THE BLOG

One Year to Go: World Leaders Must Put Ending Violence Against Children on the Global Agenda

23/09/2014 08:12 BST | Updated 22/11/2014 10:59 GMT

This week, David Cameron and other Heads of State and Government are gathering in New York for the UN General Assembly.

As this year's meeting is upon us we should be reminded that there is only one year to go before world leaders meet again in New York to adopt a new framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals. These goals, the current roadmap for global progress on development, expire in 2015. The decisions that will be made in New York at that meeting will have momentous consequences for billions of people.

We should be optimistic. There has been remarkable progress over recent years. Primary school enrolment has increased to 90% in developing regions. The overall rate of child mortality has halved. These are remarkable achievements. Finishing the job of the original MDGs should certainly form the basis of the new framework. Now, however, we must build on these successes and look to tackle issues that were not included in the MDGs. Their absence has slowed the pace of development progress.

If we are to end poverty one day, and I believe we can, the conditions necessary for people to move out of poverty need to be central to the new framework. Peace and security, the rule of law, access to justice and ending violence do not fall outside the sustainable development agenda. They are central to it.

Let me give one important example. It is clear that the violence facing children in today's world threatens to undermine the development progress we have made so far. Too many children grow up in fear of physical and sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.

New global data from Unicef shows that millions of children around the world suffer physical violence every day. Around 120million girls under the age of 20 (about one in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives; boys are also at risk, although there is no global estimate due to the lack of comparable data in most countries.

These children suffer the worst forms of physical harm, emotional distress and psychological trauma. Not only this. The long-term effects of violence mean that their futures, and thus the economies of their countries and security of their societies, are harmed.

But this doesn't need to be the story for the world's most vulnerable children; violence is not inevitable, it can be prevented. Too long has the problem and scale of violence been absent from political discussions like the ones taking place in New York this week.

Over the next year, the international community has an unprecedented opportunity to put ending violence on the global agenda. Within the intergovernmental negotiations on the new post 2015 framework, world leaders must give priority to securing a target to end abuse, exploitation and violence against children everywhere.

The UK Government in particular has led the way in recent years on tackling some of the most serious forms of violence that children face around the world, including female genital mutilation and sexual violence in conflict. The UK can now play a vital role in pressing for a global commitment within the post 2015 framework to take forward this agenda.

I hope very much that the world leaders, starting to gather in the chambers of the UN as I write, will make a commitment over the next year to champion a target to end abuse, exploitation and violence against children.