Despite significant efforts to improve children’s lives, vulnerable and marginalized children are being forgotten. Children who are victims of abuse, exploitation and discrimination, and suffer exclusion from education, healthcare and other vital services, are being largely overlooked by international development efforts that could dramatically improve their lives and prospects.
Children who lack protection are often invisible. Millions of children are invisible to the world because their plight is hidden, underreported, or openly neglected. Children who are most likely to become invisible have no formal identity, grow up without the loving care of parents or family, are pressed too early into adult responsibilities, and exploited for profit.
The world cannot afford to let children slip from view. By allowing children to disappear from view and failing to reach and protect them, societies condemn children to more neglect and abuse, with lasting consequences for their well-being and for the development of their communities and countries.
Current approaches will not reach excluded and invisible children. The Millennium Development Goals provide an unprecedented opportunity to transform children’s lives over the next decade. But to reach the children who are most in need of care and protection, the world will have to go beyond current approaches to meeting the goals.
Children need a protective environment to shield them from harm. All levels of society – from families and governments to teachers and the media – have a part to play individually and collectively to prevent abuse and to ensure that children are not made invisible or forgotten.
Children deserve to live in safety and with dignity. Abuse and exploitation are an affront to every child’s dignity and an intolerable violation of their rights. Protecting children is essential to their physical and emotional health, their general well-being, and their ability to develop to their fullest potential. It is therefore essential to the human and economic development of nations.