“We, the Children …”: Calling on World Leaders to End Violence Against Children

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As 2015 approaches, world leaders are at work crafting a set of goals that will drive global efforts to reduce poverty, improve health and education and create sustainable progress.

Children have something to say about that.

The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will come into play on the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which nearly 200 countries agreed upon and launched in 2000. The MDGs brought about huge changes in developing countries, including declines in child mortality, improvements in primary school enrollment and much more.

But there was one piece missing from the MDGs: the prevention of violence against children.

Today, at a side event of the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly, the ChildFund Alliance is releasing two reports that together convey an important, two-part message: First, children worldwide are calling for the prevention of violence against children to be added to the post-2015 agenda. Second, they do so with good reason.

For The Free Charters: Children’s Priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the ChildFund Alliance conducted more than 50 consultations with children in 40 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific, the Americas and Europe — more than 2,300 children in all. The study documents their views, aspirations and priorities for the post-2015 agenda.

The report includes “charters” produced by children in all 40 countries, asking their governments to continue the work of the MDGs and to add other priorities among the SDGs. Violence against children was the most-cited issue, arising in 82 percent of the participating countries, and with particular calls for ending bullying, child labor, child marriage, child trafficking, corporal punishment, female genital mutilation and cutting, recruitment of children by armed forces or groups, and violence in schools. A 15-year-old girl in Zambia sums it up: “I want a new world where children are protected from all forms of violence and abuse.”

“For me, children should be able to put their hands up and say something for older people to hear.” — 13-year-old girl, Liberia

The other report, The Costs and Economic Impact of Violence Against Children, commissioned by ChildFund Alliance and conducted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), reveals that the total costs of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children are up to 8 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — more than the combined GDPs of Australia, Canada, India, and Mexico.

“It is vital that the post-2015 agenda addresses violence against children," says Andrew Johnson, acting secretary of ChildFund Alliance. "Children themselves are calling for governments to finish the job they started 15 years ago with the MDGs and for the prevention of violence to be included in the new agenda.”

“Violence against children is all too common across the world, and in developing countries, children face special challenges,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International, which is a member of the Alliance. “Continuing to raise awareness about the issue is critical. As this study shows, preventing childhood violence doesn’t just make humanitarian sense — it makes economic sense.”

CFA Infographic
Global costs of violence against children

The costs of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children can be as high as U.S. $7 trillion, equal to 8 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), more than the GDPs of Australia, Canada, India and Mexico combined. Source: Overseas Development Institute (2014). “The costs and economic impact of violence against children.”

The annual costs of hazardous forms of child labor can be as high as U.S. $97 billion, which is seven times the GDP of Iceland. Source: Overseas Development Institute (2014). “The costs and economic impact of violence against children.”

The annual costs of children associated with armed forces or groups can be as high as U.S. $114 million. Source: Overseas Development Institute (2014). “The costs and economic impact of violence against children.”

Global figures on violence against children

Almost half of all children experience some form of physical violence before they reach the age of 8.

An estimated 168 million children are involved in child labor, of which 85 million are in hazardous work.

Children with a disability are four times more likely to experience violence than children without a disability.

At least 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home.

Worldwide, 150 million girls and 73 million boys have been subjected to sexual violence in a single year.