Martin Horwood MP writes…Reducing the negative impact of violence on international development

Every five minutes a child dies from violence.

This appalling statistic, released in a new report from Unicef UK today, shows that violence is not confined to an unlucky few or even to war zones. Across the world, millions of children bear the brunt of an epidemic of violence that is often hidden or ignored and that threatens their rights to a healthy, safe and fulfilling life.

Violence manifests itself in many forms. Unicef UK’s research reveals that more than 125 million women, most in early childhood or adolescence, have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). In some regions, the child murder rate is shockingly high, especially for teenagers.  For example, an adolescent boy in Latin America is 70 times more likely to be murdered than in the UK.

Not only does violence and abuse cause immediate harm and trauma but it also has long term effects on a child’s cognitive development, on their ability to form relationships, on educational attainment and on their earning potential. Unicef UK reveals that child victims’ brains have similar patterns of activity to soldiers exposed to combat and a third of victims are likely to develop enduring post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

In the next twelve months, world leaders will negotiate a new universal set of sustainable development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire in 2015. The MDGs are widely regarded as having made a real contribution to the global fight against poverty, acting as crucial benchmarkers. The post-2015 framework for international development in turn offers a real opportunity for the global community to commit to build a more equal, sustainable and peaceful future for our world.

The new set of goals will rightly continue to focus attention on achieving progress on the issues included in the original MDGs such as health, education and poverty. However, we also need to build on this and tackle systemic threats that were not included in the original MDGs – such as climate change and violence.

Violence undermines development, it endangers life and health, disrupts education and increases poverty. Peace and security, access to justice and ending violence do not fall outside the sustainable development agenda; they are central to it.

I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats – and Lynne Featherstone in particular – have led the charge in government to end one of the worst forms of violence that girls can face – female genital mutilation (FGM) – both in the UK and abroad. We now need to build on this work and ensure the government prioritises ending all forms of violence and abuse against children.

The UK’s commitment to helping the world’s poorest through our aid budget and our work to galvanise the international community on violence issues affecting children puts us in a strong position to lead the push to secure a global target within the post 2015 framework to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

A better, and a safer, world for our children is within our reach. We must do it all it takes to make it happen.

* Martin Horwood is Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England & Gibraltar. He is a member of the European Parliament’s Iran delegation. He is Borough & parish councillor for Leckhampton, Gloucestershire.

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3 Comments

  • Is it true that Mr Harwood asked Mike Hancock if he was allowed to sit on the Lib Dem bench for the Palestine debate? Did he also write to the Speaker because Hancock had been called before Lib Dem speakers?
    Is Mr Harwood a liberal?

  • “……I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats – and Lynne Featherstone in particular – have led the charge in government to end one of the worst forms of violence that girls can face – female genital mutilation (FGM) – both in the UK and abroad. We now need to build on this work and ensure the government prioritises ending all forms of violence and abuse against children….”

    Worth repeating that bit.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '14 - 8:18pm

    Good article Martin. Sorry for the late response. It is easy to procrastinate when exploring new topics. Yes, all violence against children needs to be tackled, all violence against innocents full stop, but these specialisms are important.

    The new millenium development goals sounds good, but let’s have some real action, rather than the UN using celebrities for publicity. It’s fine if they are experts on the topic, but often they are not, and it distracts focus from doing the hard work.

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