Time to Deliver the Post-2015 Agenda’s Promises to Children

The post-2015 agenda has a clear vision for children: the protection, survival and development of all children to their full potential. Four resonant and ambitious ‘core promises’ to children can be drawn from the child-focused goals and targets.

The core promises are:

  • No child should die from a disease we can prevent.
  • Every child should have the food needed to grow normally.
  • Every child should be able to read and write, and should be numerate.
  • No child should live in fear.

These core promises represent minimum levels of wellbeing that children must enjoy if, as adults, they are to contribute to a sustainable future. This new paper by David Steven sets out an agenda for those working to deliver the most urgent priorities to children (June 2015)

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Every Child Deserves a Childhood

Continuing with our work on the Time to Deliver theme, focusing on the core promises that should be made to children, this report explores the potential for the United Kingdom to play a leadership role at the heart of a proposed new global partnership to protect children; using new targets to end abuse, exploitation and all forms of violence against children as the focus for a drive to protect children both within the UK as well as globally, through the UK’s foreign and development policy.

This report was written in collaboration with UNICEF UK and will be used by them to develop the new partnership for children, both in the UK and globally.(May 2015)

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In post-2015, as in life – it’s safety first

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai is exceptional. She fearlessly brought the campaign for girls’ education to the centre of the world stage. There is a UN global initiative, former Prime Ministers are taking up the cause and it is an uncontested fact amongst policy makers, academics and practitioners alike that we cannot ‘do development’ unless boys and girls have equal and universal access to a quality education.

But, how do you teach a girl to read and write if she’s too scared to go to school for fear of being raped; or shot in the head for simply trying to claim the education she is due? How do you teach a boy the social and emotional skills he needs if the only lesson he learns is violent discipline and the streets are too dangerous for him to play?

Whilst Malala is unique, the violence committed against her is certainly not. Millions of children have suffered physical abuse in, or on route to, school. But it doesn’t end there. The places children should feel most safe are often the most dangerous. In the home and community children are being subjected to violence which impacts their physical and mental health with often permanent effects.

The problem is not limited to the Swat Valley or the gang ridden streets of San Salvador. The epidemic of violence against children is global and it thrives off inequality. No matter where you are in the world, if you are poor, marginalised or young, your vulnerability to violence is increased and your power to seek justice is reduced. In Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, Kibera, last week, I heard stories from children about unimaginable abuse and violence – like nine year old ‘Charles’, repeatedly raped by a neighbour who has evaded justice because of his influence in the community and with local officials, who he is able to pay off. Whilst each trauma was different, the common theme of impunity for the richer, older, more powerful perpetrators was common. Children in particular have limited access to and voice within justice systems, and their abuse and exploitation often goes unreported or is not investigated, leaving those who need most protection receiving the least. This cycle must be broken.

That every five minutes a child will die because of violence, as a new report from Unicef UK shows, is intolerable. The fact that this this has the potential to undo the vast progress we have seen in child survival in the last 20 years is inexcusable. Huge gains have been made since 2000 in keeping children alive to their fifth birthday, but these risk being offset by stubbornly high murder rates in adolescence. For example, in Brazil nearly 35,000 under-fives have been saved, but over the same period, more than 12,000 lives of adolescents were lost to homicide. Furthermore, child victims and survivors of violence have been left behind by global social and economic progress, with violence creating barriers to economic development. A survivor of violence in childhood is 60% more likely to be living in poverty than a neighbour who was not victimised.

As member states negotiate the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, we have an opportunity to redress this. Violence was not tackled by the MDGs and the most vulnerable, at highest risk, were left behind. In the post-2015 framework, a target to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children, with accompanying targets of access to justice and the rule of law, will help ensure we can finish the job of the MDGs and eliminate preventable child mortality and extreme poverty for good. In post-2015, as in life, we can follow the mantra of safety first.

But we don’t have to wait for the negotiations to finish before we act to end violence. The experience of Unicef’s work in many countries shows that there are effective strategies to prevent it – including providing support and services for children and their families, changing social norms through education and enforcing laws to keep children safe – that can be scaled up now. We need leaders to commit to doing this and to demonstrate the political will is there to facilitate the practical solutions. A global partnership of governments, international institutions and civil society, to build momentum on this crucial issue will help ensure the opportunity the post-2015 framework presents to turn the tide against violence isn’t lost.

We can’t rely on all children being heroes, to show remarkable courage, to defy the odds, to take the fight to the perpetrators of violence the way Malala did. They shouldn’t have to. They have a right to grow up free from fear and violence. We need to start planning now for that world.

