By Susan Bissell, Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children
A year ago, amid a flurry of activity and emotion, Government Ministers, the UN Secretary-General, young people from Central America, foundation and civil society leaders, and actor Lucy Liu gathered in New York to mark a historical milestone in realizing the rights of children: the launch of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (End Violence). End Violence convenes and engages key players – from policymakers to researchers to NGOs to parents – to advance and enact the most promising, evidence-based solutions for ending violence against children. At the launch, Baroness Joanna Shields of the United Kingdom announced the associated Trust Fund for End Violence, and expectations were raised the world over.
Having devoted almost three decades of my life to keeping children from harm’s way and ensuring they receive the necessary care and protection, last year’s launch filled me with hope and optimism. Throughout my career, I have seen the worst of what can be done to children – in poor regions and in wealthy ones, too. But I have also seen the best. So with the launch of End Violence, I saw an opportunity to build on the efforts of tireless champions that have come before and work together to advance the solutions that are creating a safer world for children.
I also knew it would be a challenge. One billion children experience violence each year. They are murdered, abused, raped, trafficked, bullied online or in school, or most commonly, neglected and hurt by their own families. The partnership set out determined not to just ‘address’ this violence or ‘reduce it’…but, yes, to END it. We know this goal will take time, so for year one, we focused on laying the groundwork by building political will and engaging several countries to take real action.
Twelve months later, I ask myself: how are we doing so far? Were the goals we set realistic? Did partners adopt the End Violence and new Sustainable Development Goals, which make an explicit commitment to ending violence against children in all forms (16.2 and others)? Were partners able to start moving from words to action?
As it turns out, accomplishments have exceeded expectations in almost every respect. We asked governments to be ‘pathfinders’ to End Violence, to take up the gauntlet and really do things – to craft road maps based on evidence, develop action plans using effective violence prevention strategies, create budgets for those programs, bring a range of partners and disciplines on board, and adopt an ‘all of government’ approach to the safety and security of children. One year in, I’m proud to say we’ve secured 14 pathfinder countries, and an additional 10 countries are in the process of committing or have already provided End Violence with financial or other forms of support. This demonstrates a high level of political will from many world leaders, and sets an example for others to follow.
Accelerating action to protect and support children in their daily lives is at the heart of what we do; we want to marry words with deeds. The Fund associated with End Violence is focussed on ‘making stuff happen’ by catalysing actions that work and deliver concrete, measurable results for children. The current focus is on ending online sexual violence in childhood, and 14 grant recipients are already hard at work just 8 months after the Fund went live. From Guatemala to the Philippines to Jordan, prevention activities are being strengthened, and services for victims fortified. A second call for proposals was just issued, accessible here.
Has childhood violence been reduced in the last year, and can that be attributed to End Violence? We are certainly making progress in the right direction, drawing much-needed attention to the needs and rights of the world’s one billion children, the most affected and the most vulnerable first. Violence is preventable and with political leadership and cross-sector collaboration at all levels, concrete and effective action is possible. In Mexico, Indonesia, Romania, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Sweden, and other countries, governments, civil society and the private sector are ‘making things happen.’ We can be hopeful for more peaceful childhoods in the years ahead. End Violence will continue to accelerate this action, and in our second year, we look forward to bringing partners more opportunities to collaborate on solutions and learn about the most effective, evidence-based approaches.
Ending violence is an ambitious goal, but we believe it’s achievable through collective action. Here’s how you can play a role:
- If you work in the field, consider joining the End Violence partnership as a friend, member or partner to contribute to our community of knowledge sharing and gain a deeper understanding of the most effective approaches across issue areas and regions. By continuing to attract the brightest minds and organisations working to end violence against children, the stronger our solutions will be. Learn how you can join us here.
- There is an enormous gap in the financing required to end violence against children. While we cannot put an exact price on how much it will cost to protect the world’s children, we do have an estimate of the global economic costs resulting from the consequences of physical, psychological and sexual violence. These costs can be as high as $7 trillion, far higher than the investment required to prevent violence against children. As we look forward to year two, End Violence needs real champions – foundation, corporate, government and citizen partners – to open funding doors for the Fund and for our partners. If you’d like to get involved, please reach out here.
- As mentioned, building political will is an essential piece of our early strategy. Citizens of all countries can support this effort by writing to their representatives and government agencies to let them know: the prosperity of nations depends on raising the next generation of children with the integrity of childhood preserved, whether they are online, offline, or ‘on the move’. We cannot afford the cost of inaction. Urge your government to get involved and invest in solutions.
One year in, I can confidently say that End Violence – as a means of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and a test case for its universality – is focussed on the right things, at the right time. Can we, you and us, do more? We can and must.
Susan Bissell is the Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, a multi-stakeholder organization that seeks to prevent and eradicate violence against children around the world by bringing together heads of states, business leaders and civil society to have solutions oriented conversations and share best practices. Until September 2015, Susan was Chief of Child Protection at the UNICEF headquarters in NY and oversaw all the global programs addressing child safety issues including children affected by armed conflict and developing prevention and response systems to all forms of violence against children.
A Doctor of Philosophy in public health and medical anthropology, Susan has been a visionary in the child protection field since she started at UNICEF in 1987. Susan was recently awarded an honorary Professorship at Columbia University’s Barnard College. She also received the Dr. Jean Mayar Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University in 2012, as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.