"International community is at a crucial turning point in the lives of a generation of children" - Annual report of SRSG Maalla M'jid to UN General Assembly
New York, 5 September 2020 - The impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on violence against children and with recommendations for the way forward, including on the importance of involving children as part of the solution, are central messages in the 2020 Annual Report of SRSG Maalla M'jid to the to historic 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The report sets out the action undertaken by the mandate to achieve its priorities and address the new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic stressing concern "that the already staggering numbers of children affected by violence today may be further increased through current disturbing trends that include climate change, protracted conflicts, humanitarian disasters, increasing numbers of children on the move, the misuse of new technologies, the spread of terrorism and violent extremism, and harmful social norms, such as increasing disparities, poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those challenges."
To support Member States in addressing the challenge, the Special Representative announces the prepariion of a report entitled “Hidden scars: how violence harms the mental health of children”, to be issued in October 2020, that highlights cost-effective, evidence-based interventions to support children’s mental health and well-being. The report is informed by the input of experts and various United Nations entities working in the field of child and adolescent mental health, and by the views of children.
The anual report outlines the scale of different forms of violence against children and the imperative to act with a deep sense of urgency to bring them to an end. Since taking up her mandate, the Special Representative has stressed the centrality of supporting implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the initiative of the Secretary-General on a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.
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Furthermore, the report shows that although the number of voluntary national reviews note progress on children’s rights, including the right to protection from violence, has steadily increased, most countries do not feature the situation of children prominently in their submissions.
The annual report includes an entire section on "Children leading the way: informing, listening, and empowering children" and their capacity for leadership in building a world free from violence.
The environmental and social unrest experienced in many countries before COVID-19 are examples of how children and young people are organizing and demanding change. To help ensure that children’s voices are amplified and their views taken fully into account, the Special Representative has pursued close collaboration with child-led and child-focused organizations. In recognition of children’s active engagement, the Special Representative supports work on empowering and safeguarding children as human rights defenders.
Child participation takes place in a rapidly changing world where the almost universal access to information and communications technology enables children to communicate with each other beyond any geographical or cultural barrier and provides real-time access to what is going on in the world.
Since child participation is rapidly evolving, the Special Representative notes in her report that her mandate has been mapping and documenting how children are exercising their right to participate, in order to make recommendations that meet children’s needs today.
"Children are being innovative, leading the way, holding duty bearers and decision makers locally and globally accountable, when adults fulfil their responsibility to guide children and provide them with the necessary skills and tools, like advocacy training."
The report concludes with a commitment from the Special Representative to make the inclusion of children in the post COVID-19 recovery a priority for the international commuinity in its efforts over the next year to build back better while accelerating action and embarking on new pathways to realize the 2030 Agenda.
"The international community is at a crucial turning point in the lives of a generation of children who will be most affected by COVID-19. All stakeholders must do everything possible to ensure that children do not become the main victims of the pandemic, and to build a better world where children’s rights are promoted and protected, and where no child is left behind."