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One Billion Reasons to End Violence Against Children

02/03/2016 12:41 | Updated 02 March 2016

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We all know that feeling of outrage, of sorrow, or regret that we feel every time we hear news of another child murdered, abused, raped, trafficked, bullied online or in school. No country or community is immune to the violence that is committed against children every day.

It's the feeling that became almost overwhelming as we saw children die attempting to flee war in Syria, heard yet another story of a gang rape, a mass kidnapping, another school shooting.

It's that shared feeling of sorrow, anger, regret that finally brought us to target 16.2 and other associated targets, of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, a promise to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children. It's why we are creating a Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, to make sure that we keep that commitment to children.

Violence against children is preventable. It does not have to be a fact of life. But for 1 billion children around the world--1 in 2--that's exactly what it is. Every day, in every country - rich and poor - millions of children are victims of violence in their homes, schools, and communities. In fragile states, and those experiencing conflict, the danger to children becomes much greater.

There are currently over 230 million children living in conflict-affected areas. Meanwhile, in many Latin American and Caribbean cities, a hyper concentration of violence has given the region the largest share of child homicides in the world - with homicide being a leading cause of death for 10-19 year olds.

Violence takes many forms: neglect, physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, rape, trafficking, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, child marriage, honor killing, not to mention the many violent ways in which children die during conflict. For the survivors, the consequences of violence can be serious and long-lasting.

Violence against children is a serious and costly global issue, impairing children physically, mentally, and developmentally for years to come. What's even worse, it significantly undermines the financial investments we're making in areas like health and education that should be improving children's lives. Physical, psychological and sexual violence against children are estimated by some to cost as much as $7 trillion per year globally, or 8 per cent of global GDP.

Because of its links to other issues that can harm children - such as separation from families; HIV; smoking, alcohol and drug abuse; school dropout; early pregnancy; lack of girls' empowerment; gender-based violence, and crime - dealing with it effectively will generate wider, positive outcomes across a broad range of sectors.

While ending violence against children is first and foremost an ethical imperative, it is also a smart, cost-saving investment. According to a recent EU study, every Euro invested in preventing violence against a child produces a social return of €87, or almost 100 USD. With 1 billion children experiencing violence, we can't afford to not invest in solutions.

There is a frustrating lack of financial investment in children's safety - we have solutions for ending violence that are proven and cost effective, but many policy makers are neither advocating for them, nor taking them to scale. Organizations like the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Center for Disease Control have all shown evidence prevention and early intervention works. Yet as of now, this continues to be a largely underfunded area.

End Violence is a new global partnership with the express purpose of facilitating the action that is needed by bringing together global policymakers and child protection experts to work to accelerate progress on this critical issue. Ending violence against children is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable one.

End Violence is committed to making sure that every child has a chance to grow up safe, happy and healthy in an environment free from violence and fear. Very soon, End Violence will present committed policy makers with a set of strategies for reducing violence in the lives of children in all settings. Developed by the World Health Organization and several partners, this package will contain evidence-based, complementary strategies with measurable outcomes that are proven or deemed highly likely to prevent violence against children and help reduce its consequences. These will include promoting parenting skills and empowering families economically, improving the emotional development of children as well as their access to health care. Also included will be recommendations to advocate for laws and social norms that protect children, as well as challenging the gender stereotypes that can normalize violence.

We know that preventing violence won't just make life better for children around the world, it will be critical to making progress for children in all areas - including ending poverty, providing access to education and promoting gender equality.

Together we can prevent violence against children - 1 billion of the world's children are crying out for it. If we don't act now, who will?

End Violence is currently running a consultation process to guide how the Global Partnership will work for children around the world and people from all walks of life with an interest in ending violence against children are invited to take part and give their input on how End Violence should move forward. To take part in the consultation process you can visit the End Violence website at www.end-violence.org/consultation

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