As the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children prepares to close its doors, we reflect on the work and success of the organisation, its unique approach to advocacy and its impact in ensuring children in all regions of the world can grow up free from corporal punishment in their homes, schools and communities. We are working with partners to ensure our website and some of our work will continue after we close – please check our website in the coming months for more information.
The Global Initiative was launched in April 2001 at a side event of the then UN Commission on Human Rights – now the Human Rights Council. It was preceded by EPOCH (End Physical Punishment of Children) Worldwide – a loose network of organisations with a similar aim – and prior to its launch, the Global Initiative had gained the support of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a wide range of influential human rights defenders, including Mary Robinson, then High Commissioner for Human Rights, who spoke at the launch.
Following Sweden’s pioneering ban on corporal punishment of children in 1979, progress towards universal prohibition had initially been slow, and when the Global Initiative was launched in 2001, 11 states had achieved prohibition in all settings, including the home. Progress has since accelerated rapidly and, by July 2020, 60 states have prohibited all corporal punishment of children and a further 28 states have 'committed' to enacting fully prohibiting legislation.
From its inception, the Global Initiative mapped the status of corporal punishment of children worldwide and maintained detailed individual reports on every state and territory. These reports outline the legality of corporal punishment in the major settings of children’s lives – the home, alternative care, day care, schools and penal systems – and describe the legislative reforms needed in order to achieve prohibition. They also identify if a government has made a commitment to prohibit, they include abstracts of relevant recommendations by UN and regional treaty bodies, and they summarise recent research into the prevalence of, and attitudes towards, corporal punishment in that state or territory.
Over the years, these reports have provided the base – and authority – for the Global Initiative’s advocacy and technical assistance. Using this information, we were able to brief the UNCROC before its examination of every state party report since the beginning of the Committee’s systematic monitoring in 2003, and we analysed the outcomes to identify recommendations on corporal punishment. We subsequently also began regularly briefing other UN treaty monitoring bodies and regional human rights mechanisms (including in particular the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child), and for every state reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that had not yet achieved prohibition since its first session in 2008.
An independent evaluation of the Global Initiative in 2015 examined the effectiveness of this approach and found a six-fold increase in recommendations on corporal punishment by the Committee Against Torture after systematic briefing by the Global Initiative, while recommendations from the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights tripled, and from the Human Rights Committee doubled.
Since 2012, the Global Initiative has also carried out a regular follow-up programme, contacting governments, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and NGOs in states that receive recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment from the various Committees or under the UPR, to encourage them to pursue law reform and to offer technical advice and support. We also share draft briefings with NGOs and NHRIs before submission, to encourage the submission of briefings at national level and, more importantly, to engage with NGOs and NHRIs on the issue.
Through this and our other work, the Global Initiative has grown our global network to almost 2,000 partners across all world regions who support universal prohibition of corporal punishment of children. Through this diverse group of organisations and individuals, we show solidarity, encourage collaboration, learn from each other’s successes and setbacks, and we establish partnerships for sustained activity.
For years, the Global Initiative has supported this network with a comprehensive hub of evidence, targeted advocacy resources and the provision of training and technical assistance. We have supported governments and civil society actors with legal assessments, drafting legislation and strategy development for law reform, advocacy and campaigns to transform attitudes and practices around violence in raising and educating children. Central to this has been learning from the experience of our partners all over the world, enabling us to advise on best practices at all stages of law reform and social norm change.
In the past 10 years, the Global Initiative has held almost 20 multi-day workshops to support national partners in their journey to end corporal punishment, and has provided remote technical support to countless national partners all over the world. We have also developed a wide range of publications and digital resources to support law reform and social norm change. While the Global Initiative will close, our website will live on – an extensive resource which is now available in seven languages! The website includes our flagship FAQ booklets, published with Save the Children Sweden, in 16 languages, our short guide to law reform in 3 languages, and 237 country reports which have been translated into 26 languages (as relevant to the country).
Naturally, given the progress in states achieving prohibition or clearly committed to doing so, the Global Initiative’s advocacy approach broadened in recent years to include a greater focus on implementation of the legal ban, and how states are eliminating corporal punishment in practice. In particular, the Global Initiative partnered with the Council of the Baltic Sea States on ‘Non-violent Childhoods: Moving on from corporal punishment in the Baltic Sea Region’. The project resulted in the development of six guidance documents covering a range of topics – including a step-by-step guide to implementing prohibition – that were launched at an international conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in late 2018.
Since it was launched almost 20 years ago, the Global Initiative has been instrumental in ensuring corporal punishment was recognised as a violation of children’s fundamental right to freedom from violence. Its success is evident in the increased coverage of the issue by human rights treaty bodies and special procedures, and culminated in the adoption of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, with Target 16.2 to end all violence against children and Indicator 16.2.1 on the prevalence of violent discipline in the home.
Recognising the value of collaboration, the Global Initiative has been an active member of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, established to coordinate global efforts to achieve Target 16.2, and has particularly contributed to its CSO Forum and the development of the global #SafetoLearn campaign. We also contributed to the development of the INSPIRE strategies to end violence against children, took part in the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2019, where the vital importance of ending violence against children was reiterated, and published a range of resources to support those working towards Target 16.2.
The 2015 evaluation of the Global Initiative found its influence at global level to be ‘unquestionable’ with success attributed to the reliability and depth of its information, its vision and persistence, and its clear and unequivocal child rights stance on the issue of prohibition. It also found the strategy of briefings to treaty bodies and the UPR process has been ‘particularly influential’ and found ‘a clear correlation between inputs from the [Global Initiative], recommendations to states and countries prohibiting’.
A world without corporal punishment is possible – but it will take a global movement of actors to see violence in homes, schools and all settings fully eliminated. The journey is long and requires knowledge and evidence, motivation and above all perseverance. You – our supporters all over the world – are more important than ever. Please sign up to and support the following networks and organisations and continue your vital work and support to achieve our shared mission to end all corporal punishment and promote positive, respectful relationships between adults and children.
- Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children
- Save the Children Resource Centre
- African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)
- Movimiento Mundial por la Infancia de Latinoamérica y El Caribe (MMI-LAC)
- US Alliance to End the Hitting of Children
- Council of Europe
- Churches' Network for Non-Violence
We are working with partners to ensure our website and some of our work will continue after we close – please check our website in the coming months for more information.