(20 February 2018) Global leaders and researchers gathered in Stockholm last week for the first Agenda 2030 Solutions Summit to End Violence Against Children. The summit brought together governments, UN organisations and non-intergovernmental organisations, civil society, the private sector, academics, and children to design and share bold solutions for preventing and responding to violence against children as part of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 commitments.
The two-day event, hosted by the Swedish government, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and the WeProtect Global Alliance, took place 14-15 February 2018. More than 400 participants from around the world, representing more than 60 countries, were invited to discuss new initiatives, solutions, successes, and shortfalls, as well as to raise awareness to increase commitments to act to end violence against girls and boys.
Mary Catherine Maternowska, a former senior research and evaluation specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, who now heads the data, evidence and solutions programme at the Global Partnership to End Violence Secretariat, oversaw the content for the summit in Stockholm, working closely with counterparts in the Swedish Government and the Childfund Alliance to ensure the summit’s goal of building political will, accelerating action, and engaging collaboration.
“This was the first summit of this caliber, ever. Less than eight years ago, it was nearly impossible to even mention the words ‘violence against children’ to almost any government in the global North or South. The field has been changing rapidly with increased data collection and improved rigour around the implementation of violence prevention interventions,” she said. “A variety of stakeholders from the UN, academics, children, CSOs and governments who have dared to confront violence affecting children, have all contributed to the change in the violence prevention landscape. The summit was a clear indicator that there is now a global movement underway,” Maternowska said.
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, speaks at the opening of the Solutions Summit to End Violence Against Children in Stockholm on 14 February 2018
Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, UNICEF Innocenti’s expert on digital technology and child rights, was invited to participate as an expert research practitioner in the summit’s workshop on online violence against children, which included high-level roundtable discussions on the WeProtect Global Alliance’s agenda, including what steps to take moving forward to protect children from online violence.
Kardefelt-Winther stressed the importance of evidence and the need for better and more data collection to combat violence against children online. “For online violence against children, it can be difficult to find enough high-quality comparative data, or even to understand what constitutes violence against children online” Kardefelt-Winther said. He noted that participants at the summit expressed a need to define more clearly what constitutes online violence against children. “We need to separate the narratives and make it very clear what we mean by online violence against children. WeProtect has made a promising start by creating a new threat assessment that categorizes the risks of online violence against children by age group – for example, as children grow older, they are exposed to different types of risks of online violence, which may require different prevention or response strategies” he added.
UNICEF Innocenti’s evidence-generation project on children’s online experiences, Global Kids Online, has collected data on several indicators of violence against children, such as cyber bullying and sexual exploitation/online grooming. “We generate baseline evidence that will help us get a first indication of the extent of some forms of violence against children online, but more focused research will be needed to truly understand the depth and breadth of this issue,” Kardefelt-Winther said. “Global Kids Online is working to strengthen the evidence base, not only by expanding the scope to include more countries, but also in how we study online violence,” he added. In addition to the importance of evidence to help end violence against children, Kardefelt-Winther noted, “It’s equally important to generate political will and strong commitments to end violence against children – the summit was critical in gathering the global community around this issue and in highlighting the evidence gap – now we should prioritize getting more and better data to inform our multi-stakeholder response and to generate better solutions.”
Tia Palermo, social policy specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, was also invited to participate in a side event of the summit, led by the Economist Intelligence Unit – the research arm of The Economist magazine, in discussing indicators on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, including the following four dimensions: prevalence of sexual violence, risk factors for sexual violence, laws and policies, and enforcement of those laws and policies.
Echoing other calls for more evidence at the summit, there are several limitations of existing data on the topic according to Palermo. “On prevalence, the data that does exist is not very comparable across countries: there isn’t enough data across ages ranges or disaggregated by gender,” she said. “There is much less known about risk factors just for sexual violence, and more for violence in general,” she added, noting that addressing evidence gaps by country and analyzing country responses to violence against children would be a good first step in addressing the issues. “There is a need to collect more data on violence against children in order to better understand the problems that exist.”
Prevalence of violence by gender and age group from UNICEF Innocenti's research presentation: Disclosure, reporting and help-seeking among child survivors of violence.
Maternowska also stressed the importance of research in identifying solutions and actions from the summit. “Having spent the last four years focusing on The Multi Country Study on the Drivers Violence Affecting Children, I am absolutely convinced that human-centered, data driven and applied research is the best way to approach improved violence prevention,” she said. “Violence prevention requires the best that science has to offer from both the hard and measurable evidence of surveys, but also from the messier realm of qualitative research that seeks to explain the social lives that underpin children’s lives. The violence prevention work at UNICEF Innocenti is testimony to so many dedicated governments and UNICEF’s potential for evidence generation that matters. Research very much underpins the fact that we were able to have a Solutions Summit—evidence is critical,” she added.
“As the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children continues to build political will and now accelerate action towards the SDGS—notably 16.2 and related targets—research will continue to play a critical role in setting standards, piloting new innovative efforts and helping scale up what works.”