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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

UNICEF ‘Progress for Children’ report advances child-protection goals

© UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1929/LeMoyne
A 13-year-old girl stands in the yard of the women's prison at Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in front of a concrete wall topped with barbed wire.

By Amy Bennett

NEW YORK, USA, 5 October 2009 – Children around the world are experiencing fundamental infringements of their human rights, and suffering physical and psychological harm that has wide-reaching, sometimes irreparable effects.

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These are some of the conclusions reached by a new UNICEF report, ‘Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection’, released by Executive Director Ann M. Veneman in Tokyo.

“A society cannot thrive if its youngest members are forced into early marriage, abused as sex workers or denied their basic rights,” said Veneman. “Understanding the extent of abuses of children’s rights is a first step to building an environment where children are protected and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Child protection strategy

As the 20th anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 2009 is a critical year for child protection. And while many children’s rights have been protected thanks to the adoption of the CRC, much work remains to be done to create a protective environment for them worldwide.

“This report on harmful practices and abuse of children comes just six weeks before the 20th anniversary,” said Veneman. “The evidence of continuing harm and abuse must inspire the world to greater effort to guarantee the rights of all children, everywhere.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2004-1200/LeMoyne
A boy watches as men with shovels sift through earth on the slope of a deep quarry in eastern Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where children orphaned by conflict prospect for gold.

The ‘Progress for Children’ report has been issued in accordance with UNICEF’s comprehensive strategy for child protection, adopted by the Executive Board in June 2008. Drawing upon detailed data, the new report examines both the short- and long-term implementation of that strategy.

‘Data for action’

Collecting the data means connecting the dots to build a framework comprising laws that protect children; communities that no longer accept harmful practices against children; and governments that are committed to protecting the most vulnerable.

“We need data for action,” said UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Susan Bissell. “If we know that one child is affected by a violation, that’s enough to take action,” she added. “But importantly, we can be sure that what we do is the right thing [if] our actions are based on evidence.”

‘Progress for Children’ presents the data collected so far to build a compelling case for better protection programmes in countries where millions of children are subject to trafficking, live without parental care, or lack proper documentation to attend school and receive basic health care. Additional millions of boys and girls are forced to work under harmful conditions. Still more children face violence or abuse in their homes, schools or communities, in institutions or while in detention.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-0938/Noorani
Kamran (not his real name), 11, is a sex worker from a poor neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan. Behind him, Kabir, another child sex worker, and Amjad (their names also changed) sit in Amjad’s small apartment.

Call to action

Based on the available data, however, some progress is evident. For example, ‘Progress for Children’ notes that in Bangladesh, Guinea and Nepal – three countries where child marriage is prevalent – the median age of marriage is rising, although it is still below 18 years of age.

The report also identifies a slow decline in female genital mutilation/cutting in countries where such abuse has been common.

On the other hand, there are many areas where better data collection is needed to form a more complete picture of child-protection challenges. ‘Progress for Children’ concludes with a call to action urging governments, lawmakers, communities, and the public and private sectors to build a more protective environment for children.

“We have a broad agenda in child protection, and it calls upon everybody to take action,” noted Bissell. “The North and the South, East and West – we are all bound in this child-protection agenda. There is no country untouched by child-protection concerns and violations.”




5 October 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the findings and the call to action in ‘Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection’.
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