A widespread phenomenon - Violence against children is a widespread phenomenon affecting millions of children all over the world. Whether it takes place within the family, schools, alternative care and justice institutions, the community or even within workplace environments (both those workplaces mandated under law and those which exist illegally and breach child labour and exploitation laws), it is often implicitly socially condoned and goes without legal sanctions. It takes many forms including, child sexual abuse and exploitation; child trafficking; child labour, exploitation and slavery; as well as child recruitment and exploitation by criminal and armed groups, including terrorist and violent extremist groups. In spite of its various forms and the places in which it occurs, it remains invisible, unrecorded, unprosecuted and unpunished, in   every country of the world. It cuts across all cultures, class, ethnicities and religions. 

Child safety and global developmentIt has serious implications for children's physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing and development. In fact, children may experience poor mental and physical health, poor performance in school and increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, which will in the long term affect society's abilities to reach economic and social stability. Investment in children is key to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity, and enhance intergenerational equity. The link between child safety and global development, is recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a pre-condition for global development. Goal 16.2, explicitly calls for the elimination of violence against children in all its forms, and highlights the crucial role played by children in the construction of peace, justice and robust institutions. In addition, Goals 5, 8, 11 and 17 of the SDGs, highlight the need for a comprehensive approach in dealing with violence against children. Sustainable development starts with safe, healthy, educated and empowered children free from violence and abuse in all settings, including the justice system.


Children in contact with the justice system - When children are in  contact with the law (as alleged offenders, victims and/or witnesses of crime) they can be at risk of violence within the justice system. Children may be subjected to physical, mental and sexual violence, and they may face cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment while in contact with the justice system and, especially, when they are deprived of their liberty. Experiences of violence shape the child's future relationship to the State. If a child experiences violence within the very institutions responsible for upholding justice, law and order, that child is likely to grow up with little faith, investment or respect in the State's institutions nor its representatives, and, as a consequence, their first interaction with the criminal justice system is unlikely to be their last. 



Preventing and Responding to VACA fair, effective and efficient justice system respects the rights of victims and witnesses of crime as well as the rights of child  alleged offenders. Such a system focuses on the need to prevent victimization and re-victimization of  all children in contact with the justice system. However, there are numerous challenges faced by the justice system in seeking to prevent and respond to violence against children. These include, lack of knowledge of international legal standards and norms on child rights; lack of specialized legislation prohibiting violence against children in all its forms and more specifically; lack of specialized child-friendly and sensitive systems and procedures; lack of specially trained staff, such as judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other actors; and lack of engagement with other key sectors such as health, education, child protection and social welfare. 

Enhancing Rehabilitation and ReintegrationThese challenges are broad and can be addressed by: facilitating  access to knowledge and expertise on violence against children and justice for children; and strengthening the institutions and capacities within the justice systems to effectively prevent and respond to violence against children. Moreover, in order to tackle the very complex and multifaceted phenomenon of violence against children, it is essential for the justice system to engage and coordinate efforts with a variety of actors and institutions, from different systems to ensure that children in contact with the law are given the necessary support needed with a view to promoting their rehabilitation and reintegration. 

Benchmark for Action - International law obliges States to protect children from violence, abuse and neglect and uphold their rights to ensure that they are able to become such empowered, successful, law-abiding citizens able to assume constructive roles in society (see the International Legal Framework: A Benchmark for Action) In this regard, UNODC has the specific mandate to support Member States in ensuring that children are better served and protected by justice systems and under the Global Programme to End Violence Against Children, it has been playing a crucial role in assisting States in preventing and responding to violence against children (learn how by clicking on Programme Details).


Recent News

UNODC Global Programme to END VAC contributed to the Inter-Agency Technical Guidance on COVID-19 and Children Deprived of Liberty 

In April 2020, UNODC took part in an inter-agency process and contributed to the development of an Inter-Agency Technical Guidance on COVID-19 and Children Deprived of Liberty. The interagency group is composed of UN entities and CSOs and is a joint effort with the Alliance on Child Protection in Humanitarian ActionThe Inter-Agency Technical Guidance is aimed to provide States with recommendations on how to ensure the well-being of children in detention during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this Guidance, UNODC, through its Global Programme to END VAC, offers a number of Technical Assistance Services to support Member States, upon request, in better protecting the rights of children in detention during the COVID-19 outbreak... read more and see The Inter-Agency Technical Guidance and UNODC-ENDVAC COVID-19 Response Webpage

Protecting children from terrorism: Indonesia launched the “Bali Call for Action for the implementation of the UNODC Roadmap” 

March 2020 - High-level representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives and the Philippines gathered in Bali in an event co-organised by Japan, Indonesia and UNODC reached political consensus : the 'Bali Call for Action'. Launched by the government of Indonesia, the “Bali Call for Action”, is a political declaration which endorses the UNODC Roadmap and commits to translate it into action at national level. With this initiative, Indonesia also called upon Member States to join this historical declaration as a unique opportunity to adopt a common approach to protect children from terrorism... read more

UNODC Roadmap on the Treatment of Children Associated with Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups highlighted at the COTER Meeting, European Council  

UNODC participated in the meeting organised by the Working Party on Terrorism (COTER) of the European Council and presented the UNODC Roadmap on the Treatment of Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups. The meeting was a first step in enhancing the partnership between UNODC and the European Council towards protecting children from terrorism and supporting Member States to overcome the challenges associated with this phenomenon...  read more

UNODC Roadmap on the Treatment of Children Associated with Terrorist and Violent Extremist groups

The Roadmap is the result of 3 years of technical assistance work by UNODC to Member States that are affected by this phenomenon. It builds upon the twofold mandates of UNODC in the areas of violence against children and counter-terrorism, as well as on an increased understanding of the challenges and promising practices in this area. The Roadmap aims in priority to achieve an enhanced system-wide coherence that supports national priorities and needs...  read more 

Useful links

UN Strategies & Measures on the Elimination of VAC  

Convention on the Rights of the Child

UNODC Global Programme END VAC Handbook 

UNODC Global Programme END VAC Factsheet

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