Violence against Children in Times of Crisis - A new social contract centered on children is needed to build back better from the pandemic

New York, 22 September 2021 – The office of the Special Representative joined the Permanent Missions of the Republic of Bulgaria, Jamaica, and Luxembourg to the United Nations in New York, the European Union, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in a high-level side event to discuss the causes and impact of "Violence against Children in Times of Crisis".

The event aimed to draw attention to the increased risks of violence against children in times of crisis, explore ways to strengthen systems of protection, and advocate for an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery with children at its centre.

Child representatives of the Children Advisory Committees shared their experiences of how the pandemic has affected children, underlining the impact of isolation and lack of support to child victims of violence and the constraints created by multiple socio-economic factors during the crisis proposing the development of policies and actions to prevent and respond to violence created with meaningful participation of children.

Government representatives from different regions stressed how the economic, geopolitical, and climate crisis, and most recently, the global health emergency increased the vulnerability of children and the systems designed to support them. The pandemic mounted the risks of violence against children both at home and online and exacerbated inequalities, poverty, and exclusion, but opened the door for a paradigm shift.     

"As the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, the 'building back better' phase must be seen as an opportunity to build a new social contract, that is not only adult-centered but also child-centered, that paved the way for more resilient economies and human capital development. In times of crisis, cooperation, multilateralism, strong partnerships and wide mobilization of all key stakeholders at local, national, regional and global levels are needed more than ever.  " said SRSG Maalla M'jid.

Government high-level officials and representatives from Regional Organizations responded to the Special Representative’s call and concurred that there is an urgent need to strengthen resilient child protection and child justice systems.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, recognized the impact of the crisis management measures of the pandemic on the violence against children and addressed the promising practices the Bulgaria government deploy to ensure an inclusive, resilient, and safe recovery and the commitment to the protection of children.

"We stand ready to cooperate with all governments, international organizations, human rights organizations, and media. The joint efforts are essential precondition for the successful eradication of all forms of violence against children, especially in these times of crisis and emergencies. Only together we can build a better world where no one is left behind." stressed Mr. Svetlan Stoev.

Accelerating progress towards the SDGs requires an integrated, multisectoral, and coherent national development agenda of the member states and the collective actions of the international community to build an empowering environment where every child can thrive in a violence-free life.

The European Union proposed concrete initiatives from financial programs to legislative and policy actions on effectively combatting the violence against children.

"Our commitment to protect and fulfill children's rights is universal. Through our development and cooperation policies, as well as our humanitarian work, we help improve the protection of children across the world." stressed Ms. Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography of European Commission.

The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, addressed the impact of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of children and demonstrated how the government could transform commitment into concrete actions to end violence against children.

"A multisectoral development agenda is key to addressing the underlying factors, such as poverty, inequalities, and gender discrimination, which may increase children's overall vulnerabilities, including the risk of violence against children. A crucial element to address key drivers of violence and achieve the 2030 agenda is to engage children in national planning and monitoring process." said Mr. Jean Asselborn.

Ms. Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, underscored that the wellbeing and protection of children, as well as the prevention of violence against children remain a matter of priority for Jamaica and showcased their commitment to supporting the children through integrated and multisectoral approach.

Panelists committed to work on strengthening services for children that should always be reflected in national development plans and economic recovery plans, maximizing coverage and impact for all children.

Watch the recording of this event here.