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    Breaking the vicious circle

    Aqilah Rahman

    More than half of all children worldwide are subject to violence, yet evidence shows a significant lack of funding both on national and global levels to end violence against children.

    Counting Pennies 3, the third in a series of reports by World Vision International and partner agencies, finds that investment to end violence against children has decreased by 10 per cent since 2018, with 0.78 per cent of total 2020 Official Development Assistance (ODA) investment (USD1,757 billion) spent. The amount spent to end violence against children per child was USD0.64 per child, the lowest since 2015.

    The report examines what portion of ODA has been allocated to ending violence against children, in which ODA is defined as government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

    According to the report, “Violence against children takes a multitude of forms, including, but not limited to child marriage, child labour, corporal punishment, sexual abuse and exploitation, bullying, gang and conflict-related violence, and violence facilitated by technology, such as cyberbullying, sexual extortion and online sexual exploitation and abuse.”

    Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020, violence against children has become increasingly prevalent. For the first time in decades, child labour and child marriage are projected to rise, putting the significant progress over the last 10 years at risk.

    File photo shows Syrian school children in a classroom in a makeshift school in the rebel-held side of the divided northern town of Tadif, east of Aleppo city. PHOTO: AFP

    Ten per cent of the total funding for ending violence against children included response to the pandemic, while investment in ending child labour and marriage remains almost unchanged despite the increasing prevalence.

    Funding also remains heavily concentrated between a few donors and recipient countries.

    On the World Vision International website, President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Morley said, “One billion children are experiencing violence each year yet the efforts to end the violence remain alarmingly underfunded. Donors must urgently scale up funding to respond to the impacts of the pandemic on children as well as the pre-existing widespread needs.”

    A major portion of ODA for ending violence against children comes from just 10 donors, accounting for approximately 86 per cent of the total investment.

    In addition, the funding is usually directed towards addressing violence against children in association with other objectives, rather than prioritising it as a standalone funding priority.

    Investment decisions are largely driven by humanitarian crises. Most spending targets countries with large-scale conflicts, as well as those facing or hosting displaced populations as a result of conflict.

    In 2020, over a third of the ODA investment to end violence against children was for countries in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

    Despite the geographical focus, the funding only covered a small fraction of the child protection needs in most humanitarian contexts.

    From 2018 to 2020, child protection-specific funding went up by 12 per cent but the scope of identified needs covered dropped from 42 per cent to 24 per cent.

    Investment in ending violence is lagging behind the massive increase in children’s protection needs, said the report.

    With the current fiscal austerity and investment being diverted towards various political, health, and environmental crises, the shift in donor priorities will have significant consequences for already-underfunded efforts to end violence against children.

    “Without an increase in ODA funding, specifically targetting programmes focussed on ending violence against children, achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal targets will remain off track and generations to come will suffer,” said Morley.

    Ending violence against children is among the top issues included in the Agenda 2030 and has led over 30 governments to declare their intention to prioritise the objective.

    However, the commitments have not been followed by political actions and investments needed to tackle the issue, says the report.

    The report set out three recommendations for donors and partners: maintain and increase funding to end violence against children; agree on a standardised methodology to track donor investments; and further research the trends identified in the report, especially related to the shift away from funding specifically targetted at violence against children.

    Exposure to violence significantly impacts children’s mental and social development, educational outcomes and employment opportunities. It is also estimated that physical, sexual and emotional violence against children costs three to eight per cent of global gross domestic product.

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