On 28 November 2023, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children (SRSG-VAC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) officially launched a joint ‘Strategy to End Violence Against Children' in Vienna, Austria.
“Our goal with the Strategy is not only to stop violence when it occurs, but also to create mechanisms to prevent children’s involvement in crime and violence,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. “The circumstances in which children act should not define them, and States should not choose security interests at the expense of children’s rights, otherwise we are only creating the conditions for the resurgence of conflict, terrorism, and crime in the future.”
Executive Director Waly said that the involvement of young people would be a key factor in the success of the Strategy. “Their insights and experiences are crucial to our efforts and empower them to take control of their own protection,” said Ms. Waly. “This strategy represents a promise to today and tomorrow’s children that a world without violence is possible.”
The 2023-2030 Strategy to End Violence against Children and the accompanying 2023-2024 Action Plan reflect a shared vision of a world in which every child grows up free from crime and violence. They underline the important role that governments, international organizations, civil society, the private sector, children and young people play in preventing and responding to crime and violence against children.
The SRSG-VAC, Dr. Najat M’jid, said that in a time marked by overlapping global crises, our commitment to protecting children's rights, particularly in the context of crime prevention and criminal justice, has never been more critical. “The launch of the joint strategy comes at a pivotal moment, where multifaceted and overlapping crises threaten children's rights, including the right to be protected from violence and crimes,” said Dr. M’jid. “Delaying action to prioritize and strengthen child protection in the domain of crime prevention and criminal justice is no longer an option.”
More than one in six children across the world live in areas affected by armed conflict, and one billion children are at an extremely high risk of being affected by the climate crisis. An estimated 44 million have been forcibly displaced and are at heightened risk of becoming victims of different forms of violence and crime.
The SRSG-VAC and UNODC are committed to working with partners to transform this vision into tangible reality, to ensure a safer and more caring world for our children. The strategy focuses on interventions to be delivered in four priority contexts where children are particularly vulnerable to crime and violence.
The Strategy provides direction and priorities for the UNODC and the OSRSG on VAC to support Member States in ending serious forms of violence against children and in mainstreaming child rights into broader development, rule of law, humanitarian and security reform efforts.
Contexts of insecurity: including contexts of (protracted) armed conflict, organized crime, terrorism, and other forms of prevalent crime and violence which leave society fragile and increase vulnerabilities.
Justice systems: including criminal justice systems and justice systems intended to protect and support children in which they may appear as victims or witnesses and/or alleged as, accused of or recognized as having infringed the penal law.
Cyberspace: where children can be and often are victims of crime, interpersonal violence and online child sexual exploitation and abuse, and can be recruited for criminal purposes.
Children on the move: because of extreme poverty, conflict, organized crime, or climate-related events. Interventions in this context will focus on children on the move who are victims of trafficking (and related forms of exploitation), subject of smuggling and children detained for immigration-related reasons.
A group of 20 children from Vienna International School took part in the launch of the strategy, embodying the hope and future that the Strategy seeks to protect. Their presence illustrated the real goal of the strategy: to create a world in which children can flourish free from the shadows of violence and crime.