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Invisible Children

ISSUE: At the extremes, children can become invisible, in effect disappearing from view within their families, communities and societies and to governments, donors, civil society, the media and even other children.

For millions of children, the main cause of their invisibility is violations of their right to protection. Firm evidence of the extent of these violations is hard to acquire, but several factors appear central to increasing the risk of children becoming invisible: the lack or loss of formal identification; inadequate State protection for children without parental care; the exploitation of children through trafficking and forced labour; and premature entry of children into adult roles such as marriage, labour and combat. Children affected by these factors include those not registered at birth, refugees and displaced children, orphans, street children, children in detention, children in early marriages, hazardous labour or combat, and trafficked and indentured children.

ACTION: Making children visible requires creating a protective environment for them. The key elements of a protective environment include:

  • Strengthening the capacity of families and communities to care for and protect children.

  • Government commitment to child protection by providing budgetary support and social welfare policies targeted at the most excluded and invisible children.

  • Ratification and implementation of legislation, both national and international, concerning children's rights and protection.

  • Prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against children, and avoidance of criminalizing child victims.

  • An open discussion by civil society and the media of attitudes, prejudices, beliefs and practices that facilitate or lead to abuses.

  • Ensuring that children know their rights, are encouraged to express them and are given vital life skills and information to protect themselves from abuse and exploitation.

  • Availability of basic social services to all children without discrimination.

  • Monitoring, transparent reporting and oversight of abuses and exploitation.

Key to building the protective environment is responsibility: All members of society can contribute to ensuring that children do not become invisible. While families and the State have the primary responsibility for protecting children, ongoing and sustained efforts by individuals and organizations at all levels are essential to break patterns of abuse.