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10 Years on: Global progress and delay in ending violence against children – the rhetoric and the reality

The International NGO Council on Violence Against Children formed in 2007, to support strong and effective follow-up to the UN Study on Violence against Children. Now, as the Sustainable Development Goals adopt the call to end all violence against children and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children take up the mantle of pursuing this goal, the NGO Council publishes its fourth and final report: a warts and all account of the progress made and the work that lies ahead to end violence against children.

In the ten years since the Study was published, we have made great strides in learning about the violence that affects children around the world and we have seen great advances in combating some of those forms of violence. Yet for many children, violence is an ever present fact of life. Where progress has been made, it remains tainted by its limitations: the rates at which children are subjected to female genital mutilation are falling rapidly, but because of population increases, the number of women and girls who have experienced this form of violence are actually increasing. The number of countries that have legally prohibited all forms of corporal punishment of children has tripled since the Study was published, yet an estimated one billion children still experience physical violence in the home on a regular basis. Children in detention are among the most vulnerable to violence, and while detention rates in many of the world’s juvenile justice systems have fallen sharply over the last decade, we are seeing the detention of children in immigration systems increasing and taking on new forms.

Perhaps worse still, many of the most severe forms of violence children experience remain legal, whether in the 14 States that still allow the death penalty for children, the 22 countries that still legally permit certain forms of female genital mutilation, or the 93 that allow girls to marry before the age of 18. The Violence Study set 2009 as a deadline to legally prohibit all of these practices, but we are still far from this goal.

The persistence of violence against children is a challenge to us all: why have we not been able to achieve change quickly enough? The contributions from key global experts on violence against children point to some hard truths about our failings, but also to the way ahead.

We have failed to effectively challenge the social acceptance of so many forms of violence and struggled to achieve the legal prohibition of all forms of violence that is a necessary basis for eliminating these practices. If we are to realise goal 16.2 of the SDGs to end all forms of violence against children by 2030, we must learn these lessons of our efforts so far.

This report is the NGO Council’s contribution at the start of this next stage of the struggle to end violence against children: a reminder of how far we’ve come and the challenge ahead.