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Special report: how can we keep our promises to keep children safe?

POSTED February 18, 2021

Special report: how can we keep our promises to keep children safe?

New research puts uncomfortable spotlight on global commitments to end violence against children, say Dana Buzducea and Dr. Belinda Bennet

By Dana Buzducea & Dr. Belinda Bennet

Free from Violence

Children bear the brunt of many adults’ mistakes, our misunderstandings, our inability to manage our stress, or our emotions, or our lives. One-billion children were experiencing violence every year before the COVID-19 crisis. The stress, lockdown and poverty this crisis is generating will likely result in at least another 85-million children falling victim to violence.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on education and the economy could reverse decades of progress on child marriage and pregnancy. Up to 2.5 million more girls around the world are at risk of marriage in the next five years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And children’s access to help has taken a huge hit, with an estimated 80 percent of services that address violence against children now disrupted due to restrictions.

In 2017, our organizations commissioned a review of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to find out how much government spending was going to ending violence against children. We found that less than 0.6 percent of ODA was being prioritized on ending violence against children — we were counting mere pennies spent to change children’s lives.

We asked donors to increase this allocation, invest in children and to track spending on ending violence against children. Without knowing how much is spent it is difficult to monitor annual contributions to achieving commitments both in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Three years later, we repeated the research. Based on 2018 data, we can say things have improved to 0.95 percent of total development assistance, but children’s needs still far outstrip donor commitment. Worsening violence against children means the funding per child has changed by one tiny cent (from $0.68 to $0.69).

Why is this issue, which affects an eye-watering number of children and has lifelong consequences, still so low in the pecking order of priority and funding? How can we address it in a way that means we might finally see real progress? We have some ideas…

Expose violence against children

Violence against children often happens in the shadows, which is why prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns are so terrifying for vulnerable children. It has not been a visible social phenomenon, but the economic cost and pain of children in places we cannot see it are intense. No one can say they do not know this is an issue anymore — COVID-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of so many children, as up to 66 million more fall into extreme poverty and the associated increase in child labour.

Address underlying funding challenges in supporting children

Refusal to increase the allocation funding for children is like postponing a bill — you know it needs to be paid, and you know putting it off means it will continue to grow. This bill must be paid, by both national governments and donors. Foreign aid plays a critical role in catalyzing national investments and ensuring children in the worst places are still protected from violence. What we can solve now with $1 will cost eight percent more every year (the GDP impact of violence against children). As that compounds, so too does the cost our children will be paying — in lives, and in the devastating impact violence has on whole societies.

There must be will, so we don’t lose our way in protecting children

Our experience in development and advocacy have taught us how valuable political will is. We know how hard it is to move from having little capacity, no funding, and inability to respond to need, to a place with strong policies and regulation, good implementation practice — and budgets to make policy come alive. Key to this — in some cases, the biggest hurdle — is political will. We have this for ending violence against children. We must match political will with funding to accelerate national actions. Neglecting to do so would be a missed opportunity.

Sustainable change must happen systematically

Investment in ending violence against children has to be systemic if we are to see sustainable change. We need to see well-thought-through strategies that deliver long-lasting solutions, backed up by sustained funding. Our report shows there is increased funding for the small group of solutions we know work, but this must be longer-term — and done in strong partnership with receiving country governments. Mutually accountable relationships, held together by shared commitment and agreed long-term plans, are vital.

We are still in the middle of a crisis that continues to demonstrate how interconnected our world is. Fragility and instability stoke the fire of violence against children, and they — and we — will live with the effects of this for generations to come. Children deserve more than a few pennies.

To learn more, read the Counting Pennies 2 full report.

This World Vision blog has been re-posted, in part, with permission from our World Vision partner. You can access the full story here.

About the authors: Dana Buzducea is World Vision’s partnership leader for advocacy and external engagement (follow her on Twitter @DanaBuzducea), and Dr. Belinda Bennet is chief international programs officer at Children Believe.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.