ECPAT UK, a leading organisation campaigning to protect children from trafficking and transnational abuse, has called for children’s rights to be prioritised in Sustainable Development Goals.

ECPAT UK welcomes the inclusion of a goal to end the abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children, and to eradicate the worst forms of child labour. Campaigners regard this as an important step in ensuring that the protection of children is put at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.

However, campaigners warn that children’s rights issues must not be viewed in isolation from other goals. They emphasise that the eradication of child exploitation by 2030 will depend on much more being done to meet other sustainable development goals, including the aims of ending poverty in all its forms everywhere and of promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth. 

ECPAT UK is calling on world leaders to make good on their promise to “transform our world” by working to create a future in which every child has access to the child protection systems that they need to safeguard their rights. This means creating a world in which all children and their families benefit from the social protection necessary to insure them against poverty and support them in fulfilling their aspirations. 

However, research suggests that the international community is far from achieving that ambition, with 73% of the world’s population lacking access to adequate social security. Anti-trafficking campaigners warn that this lack of protection puts children at risk of exploitation and point to the strong connection between poverty and vulnerability to trafficking and modern slavery. Social protection measures are understood to be key to providing economic security to families, helping to prevent child labour and improving children’s access to education.

Recent research indicates that without a considerable increase in the rate of progress none of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals will be met by 2030. Placing children’s rights at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda would therefore require structural social and economic change. According to Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK, this is what is needed if we are to fully realise the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals:

“The Sustainable Development Goals are an opportunity to galvanise and unite world leaders against the scourge of child trafficking and forced labour. ECPAT UK welcomes the commitment to ending all forms of violence against children, but we know that much more remains to be done to create a world where children everywhere are free from the threats of trafficking, abuse and exploitation.

"If we are to end child trafficking by 2030, it is vital that we address its root causes. This means not only tackling poverty but also the structural inequalities which make children vulnerable to trafficking and modern slavery. Children will not be protected from trafficking until they are able to freely exercise their fundamental rights to education and to adequate social protection. Delivering this for every child means transforming the way we think about the relationship between child protection and global inequality, and thinking seriously about how best to protect children in the context of our modern, globalised economy.”