Senior Coordinator to the United States Agency for International Development Administrator on Children in Adversity Neil Boothby.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Martin Mogwanja told the meeting that violence against children, in all of its forms, is exceedingly difficult to quantify and massively underreported.
"Well over 25 per cent of children report being physically abused. Tragically, only a small proportion of these maltreated children, less than 10 per cent, even in high-income countries, ever come in contact with child protection authorities," he said.
The meeting heard that the issue does not just scar individual lives – children who experience violence are less likely to do well in school and are more likely to engage in risky behaviour – but also has a profound impact on economic development.
"Violence against children slows economic development and erodes human and social capital," said Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children Marta Santos Pais.
Towards a holistic and systemic approach
In 2006, the United Nations Secretary-General issued a report on violence against children that was the first of its kind to try and gain a global understanding of the extent of the problem.
UNICEF and its partners are attempting to make a more compelling case for approaching the issue in a holistic and systemic manner.
"We have the foundations in place. We have the framework. We know what to do," said Ms. Biggs.