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Counting Pennies: A review of official development assistance to end violence against children

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New report shows only a small fraction of official development assistance goes toward ending violence against children For the first time, a review of official development assistance (ODA) to end violence against children has been done. The report Counting Pennies found that in 2015, total ODA spending was $174 billion and of that, less than 0.6 per cent was allocated to ending violence against children.

“While commending states’ commitment to end violence against children, it is deeply worrying that less than US$1.1 billion of ODA is estimated to be spent addressing this critical human rights concern,” said Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence against Children.

Violence compromises children’s development, health and education and has a high cost for society – up to US$7 trillion a year, worldwide. Because of this, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development now includes a distinct global target to end all forms of violence against children (target 16.2). Ending the abuse, neglect and exploitation of children is also mainstreamed across other parts of this international development agenda.

“Children’s lives are at stake and the serious consequences of violence can last a lifetime,” Santos Pais added. “While governments’ policy priorities may have competing demands on scarce resources, the social and financial costs of inaction are too high.”

Civil society partners that collaborated on this report were World Vision International, SOS Children’s Villages, Save the Children and ChildFund Alliance. The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children and UNICEF also contributed to the research.

"Violence against children undermines all aid and development activities. Partnerships, like the one backing this report, are vital in addressing an issue of this magnitude,” said Trihadi Saptoadi, Vice Chair, Executive Committee for Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and World Vision Global Leader for Impact and Engagement. “An end to violence against children is within reach and we will see the greatest impact by working together."

The report also found that half of all ODA to end violence against children goes to two geographic regions: Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Countries affected by conflict and displacement, such as Iraq, Syria and South Sudan, receive the bulk of these investments. Yet, funding to address violence against children in these areas is still lacking.

The study recommends for donors to improve tracking of spending to determine how international development assistance is contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development targets to end violence against children. The report also calls for further research into the amount of domestic resources invested by recipient governments.

“The world’s agreed priority to ending violence against children needs to be matched by increased ODA investment and by tracking spending on preventing and addressing violence against children,” said Santos Pais. “This must happen through both official development assistance and through the mobilization of domestic resources.”


Amanda Cupido World Vision

Silvia Onate Save the Children

Diana Quick ChildFund Alliance


Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, peaceful, nurturing and enabling environment. But this is not the case for millions of children across the world that experience violence every day.
Violence includes more than just physical abuse, but also things like forced labour, neglect and child marriage. The consequences are devastating for children, their communities and society as a whole.
Violence against children erodes the very foundation of stable societies and threatens future sustainable and inclusive economic growth. This is why global leaders have made ending violence against children in all its forms a priority for transforming our world.

While commitments are strong, we still need to strengthen their implementation. But what will it take to do that? How much do we need to invest to end violence against children and how far are we from reaching that level of investment?

To date, few attempts have been made to systematically quantify and analyze available data on investment in this area. The sheer complexity of the issue has muddied the capacity to yield tangible, measurable indicators on investment linking expenditures to identifiable benefits. This report is an important step to challenge the status quo. While data on investments into ending violence against children remains extremely scarce, for the first time in history, we have managed to estimate annual investment made through Official Development Assistance (ODA) that was specifically targeted at ending violence against children. The estimate includes both projects specifically targeted to end violence against children as well as those that aim to do so along with addressing multiple problems such as gender-based violence, conflict and poverty.

By exposing a range of findings on ODA and ending violence against children—including specific amounts contributed toward different types of violence prevention—the report has launched what could be a revolutionary discourse around the quantification of aid toward ending one of the most persistent and pernicious of global problems.

As the UN Sustainable Development Goals have gone live and we look toward Agenda 2030 as a target date for eliminating all forms of violence against children worldwide, this report provides the exact kind of precision previously missing from all other analyses of efforts in this area. It takes the stance that donors should adopt a formula for tracking spending on violence against children and offers suggestions for methodologies that could be universally shared once agreed upon. It also shines a light on the donor and recipient countries of ODA investment in this area. It is data like this that will allow us to hold ourselves accountable to the noble goal of eliminating violence against children by 2030.

A glaring blind spot has finally been addressed and—with that—new possibilities for qualifying and quantifying efforts to combat violence against children are finally opening up, launching a new era, ripe with the hope of better and more sustainable results.

It is now time to take charge and move this initiative forward, fulfilling the obligation of the global community to account for the impact of its spending in real terms and ensuring the rights of all children to be free from violence.

Susan Bissell
Director: The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children

Trihadi Saptoadi
Director Partnership Leader – Impact and Engagement World Vision International