Over 1,900 individuals registered for the launch of Together to #ENDviolence, a global campaign and Solutions Summit Series to catalyse the political and financial commitments needed to end violence against children for good.
The event gathered participants from 130 countries across the world. With over 20 inspiring speakers, a diverse set of presentations, discussions, and an array of multimedia, the event provided a launching pad for partners around the globe, marking the beginning of a multi-year effort in the Decade of Action.
You can also watch the short recap video above or read the following event report. Watch the event in full by clicking here.
Setting the stage & issuing a challenge
The event began with those who know children best: children themselves. Zhara and Sarafina, child advocates from Indonesia and Ghana, shared their views on violence in their countries and throughout the world, and set the stage for what they felt needed to happen to end violence against children – especially in a COVID-19 context.
“Children are the present and the future,” Sarafina said. “The world needs collaboration within governments, NGOs, faith leaders, parents and children themselves to ensure that all violence against children is brought to an end.”
The activists’ voices were backed by Henrietta H. Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF, who spoke about using the Summit Series as a platform to build back safer for children during – and beyond – COVID-19.
“The Together to #ENDviolence Solutions Summit Series that we’re launching today unites us all — across continents and sectors — behind a single shared vision of a world where every child grows up safe and secure,” said Fore. Safe at home. Safe online. Safe to learn. And safe in their communities. The Summit Series is an opportunity for us to work together and turn this shared vision into a reality.”
In response to the need for urgent action, Zahra and Sarafina issued the campaign’s Grand Challenge to the international community, which was meant to spark action and further investment to ending violence against children. Throughout the event, speakers responded to that Grand Challenge by urging the End Violence community to do the following, among much more:
- Commit to increasing funding, investing in what works to prevent violence and scaling-up existing solutions;
- Ensure children and young people are meaningfully and actively engaged in decisions and processes on ending violence;
- Acknowledge the role that gender inequality plays in violence against girls, and make sure that girls are at the heart of efforts to #ENDviolence;
- Address the urgent need for sustainably financed social protection systems linked to properly resourced child protection services;
- Ensure governments work with partners from all levels – from the grassroots to the global – to put violence on top of their social, economic and political agendas;
- Push all people, including children and youth, civil society, the media, the private sector and academia, to generate an unstoppable movement that challenges the social acceptance of violence against children.
Nationwide action across the world
Violence is preventable, possible and already happening – and governments from Canada to Cambodia have publicly committed to ending violence by becoming Pathfinding Countries. At the Together to #ENDviolence launch event, we heard solutions to end violence from national leaders in the Pathfinding Countries of Colombia, Japan, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom linked their years of action with the urgent need to scale-up in the COVID-19 context.
Maria Juliana Ruiz, the First Lady of Colombia, spoke about her country’s commitment to ending violence against children before and after becoming a Pathfinder in 2019. The government has committed to reducing violence by 40 per cent by 2022, an ambitious goal that is being made possible through 150+ ongoing, evidence-based interventions. The First Lady also spoke about the country’s Violence Against Children Survey, which revealed critical data to inform policy and programming; and the government’s National Alliance to End Violence Against Children, which was created with the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare and the Presidential Office for Childhood and Adolescents.
Satoshi Nakanishi, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs in Japan, highlighted how the country has protected children since becoming a Pathfinder in 2018. Nakanishi mentioned last year’s amendment to the Japanese Child Welfare Act, which strengthened the country’s response to corporal punishment, and this year’s Reinforced Action Plan to Watch Over Children, which was created to combat violence during COVID-19. In recent years, the country has also made an impact through the End Violence Fund; with our partners, we reached tens of thousands of children in humanitarian settings in Nigeria and Uganda.
Åsa Lindhagen, the Minister for Gender Equality in Sweden, spoke of her country’s response to violence against children – before, during and after COVID-19. In 1979, Sweden became the first country to prohibit violence against children. Nearly 40 years later, the country was still fighting for children’s protection: Sweden became a Pathfinding Country in 2016 and hosted the first End Violence Solutions Summit two years later. Today, Sweden is continuing to protect children, developing a national strategy to combat violence, channelling funds to civil society organisations working on the issue, and responding to spikes of violence during COVID-19.
“All violence against children is unacceptable and must be confronted with the full force of the global community, said Lindhagen. “And this is not just something we wish or hope for. This is a promise we have made with the sustainable development goals within Agenda 2030.”
H.H. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior for the United Arab Emirates, highlighted the importance of supporting families to protect children. Since 2018, the United Arab Emirates has worked to end violence against children as a Pathfinding Country – but its commitment to its youngest goes back much further. The country is home to Sharjah, the region’s first Child-friendly City, and in recent years, the government has passed a multitude of laws to protect and promote the rights of children and mothers. Nahyan urged other countries to look inward – at the family-level – and be more involved in developing and supporting initiatives that enhance the relationship between children, their families and their communities.
This type of commitment is absolutely critical, as at a poll taken during the event, participants felt the top two necessities for ending violence against children were (a) better implementation of existing plans and laws and (b) increased political leadership.
