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Human Rights Day 2021: What does it take to achieve the SDGs?

7th December 2021

Why ending violence against children is essential

On Human Rights Day, let's commit to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by ending violence against children and adolescents. We must protect their right to live free from violence.

On December 10, we commemorate Human Rights Day, a day to recognize the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

This declaration acknowledges that the principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights, and it establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Human Rights Day is an important reminder that in order to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ending violence against children and adolescents is essential.

Children and adolescents have a right to live free from violence

At the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which serve as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, focusing on a variety of social issues. Many of these goals, specifically SDG 5 and SDG 16, can be achieved by eliminating violence against children and adolescents.

SDG 5: Creating a gender-equal world to empower women and girls

SDG 5 consists of achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.

Achieving this goal is even more urgent now due to the fact that the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have adversely affected recent progress on gender equality. As a result of the pandemic, violence against women and girls has intensified and child marriage is expected to increase after declining in previous years.

In order to achieve SDG 5, six targets must be met, many of which are focused on ending violence against children.

The six targets include:

  1. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  2. Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  3. Eliminate all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation,
  4. Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work.
  5. Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making.
  6. Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
SDG 5 graphic

SDG 16: Ending all forms of violence against children

SDG 16 focuses on promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all. SDG 16.2 specifically calls for ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities and discrimination, before the pandemic, violence against children was widespread and affected children regardless of wealth or social status.

In 77 mostly low- and middle-income countries and territories with available data from 2012 to 2020, 8 in 10 children, ranging from 1 to 14 years of age, had been subjected to some form of psychological aggression or physical punishment at home in the previous month. Additionally, in 2018, 5 in 10 victims of human trafficking detected globally were women and 2 in 10 were girls.

In order to achieve SDG 16, it is critical that we end all forms of violence against children, including sexual violence.

SDGs Peace, justice, strong institutions graphic

Progress towards a more sustainable future

Ending violence against children and adolescents is essential to upholding children and adolescents’ rights and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Not only is it an ethical imperative, but it is also a smart investment.

According to the United Nations ​​Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, violence against children weakens the foundations of social progress and sustainable development, as it diverts billions of dollars from social spending, slows economic development and erodes nations’ human and social capital.

Preventing and responding to violence against children will generate benefits for decades to come.

1b children suffer some form of violence

The time is now to end violence against children and adolescents

Human Rights Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how we can achieve a better, safer and more sustainable future for all. As we work towards this goal, we must not forget that upholding the rights of children and adolescents is essential, and cannot be done without ending violence against children and adolescents.

While it’s clear that we need more data and evidence to both understand the prevalence and nature of violence against children across geographies and settings, we also have ample data and evidence to act now to build stronger child protection systems and challenge and change the social norms that drive and condone violence.

To learn about global progress towards the SDGs aimed at ending violence against children, explore the Global status report on preventing violence against children 2020, jointly published by TfG partners WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence Against Children and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

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This blog was written by Ana Sofia Romero, Policy, Advocacy, and Research Intern for Together for Girls and student of Economics and Psychology at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.