Pakistan’s Next Generation: Insecure Lives, Untold Stories

CoverI’m in Lahore launching the third report from Pakistan’s Next Generation Task Force – I’m the Task Force’s director of research.

In the first report, we looked at the economic potential of young people in Pakistan and its ability to collect a demographic dividend as growing numbers of them enter the workforce.

In a second report, published in the run up to last year’s election, we explored the political implications of an electorate that is increasingly dominated by young voters, who are more likely to be educated, urban, and middle class than their parents.

Our third report focuses on how violence and conflict are shaping young lives. At its heart are 1,800 personal accounts which provide a stunning series of insights into a silent epidemic of political, criminal, domestic and sexual violence.

We demonstrate debilitating economic, social and physical damage, and a largely hidden problem – mental health impacts from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, self-harm, and suicide.

The report calls for urgent action to give a voice to the survivors and victims of violence, respond to their mental and emotional health needs, create opportunities for young people to opt out of violence, and promote reconciliation at provincial and national levels.

It’s a tough report that often makes for uncomfortable reading, but I think it’s essential not only for those interested in Pakistan’s future, but for all those engaged in the broader debate of how to build peaceful and inclusive societies.

You can download the report here.

Violence sweeps across Nigeria’s Plateau State

The Nigerian city Jos, the capital of the Plateau State, is the scene of some of the worst sectarian violence in recent years. Up to 300 people were killed after a disputed local election on Friday which has divided the town on social and religious fault lines. Police have imposed a 24-hour curfew and the army is patrolling the streets.

Update, 30/11, 12.40 pm (David): The death toll appears to have risen further:

Residents delivered more bodies to the main mosque in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday, bringing the death toll from two days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs to around 400 people.

Rival ethnic and religious mobs have burned homes, shops, mosques and churches in fighting triggered by a disputed local election in a city at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south. It is the country’s worst unrest for years.

Murtala Sani Hashim, who has been registering the dead as they are brought to the city’s main mosque, told Reuters he had listed 367 bodies and more were arriving. Ten corpses wrapped in blankets, two of them infants, lay behind him. A doctor at one of the city’s main hospitals said he had received 25 corpses and 154 injured since the unrest began. “Gunshot wounds, machete injuries, those are the two main types,” Dr Aboi Madaki, director of clinical services at Jos University Teaching Hospital, told Reuters.

The overall toll was expected to be higher, with some victims already buried and others taken to other clinics. The violence appeared to die down on Sunday. Soldiers patrolled on foot and in jeeps to enforce a 24-hour curfew imposed on the worst-hit areas. People who ventured out walked with their hands in the air to show they were unarmed. “They are still picking up dead bodies outside. Some areas were not reachable until now,” said Al Mansur, a 53-year-old farmer who said all the homes around his had been razed.

Overturned and burnt-out vehicles littered the streets while several churches, a block of houses and an Islamic school in one neighbourhood were gutted by fire. The Red Cross said around 7,000 people had fled their homes and were sheltering in government buildings, an army barracks and religious centres. A senior police official said five neighbourhoods had been hit by unrest and 523 people detained.

Update, 30/11, 4.58 pm (Alex):

For some of the backstory on violence and civil conflict in Plateau State, this 2004 article on OCHA’s IRIN website is worth a look.  While the rest of the world’s attention was focused on New York in early September 2001, the city of Jos was consumed by a week of bloodletting in which 1,000 people died. But as the article notes, that was just the beginning: over the following 32 months, 53,787 people died in retaliatory violence between Plateau state’s Christians (who are mainly indigenous farmers) and Muslims (mainly traders and livestock herders).

International Crisis Group give more of the background in their 2006 briefing on governance in Nigeria:

The constitution enshrines a “federal character” principle, a type of quota which seeks to balance the apportionment of political positions, jobs and other government benefits evenly among Nigeria’s many peoples but is distorted by a second principle, that of indigeneity, which makes the right to such benefits dependent upon where an individual’s parents and grandparents were born. The result is widespread discrimination against non-indigenes in the 36 states and sharp inter-communal conflict. In Plateau State, for example, recurrent clashes since 2001 between “indigene” and “settler” communities competing over political appointments and government services have left thousands dead and many more thousands displaced…

Update, 30/11, 16.58 pm (David): One interesting wrinkle – Henry Okah, the man John Robb has dubbed “one of the most important people alive today, a brilliant innovator in warfare”, is currently on trial in Jos. After repeated delays, the secret hearing is due to resume on Thursday…