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UNICEF: Spotlight Hidden Violence and Abuse on Universal Children’s Day

NEW YORK (November 20, 2013)  As the world observes Universal Children’s Day – the anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child – UNICEF is urging governments, civil society and ordinary citizens to shine a much stronger light on the millions of children globally who are victims of violence and abuse that continue to go unnoticed and under-reported.

“Too often abuse occurs in the shadows: undetected, unreported, and even worse – too often accepted,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director.  “We all have a responsibility to ‘make the invisible, visible’ – from governments enacting and enforcing laws to prohibit violence against children, to private citizens refusing to be silent when they witness or suspect abuse.” 

Violence against children often occurs in situations of war and conflict, and can inflict both physical harm and psychological damage on children. It takes many forms, including domestic violence, sexual assault as well as harsh disciplinary practices.

“Violence against children does more than harm individual children, it undermines the fabric of society, affecting productivity, well-being, and prosperity,” said Lake. “No society can afford to ignore violence against children.”

There are approaches that work to prevent and respond to violence against children. These include supporting parents, families and others who care for children, strengthening children’s skills to help protect them from violence, explicitly working to change attitudes and social norms that tolerate violence and discrimination, and strengthening and enforcing policies and laws that protect children.

UNICEF launched the #ENDViolence Against Children campaign earlier this year. It urges public acknowledgement of the problem of violence against children and encourages support and engagement with local movements to address a compelling global issue.

Universal Children’s Day also marks the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which this year celebrates its 24th anniversary. The UN Convention, adopted in 1989, became the first legally binding international convention to affirm human rights for all children. It specifies that every child, everywhere, has the right to survive, grow and be protected from all forms of violence.

UNICEF is also recognizing today the important work of Child Helpline International (CHI), a global network comprising 173 member telephone helplines in 141 countries that celebrated its 10th anniversary.  In a global report released today, CHI says that violence, abuse and neglect are among the top reasons that children and young people contact child helplines, amounting for 17 percent of all contacts over the last 10 years.

About Universal Children’s Day

In 1954, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the first Universal Children’s Day and encouraged all nations to observe an annual day to promote mutual understanding among children and global action on their behalf.  Universal Children’s Day, observed on 20 November by many countries, marks the day in which the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.



The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.

For additional information, please contact:

Andrea Sioris, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9136, asioris@unicefusa.org

Marci Greenberg, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2464, mgreenberg@unicefusa.org