Protecting children at school and online
Violence against children happens in every country and every community, and across all cultural and socio-economic contexts. It also happens on every platform children find themselves: including at school and online. At the launch event, experts spoke of the risks children face in each environment and proposed new ways forward to tackle those challenges.
The risks – and opportunities – of the online world was explored by Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs at the European Commission; Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Australia; and Hans Vestberg, the Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications. At the event, these leaders spoke about what is perhaps the worst manifestation of violence against children online: sexual exploitation and abuse. However, they also highlighted the huge gains that are possible when governments, technology companies, non-governmental organisations, and communities work together to keep children safe online.
Soon after, Alice Albright, the CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, highlighted the importance of safety in schools, especially during COVID-19. This was echoed by Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate, who mentioned that of the $8 trillion of global COVID-19 response funding, only .13% is going toward the most vulnerable: children.
“The ongoing crisis is not only a health, economic or social crisis but also a crisis of morality, justice and of the entire civilisation,” Satyarhti said. “We must act with urgency and compassion, or we risk losing an entire generation of children.”
Importantly, Dr Daniela Ligiero, the CEO of Together for Girls, spoke about her experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and the importance of survivors’ voices. The time for a powerful movement of survivors and allies, Ligiero said, has come.
“Over a decade ago, I decided to start sharing my own story widely – not because I like doing it, but because I was done carrying this shame,” said Ligiero. “I wanted others to feel less alone, and to know there is hope, and that you can heal. Ending sexual violence against children is possible, but change will only come if we use the data and evidence we finally have, if we work together to implement solutions, and if we make some noise.”
Accelerating progress through partnerships
Violence against children undermines every other investment in young people. Without addressing violence, we will never capitalise on global efforts around education, health, and sustainable development – and we will never achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This was highlighted by Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the launch event.
“To progress on the Decade of Action to deliver on the SDGs, we must bring renewed urgency and ambition to our commitment to a safe and secure world for children,” Mohammed said. “By mobilising everyone, everywhere, we can create a world where every child grows up free from fear and violence.”
The key to this approach, however, is working together. This point was driven home by speakers across sectors, including those who focus on child marriage, child labour, education, online safety and faith-based action. For example, Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, the President of Arigatou International, touched on the essential role faith leaders, faith-based communities and faith networks can play in ending violence against children. He also spoke of the way his organisation – alongside many other faith-based groups – has worked with partners toward this ambition in different ways. Similarly, Mabel van Oranje, the Founder and Board Chair of Girls Not Brides, spoke about the ways child violence and child marriage are inextricably linked, and how all of us need to work together to end both challenges.
Dr Joan Nyanyuki, the Executive Director of the African Child Policy Forum, took the conversation to the African continent. She highlighted the role that governments and political leaders should play to protect children, and how they should work with partners from the grassroots to global levels to do so. And, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the CEO of Plan International, highlighted not just the role of civil society, but and how we all must work collectively to put children’s participation – and engagement – at the forefront.
Once we have all the pieces in place, we need to have the right tools to track progress. Four global leaders spoke about what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to measure success effectively. First, we heard from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. Ghebreyesus spoke about the importance of evidence-based action and the INSPIRE Strategies, along with the importance of this year’s Global Status Report on Preventing Violence Against Children.
All of this was reinforced by Professor Lucie Cluver from the Universities of Oxford and Cape Town, who explored whether or not implementing the INSPIRE Strategies was possible in this challenging – and constantly changing – COVID-19 context. Cluver spoke to whether the science is strong enough, whether it was scale-able to the problem, and whether the INSPIRE strategies are a strategic investment beyond violence prevention alone. The answer to each of those questions was a resounding yes.
“The evidence tells us we have the science, the scale, and the strategic investment,” Cluver said. “The rest, I think, is up to us.”
The formal launch
Throughout the event, we heard about violence – in all its forms – and global leaders’ visions of what is needed to end it. Toward the end of the launch, Dr Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, brought it all together.
M’jid was followed by Queen Silvia of Sweden, who – for the second time – marked the formal launch of an End Violence Solutions Summit. From today onward, the Together to #ENDviolence campaign will continue showcasing affordable, evidence-based solutions, elevating efforts to address violence against children in COVID-19 and post-pandemic planning and securing new political and funding commitments to protect children around the globe.
“I frequently ask myself: are we doing enough to stop the universal epidemic of child abuse?” said Queen Silvia. “Do we invest enough resources to stop the tsunami of child abuse on and offline? Dear friends, I’m afraid that the answer is no. We need to do more, much more. Ending violence against children is not just a good cause. It is a promise, one we have made to our children and ourselves.”
We ended the campaign the same way we began: with the perspectives of children from across the world. Three child activists – Jason from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lidia from Kenya, and Lamia from Bangladesh – urged leaders to take action to protect children, just like each child is doing themselves.
Thank you to all our inspiring speakers and to those that participated, attended and engaged with the event. Find out how you can stay involved in the Together to #ENDviolence campaign today!