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Violence against children is widespread and pervasive but is not inevitable
by Marta Santos Pais
9:40am 16th Jul, 2019
Every year, at least 1 billion children - half of the world's children - experience violence, reports Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative on Violence against Children.
Three in every four children under the age of 5 experience violent discipline at the hands of caregivers. Almost one-third of school students have been bullied by their peers at least once in the past month.
Children now account for 30 per cent of those who are trafficked, with the sexual exploitation of victims being the main driver of human trafficking.
Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than other children, while children from other disadvantaged groups also face disproportionately high levels of violence.
Refugee and migrant children often find that violence is a constant companion: driving them from their home countries, accompanying them on their journey, and waiting for them at their destination.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers an ambitious vision: to build a world free from fear and from violence for each and every child.
2019 is a milestone year for this ambition. It marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified international human rights treaty.
The Convention makes a solemn promise to children by enshrining their right to reach their full potential, free from violence, neglect, exploitation and abuse.
Children are telling us loudly and clearly that they dream of a world of peace and non-violence, a world where they can grow up happy, cherished, supported, safe, confident and empowered, and where no child is left behind.
We must move ahead with a far greater sense of urgency. Every year, millions of children endure appalling levels of violence in their neighbourhoods, in schools, in institutions for their care and protection, online and within their homes. The cost for victims, families and entire societies is immense.
Violence often starts in early childhood and, as children grow, it becomes part of a grim continuum, with their lives engulfed by fear, pain and insecurity that undermine their health, education, development and wellbeing.
Too frightened to speak up, uncertain they will be heard, lacking the information they need to get help, and falling through the cracks of protective services, they miss out on the support to which they are entitled for their healing, recovery and reintegration.
There is a mounting consensus that violence against children is intolerable and can never be justified, and a growing body of evidence shows us how it can become consigned to the past.
There is no room for complacency: violence against children remains hidden and pervasive and new threats are constantly emerging. But violence is not inevitable, and the progress made to date provides powerful motivation to redouble efforts to secure children's protection, anywhere and everywhere.
We know what works, and we know the unacceptable toll of violence to children, families and communities, as well as to the economy, human capital formation and the security of nations.
We hope that this report, by recognising progress made, demonstrating what is needed and highlighting what can be done, will chart a course for accelerated action and for an ever-growing movement to end the scourge of violence. Children deserve no less! And they stand ready to join as active partners and genuine agents of change.
# The report Keeping the Promise: Ending violence against children by 2030 gathers expert analysis from agencies who are committed to keeping the promise enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history: for every child to have a life free from violence.
* Keeping the promise: Ending violence against children by 2030 report (106pp):
May 2019
The urgent need to protect children living through conflict. (Save the Children, agencies)
Save the Children has launched a Charter setting out key points to ensure that children are protected during conflicts. The charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict-affected areas.
Children in conflict face severe and multiple violations of their rights, like killing and maiming, sexual violence, recruitment and obstruction of humanitarian aid.
The Charter, was presented at the launch of the Stop the War on Children campaign, outlines what states and armed groups can and must do to ensure children are protected from war and supported in their recovery.
Worldwide, around one in five children live in conflict affected areas, where they run the risk of being killed or maimed, abducted, or see their schools and hospitals bombed. Violations against children have nearly tripled since 2010.
In its report on paedeiatric blast injuries, Save the Children revealed that explosive weapons account for 72% of child deaths and injuries across the five world's deadliest conflict zones in 2017.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said:
'It is absolutely critical to have this discussion now, as millions of children suffer in conflict every day. The rights and well-being of children - including in conflict - should be a priority for all of us, and we need stronger and more consistent systems to hold to account the perpetrators of crimes.
The ten points are an important reminder to all governments of the commitments they have made to children's rights. They reinforce the work being undertaken by many organisations to protect children in conflict situations."
The Stop the War on Children Charter is based on three pillars: providing safety by making sure that parties to any conflict adhere to international law and standards, pursuing justice by holding perpetrators to account and taking measures on the ground to ensure children receive all practical help they need.
Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said: '1 in 5 children are now growing up in areas affected by conflict, and those children are seeing and experiencing things that no child ever should. Homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields, and children end up trapped on the frontline. Explosive weapons kill and maim children indiscriminately, and aid is used as a weapon of war.
The world seems to be accepting an outrageous new normal of the conventions of war being treated with flagrant disregard, and children are paying the price. It is shocking that in the 21st Century we are retreating on a principle that is so simple, children should be protected.
The failure to protect children in conflict not only robs children, but also their countries and the entire world of a better future. All governments and warring parties can make a difference by backing up the charter to protect children in conflict'.
Joint Statement, The Hague, Peace Palace:
Some 420 million children are living in conflict-affected areas across the globe. Almost one in five children run a daily risk of being killed or maimed by armed violence, they live in the fear of being abducted, sexually abused or recruited by armed forces, they regularly witness their schools or hospitals being bombed or go hungry and uncared for because humanitarian aid is denied to them.
What is being done to children in conflicts all over the world, is unacceptable.
We call on every government and every armed group to affirm and adhere to international laws, human rights provisions, rules and standards designed to protect children. Individually and collectively, we are committed to working towards a world in which:
All children are protected against killing and maiming. Schools and health centres are treated as zones of peace and protection. Every child is protected from rape and sexual violence. No child is recruited into armed forces or groups. All children in conflict are safe from abduction, detention and displacement. No child is denied access to humanitarian aid in conflict.
Violations of the rights of children in conflict are rigorously monitored, reported and acted on. Those committing, overseeing and ordering violations against children in conflict are brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.
Every child harmed or affected by conflict receives practical help and support to cope, recover and rebuild their lives. All children affected by conflict, including refugees and those internally displaced, have access to a good-quality education.

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