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INSPIRE: seven strategies for ending violence against children

Imagine you woke up this morning to news headlines revealing that scientists had discovered a new disease, and that up to 1 billion children worldwide were exposed to this disease every year. And that as a result – over the course of their lifetime – these children were at greater risk of mental illnesses and anxiety disorders, chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, infectious diseases like HIV, and social problems such as crime and drug abuse. If we had such a disease, what would we do?

The truth is we do have such a “disease”. It is violence against children. And one of the first things we would do is draw on the evidence we already have to take immediate, effective and sustainable action to prevent such violence.

Progress in understanding and preventing violence against all children from birth to 18 years is advancing rapidly. Although greater investment is needed to increase our knowledge about how best to prevent violence against children, we already have sufficient evidence to allow us to stop the violence and replace it with safe, stable and nurturing environments in which children can thrive.

This package of seven evidence-based strategies builds on growing evidence that violence against children is preventable, and on a growing public consensus that it will no longer be tolerated. The package will help unify multisectoral efforts to raise awareness that, although levels of violence vary within and between countries, no society is immune as violence against children is everywhere, and it will encourage deeper engagement to prevent it and to treat the harmful consequences when it does occur.

The package is anchored in recognition by the Convention on the Rights of the Child that all children have the right to be free from all forms of violence. It also responds to the extensive and costly impacts that violence against children has on public health and development. It is an essential tool to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal Target 16.2, which calls for ending all forms of violence against children, and it will be useful to help achieve goals 1, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 16 that target poverty, health, education, gender equality, safe environments and justice.

We have an opportunity and a responsibility to prevent violence, protect children and have a positive impact on a broad range of health, social and economic challenges facing low-, middle- and high-income countries. Violence against children can be prevented if the global community acts now, acts wisely and acts together. This package presents evidence-based ways to do it.