Protecting children from violence: safeguarding children’s rights through better prevention and response

Image: 2008 Kevin Cook/World Vision

By the end of this year, we will have had the pleasure of meeting a number of participants who are focused on understanding and tackling the issues and challenges faced by children globally. These participants are on the frontline of child protection, working to safeguard the rights of children, often in difficult or dangerous circumstances.

Our event Protecting children from extreme violence brought together child protection experts, development practitioners and policy makers in order to work to develop a more comprehensive approach to protecting children in conflict and post-conflict zones. This is crucial in order to address grave violations of children’s rights and to respond to child protection needs, in an environment where the nature of conflict is increasingly complex, and the forms of violence increasingly extreme.

The discussions that took place identified a range of ways by which policy can assist children in these circumstances. These strategies included facilitating greater discussion at grassroots level with greater civil society involvement, especially in areas where relevant NGOs are unable to operate, and engaging with actors in the technology sector to harness and distribute technology for the wellbeing of children in conflict. Other ideas were raised regarding the roles and responsibilities of different actors in preventing violence against children, and whether new, more non-traditional actors, such as security organisations, could work in partnership with traditional actors.

The event discussed not only how to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups, but how best to formulate reintegration processes in a way that is respectful, appropriate and likely to prevent further disenfranchisement and radicalisation of groups and individuals.

Two more events on the protection of children are to be held in November, with the first  being an expert roundtable meeting on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI); an initiative launched by William Hague and the British Government in 2012.

Building upon the lessons learned following the 2012 PSVI conference on sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict states, this year’s event will seek to discuss issues around, inter alia, the stigma suffered by survivors of sexual abuse, the difficulties encountered by children born of rape and the detrimental impact of some domestic laws and policies. Some of the themes in these sessions will also shift the spotlight towards communities and the ways by which they respond to individuals who have been the victims of such atrocities.

The discussion outcomes will then constitute a new Action Plan, made up of thematic goals and country-specific recommendations that will then be used as key policy tools for stakeholders going forward.

The final event will again look at protecting children from violence, although this will concentrate primarily on the Council of Europe’s Strategy for the Rights of the Child (Sofia Strategy), established in April 2016. Discussions will also seek to develop approaches that will contribute to the achievement of Target 16.2 of the post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children” by 2030.

Through these discussions, actors on international, European and national levels will also be able to better coordinate activities and contribute to capacity building, generating a more significant contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in relation to the rights of children.

As an organisation, we have been extremely privileged to coordinate and be a part of these discreet discussions and will continue with our active involvement in tackling these challenges.

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