SDG16+ Champions of Change

The activist building a movement to end violence against children


Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Howard Taylor is the Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, an innovative public-private partnership launched by the UN Secretary-General. Before joining End Violence Against Children, he has led a global corporate foundation, established a creative social enterprise, built government teams, and led an UN-hosted global partnership — all to improve the lives of millions of people.

As Vice-President and Managing Director of the Nike Foundation, Howard was the driving force behind the successful spin-out of Girl Effect as an independent, creative social enterprise that uses branded mass and social media, technology and data to tackle negative social norms and change behaviors. Prior to Nike, Howard held senior roles across the UK Government, including at the Department for International (DFID), Cabinet Office and Foreign Office. He was Chief of Staff to two Secretaries of State and led DFID’s largest country programs in India and Ethiopia. He currently serves on the Board of the WePROTECT Global Alliance and is a member of the International Telecommunication Union Broadband Commission Working Group on Child Online Safety.

We spoke with Dr. Howard Taylor to learn more about his work and what drives him:

What ignited your pursuit for more peaceful, just and inclusive societies?

I was appalled to learn that one billion children experience violence every year. Violence at that scale is an epidemic. Putting a stop to it isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a smart investment to make; violence against children undermines all other investments in them (health, education, etc.), often with lifelong consequences and with significant direct and indirect economic costs. The good news is that there are proven solutions to end violence against children.

I was inspired to join the movement to end violence against children because it’s right, it’s smart, and it’s possible — and also because we are living in a historic moment of opportunity that we must seize to accelerate progress.

To achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, what does success look like to you? And what are the key factors in achieving this vision?

Success means that every child grows up safe and secure, wherever they live. Imagine the developmental, social, economic, and cultural implications and possibilities of a generation of children growing up without experiencing violence, abuse, and neglect. A positive new normal for humanity would emerge.

Achieving this vision will take relentless ambition, bold leadership across multiple sectors, partnership, collaboration, evidence-based solutions, financial investment, resilience, patience, and more. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it; complacency is not an option.

How does your work contribute to the SDG16+ goals?

The End Violence Partnership is a global platform for collective advocacy, action, and investments to end all violence, exploitation, and abuse of children by 2030 (SDG 16.2). Our goal is to build a world where every child grows up safe and secure, wherever they may live. This is an enormous challenge, and we face many obstacles, including a lack of political leadership that’s proportionate to the scale and impact of violence against children.

All violence against children must end if the global community is to achieve the SDGs, including the goals for peace, justice, and inclusion for all people. With our work we seek to raise awareness about the epidemic of violence against children, and the fact that solutions exist; make a compelling case for the financial investment needed; and bring together the diverse, multisectoral community that’s needed for progress.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work? Are there any lessons learned from the pandemic that you hope to apply in future work?

One billion children experience violence every year. That shocking figure is even higher during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put children at heightened risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Essential services, including critical child protection and gender-based violence services have been disrupted in more than 100 countries. Economic shutdowns, physical distancing, school closures, and isolation pose serious threats to children’s health, well-being, learning, and safety. And for many children, despite the many benefits of digital connectivity, a life lived much more online for learning, socializing, and gaming has also increased their exposure to predators who wish to exploit and abuse them.

However, the pandemic has also heightened awareness of the scale and impact of violence against children and driven more dialogue and collaborative action. We are living in a historical moment of opportunity to work together as a global community to build a world that is safer for children. The End Violence Partnership was created for moments like this, as a platform for our collective voice and collaborative action that is so much more impactful than the sum of our individual efforts.

An initial focus on adapting and flexing our approach to keep children safe during the pandemic is complemented by longer-term work to raise awareness, share what works, and advocate for new political and financial commitments, including through the Together to #ENDviolence campaign and Solutions Summit Series. Unless we act together now with greater urgency, COVID-19 will have implications for children’s safety, health, and development long after the pandemic subsides.

The pandemic has also reinforced that we are all interconnected. Humanity faces shared problems for which we must collaborate better on shared solutions. In the same way, few of the SDGs will be successfully achieved unless all of them are achieved. Every crisis also presents opportunities. While the pandemic has increased the incidence of violence against children, it has heightened awareness of the issue. We are living at a moment of history where we can and must step-up further together and do more to protect children. This seems more important and possible than ever before. The End Violence Partnership was created for moments like this, as a platform for our collective voice and collaborative action that is so much more impactful than the sum of our individual efforts. The pandemic has also reminded us of the importance of care and support for one another. We can only make a difference in the world if we also prioritize our own health and well-being, particularly during difficult times. I have been truly inspired by the way the End Violence Partnership has come together and continues to go above and beyond to protect children.

What advice do you have for those seeking to make a difference for a more peaceful, just and inclusive world?

It’s time to be bold in our ambition to build back better and safer for children from the COVID-19 pandemic in this Decade of Action for the SDGs.

It’s time to listen to the voices of children and work with them to remove constraints to progress, and reimagine a world fit for every child.

It’s time to continue the new spirit of adaptation and innovation to protect children that we’ve seen during COVID-19, for example digitization of some child protection services to increase access, and new collaborations to get essential information to parents and caregivers.

And it’s time for governments, donors, and the international community to unlock the domestic and international funds needed to invest in prevention and response programs that keep children safe from all forms of violence.

We must take a long and strategic view. A more just, equal, and peaceful world will not happen overnight. We must be patient without losing urgency, and above all, we must be persistent.

We should not overestimate the importance of investing in strong and trusted relationships with all types of people, organizations and networks. We tend to be most successful when diverse and complimentary capabilities and expertise come together and are prepared to work tirelessly to achieve a shared vision.