It’s time to step up – and for businesses to lead the way
The first End Violence Against Children Summit sought to demonstrate leadership, build political will and increase knowledge on how to prevent, detect and treat violence against children – a global priority set out in 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The focus during the two days was Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 – ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture of children by 2030.
There is growing evidence that violence against children is preventable and we can ensure that it is no longer tolerated by investing in safe, stable and nurturing environments that let children thrive. To do this we need to be guided by strong commitment to children’s rights.
According to statistics from the summit, somewhere in the world one child dies from violence every five minutes, and at least 1 billion children endure some kind of physical, sexual or emotional violence every year.
There is not enough data that shows the cost of failing to identify, find, and rehabilitate a child that has or is suffering from sexual abuse and exploitation, and give them a chance to live life with full potential as an adult.
However, at the summit this cost was estimated at 3% of GDP. That estimate includes all forms of violence towards children, including child sexual abuse and exploitation. We know that the cost of not tackling child sexual abuse is high, therefore this figure did not come as a surprise.
The lack of data to measure the societal cost should not be an excuse for not taking clear actions against child sexual abuse, however I fear that necessary resources will not be allocated until we truly understand the societal cost of violence and abuse. Large global changes like environmental changes always start with substantiated cost and risk calculations and they are often driven by economical factors.
If we are going to progress towards SDG 16.2, businesses need to take the lead. We’re not asking for a vague commitment; the sustainable goals represent concrete measurable actions that business and government can progress.
Businesses interact with children in a very broad range of ways. Parents are employees, Families make up the communities where businesses operate, and the children themselves are our future workforce.
Global businesses can have an enormous reach and with global policies that contribute to the local community they can have a big impact on children’s lives. Whether it be education through learning platforms like Ericsson’s ‘connect to learn’, programs to empower women or detection technology that identifies employees that have a sexual interest in children and saves children from harm.
Today, sexual abuse and exploitation threatens the survival, health and education of millions of children. It erodes national, human and social capital and slows economic development. Adversities in childhood often lead to mental health problems, learning disabilities, substance abuse and further perpetuation of violence and abuse. Seen from a purely economical point of view, this creates a less stable business environment, and it induces losses in future productivity and earnings.
I really hope that this first summit lives up to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s urge to all leaders to “step up and give every girl and boy the opportunity to grow up to be a strong and confident individual,”. Step up to ensure that the solutions presented at this summit will not end up as just high-sounding words or as broken dreams, but lead to permanent change. Step up to keep our promise: to end violence against children in our time.
The first End Violence Against Children Summit was hosted by the Swedish Government, in cooperation with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and the WePROTECT Global Alliance in Stockholm during the 14-15 February 2018.