A Global Mission That Is Truly Winnable 

Mark Waddington CEO headshot

A message from our CEO, Mark Waddington, ahead of the SDG Summit in New York (18-19 September)

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was a milestone in global commitments to human cooperation. In 2015 landmark agreements were adopted to tackle the greatest challenges of our time, from climate change to inequality, in order to ensure a fairer society and more prosperous future for us all. These agreements are structured across 17 goals – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

At the heart of this agenda is the universally held principle to leave no one behind. And yet, despite our sector’s clear calls, governments have consistently refused to properly monitor children deprived of family care, and especially the millions of children who have been incarcerated in institutions around the world. Not only are these children being left behind and excluded from consideration across efforts to progress the SDGs, but the actual existence of many of them has not even been recorded.

The evidence is conclusive. Institutions harm children. In fact, all children deprived of family care face increased protection risks. Many of them are denied their fundamental rights, and for some, those rights are being violated in egregious ways.

It does not have to be this way. We have proven that when there is meaningful commitment and the right partnerships in place with governments, the development and reform of family-based care and protection systems can be cost-effectively integrated into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda with remarkable results. These results include significantly improved earning potential for children and the families who care for them (SDG 1), better health outcomes (SDG 3), better educational outcomes (SDG 4), better equality outcomes (SDG 5), and significantly reduced abuse, exploitation, trafficking and violence (SDG 16). Put plainly, without the necessary action to integrate care and protection reform in development planning and implementation, the SDGs will not be achieved. 

Now is the time to act.

The 2030 agenda is at its halfway point. The global pandemic, cost of living crisis and rapidly growing impact of climate change have combined to put progress back. Governments can no longer continue to ignore the circumstances of children deprived of family care. It is a violation of their commitments to leave no one behind. The lifelong consequences that many children suffering from the impact of institutionalisation have to endure means that the SDGs are a consideration for others, not for them. Time is running out.

Hope and Homes for Children is calling on all governments around the world to Unite and #ACT4SDGS.

This must include:

  • integrating care reform and systems development across the key policy dimensions of education, health, social protection and welfare, housing, employment and so on
  • putting in place policies and services that tackle the root causes of separation of children from their families – the vast majority of children confined in institutions are not orphans
  • securing sustainable funding to support all stages of child protection system strengthening and care reformtackling stigma and discrimination against those children who endure it, especially children who live with disabilities

A cross-government policy on ending the institutionalisation of children was agreed by the UK in 2018, leading to a moratorium on any UK Aid being used to fund institutions. All well and good, but UK Aid funding  was never a major driver of institutionalisation – to deliver on this commitment the UK needs to take an active role. We are therefore calling on the UK government to fulfil its commitment and take action by developing a clear plan with dedicated resourcing to deliver it. The UK has the opportunity to play a leading role in eliminating institutions around the world and in reforming child care and protection.

Ending the global institutionalisation of children is a truly winnable mission. It is a mission that we know benefits so many more people than those children suffering such incarceration. It is an investment in the families and communities who, with the right support, are able to offer the love and protection those children deserve. Everybody wins. This is why governments must act now.


Leave no child behind

Read our renewed call for support for global child protection and care reform to unlock progress against 2030 goals.

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