Human Rights Council
28 February–1 April 2022
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development
In the present report, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 74/133, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid, summarizes the damaging effects of two years of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic on child protection and on children’s well-being. The report sets out an evidence-based case centred on the investment in strengthened and integrated services for children and their caregivers, highlighting the key role of children as agents of change. Based on the lessons learned from the pandemic and other ongoing crises – including conflict, climate change and natural disasters – the report outlines how such integrated services are essential for the realization of children’s right to freedom from violence and in accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Such investment provides a high return for children, families and society at large and paves the way for a more sustainable, just, inclusive and resilient societies both during and beyond the recovery from the pandemic.
1. In the present report, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children reviews actions she has taken at the global, regional and national levels to fulfil her mandate and provides an overview of the results achieved. The report highlights how violence against children has increased, while becoming less visible, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and outlines why investing in strengthened and integrated services for children is essential to the realization of the vision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
2. There is strong evidence that violence against children in the home, the community and online has increased during the two years of pandemic, and there is evidence of a related increase in gender-based violence. The severe socioeconomic impact of the disease has increased the risks of child labour, child sexual exploitation, trafficking and smuggling, child marriage and the enrolment of children in criminal and armed groups. In addition, ongoing crises caused by conflict, food insecurity, climate change, natural disasters and political instability continue to expose children to multiple forms of violence.
3. Even before the advent of COVID-19, data show that about half of the world’s children are exposed to violence every year. Close to 300 million children aged 2–4 regularly experience violent discipline at the hands of their caregivers. A third of students aged 11–15 worldwide have been bullied by their peers in the past month and it is estimated that about 120 million girls suffer some form of forced sexual contact before age 20. Emotional violence affects one in three children and one in four children worldwide lives with a mother who is the victim of intimate partner violence.
4. Violence has devastating immediate, lifelong and intergenerational effects on children and their families. Violence kills children: in 2017, an estimated 40,150 children were victims of homicide, accounting for 8.4 per cent of all homicides.Violence impairs children’s brain development, severely harms their physical and mental health and undermines their ability to learn. The direct impacts of violence against children also impose substantial economic costs on individuals, communities and Governments. Violence in childhood limits the development of individuals as they grow into adulthood, and the cost of this unrealized potential holds back the social and economic development of society.
5. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to eliminate violence against children were moving too slowly – those efforts must be accelerated. Building on the lessons of the pandemic and other crises, the provision of integrated and multisectoral services that are accessible to all children without discrimination must now be seen as a key investment to build back better during the pandemic and beyond.