Director-General's Office

End Violence Solutions Summit

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Stockholm, Sweden
14 February 2018

Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness,

Colleagues, agency heads, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I would like to start by thanking you for the warm welcome and it’s such a pleasure to be with you in Stockholm today.

Imagine waking up to the news that scientists had discovered a new disease that affects up to 1 billion children worldwide every single year.

Imagine that in the course of their lifetimes, this disease put children at greater risk of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse; chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes; mental health disorders; unwanted pregnancies; infectious diseases like HIV, and social problems such as crime and unemployment.

The sad truth is we do have such a “disease”; it’s violence against children. And it’s a universal problem.

Over half of all children aged 2 to 17 years have experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence during the past year.

This is shocking and totally unacceptable.

I’d also like to share with you what I observed when I visited Yemen in July. I visited Yemen in May 2014 as Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, and then I visited the same country in July 2017 when I became Director-General of WHO.

There is a very serious difference between the two visits, which I observed. One is the physical destruction – Yemen has been destroyed. But more importantly, it’s not the physical destruction, it’s the destruction of hope of the community, especially the children. When I met women and children, you can read it in their eyes, the destruction of hope and their dreams.

The Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister was saying “hope and dream”, let’s give hope and dreams to the children.

You see the hopelessness in their eyes. You can imagine how difficult it is, especially in armed conflict areas for women and children, the victims. They haven’t contributed anything to the conflict.

We must not think of violence against children simply as a problem in the here and now. We must consider the long-term implications. The physical and mental health of these children will be affected for many years, and will potentially compromise their ability to participate fully in society as they grow up.

The World Health Organization is proud to be among the founding members of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and I am excited to be here with you today to celebrate our successes and plan how to scale up.

For many victims of violence, health workers are the first and often the only point of contact they have with professionals who can help them.

Health workers provide much needed treatment for injuries and psychosocial support, and can link survivors to other services including legal support and social welfare.

Health workers also contribute to preventing violence. For example, they visit homes of at-risk children, and raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

They’re also well placed to monitor the scale and characteristics of violence in their surroundings, and to share information with counterparts from other sectors.

WHO’s new General Programme of Work, or the 5-year strategic plan, includes a strong focus on universal health coverage, which will ensure that victims of violence receive the quality services they need, without facing financial hardship.

It also includes specific targets for the prevention of violence against children and against women that will help focus and accelerate our efforts in this area, particularly at national and local levels.

Our responses must be grounded in science, and tailored to the needs of people.

That’s why WHO led a consortium of international agencies to develop INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children.

The INSPIRE package is truly novel. For the first time, it presents the international consensus on the best ways to prevent violence against children.

All of you have the INSPIRE document in your bags, so you will see that each letter of the word INSPIRE stands for one of the seven evidence-based strategies.

I stands for Implementing and enforcing laws, such as banning violent discipline and restricting access to alcohol and firearms;

N is for Norms and values change, like altering social norms that condone the sexual abuse of girls, or aggressive behaviour among boys;

S stands for Safe environments, such as identifying neighbourhood “hot spots” for violence and addressing the causes;

P is for Parent and caregiver support, by providing training for young, first time parents;

I stands for Income and economic strengthening, for example, by providing cash transfers to families on the condition that their children attend school;

R is for Response services provision -- ensuring that children who are exposed to violence receive effective emergency care and appropriate psychosocial support;

And E stands for Education and life skills, by giving children the tools to manage their emotions, maintain self-control, empathize with others and express themselves assertively.

In the coming weeks, we will also be launching a handbook with detailed information on how to implement these strategies, and a set of indicators by which to measure their uptake and impact.

Tomorrow morning from 8:00 to 8:45, there will be a briefing session about the INSPIRE package. I encourage all of you to attend to learn more. For now, let me focus on what we can all do to implement it.

First, we must put the INSPIRE package in the hands of all government officials who need to know about it and have the power to implement it, nationally and locally.

By the way, I was so moved and touched when I listened to His Excellency the Prime Minister’s story, from that beginning to a Premiership. If we give children a chance, anything is possible. And we’re hopeful too, seeing the Prime Minister starting from very humble and difficult beginnings, to where he is now.

Second, we must build strong alliances with our civil society colleagues who in many places are key partners of the government, and play a central role in the delivery of prevention programmes and services. We must ensure they know about INSPIRE so they can use it as a template for all actions to address violence against children.

Third, our action must be based on the best evidence. We must involve academics and researchers in monitoring the impact of INSPIRE on the prevalence of violence against children.

And fourth, we must ensure that donors – including governments and philanthropic foundations – know about INSPIRE and align their funding opportunities with it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the many years we have sought to address violence against children, we have never been so poised for success.

All the ingredients are there:

A clear mandate in the Sustainable Development Goals;

a solid, committed partnership which engages multiple sectors;

and consensus around a package of evidence-based interventions.

These are three important ingredients for success.

Nelson Mandela once said, “We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear. To ensure this, we must be tireless in our efforts.”

Too much is at stake to miss the opportunity we have before us.

Let me assure you of WHO’s commitment to working with you to give our children the future they deserve.

As Her Majesty said, it starts here.

Thank you so much. I wish you a successful summit.