Under the leadership of the WHO, international child welfare organisations have been searching for interventions which would be the most effective in ending violence against children. This resulted in the INSPIRE package: Seven Strategies for Ending Violence Against Children. Based on studies, the most effective policies and initiatives are those where governments, international donors, and local civil society organisations work together to prevent or minimise the damage caused by violence against children.
There is a clear package of inexpensive intervention proposals. Their goal—ending violence against children—nominally has strong support from the political spectrum and various donors. Three years after the launch of the INSPIRE package, who's working on in it in South Eastern Europe and the Caucasus? To find out, ChildPact conducted a mapping survey with responses from 296 organisations in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, the Republic of Moldova, Serbia and Turkey.
There are initiatives for creating an enabling environment for children, one where they are not threatened by violence. However, lack of awareness of the initiative made it difficult to coordinate advocacy actions both at international or national level. At the national level, state agencies are either incapable or unwilling to coordinate activities, in particular, in cases when this would require consistent interaction with civil society organisations. There is a strong need for an effort by international institutions to foster coordination between state and civil society.
A lot more can be done, through volunteer-led initiatives and through better coordination among NGOs, state agencies and international institutions and donors.
Ending violence against children requires not only better policies, but often cultural shifts. To change the public dialogue and common sense on practices such as corporal punishment of children that are still widespread and accepted across our region, it is important to build advocacy initiatives where grassroots NGOs, big international institutions, and state authorities move in the same direction.
No more corporal punishment for children
Often violence against children is the consequence of problematic cultural norms: it is not a lack of budget funds that compels adults to impose corporal punishments on children.
Corporal punishment is a degrading violation of basic human rights that is still widespread across our region (See the website, Global Initiative to End All Corporate Punishment of Children). Corporal punishment in the home is not forbidden in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, in spite of the fact that their governments have made a commitment to forbid it. In 2019, Kosovo and Georgia introduced new legislation prohibiting corporal punishment of children. This alone does not put an end to the problem, but it is an important step forward in promoting an understanding that such behaviour is unacceptable. After such laws are introduced, networks of NGOs can fundamentally contribute to ensure that they are actually implemented: Kosovo's national coalition for child protection (KOMF) has already announced its engagement in monitoring the implementation of the new law. Besides monitoring policy and law implementation, the role of NGOs and networks of NGOs is to educate the population on the emotional damage caused by corporal punishment, its impact on the dignity of the child and the damage this practice can have on individuals and society.
Besides providing details on the organisations conducting activities along the seven INSPIRE strategies, the regional mapping survey also presents data and examples related to the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Here also, better interaction between state agencies and NGOs would enable a stronger impact. Again, it is apparent how changing deeply problematic cultural norms is an important part of ending violence against children.
Ending violence against children requires changes in social norms, and as citizens we have the responsibility and duty to make this change happen. In the meantime, state authorities, international donors and NGOs can change for the better the life of children by implementing effective strategies such as those presented by INSPIRE, and by promoting better coordination among the many initiatives that are already taking place.