On 16 November, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted its fourth resolution on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM).
The resolution, co-led by Canada and Zambia, was adopted by consensus with 114 co-sponsors and broad cross-regional engagement, calling on UN Member States to strengthen and accelerate action to address CEFM. The focus of this call to action was the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Child, early and forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a major obstacle to the fulfilment of women’s and girls’ potential. Too often, it results in an end to their education and in health complications, and it puts them at higher risk of encountering discrimination and violence throughout their lives.”Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, Global Affairs Canada
This resolution aims to maintain international pressure on Member States to implement their commitment towards eliminating CEFM as we enter the ‘Decade of Action’ for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Girls Not Brides’ members came together to call on their governments to co-sponsor the resolution. This is an important success for the Partnership and shows the power we have when working together.
What does the resolution say about child marriage?
This year retains gains made in the 2018 CEFM resolution at UNGA around language and recommendations on CEFM, and includes important additions on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to end CEFM. In particular it:
- Highlights that COVID-19 threatens to considerably slow down and even reverse progress from the past decade on ending CEFM.
- Expresses concern that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic ‘diverts attention and resources away from efforts to end CEFM’, especially at the local level.
- Notes that implications of school closures and restrictions on movement are ‘likely to increase risks faced by girls, including already married girls’.
- Emphasises that ‘these risks are even further exacerbated in humanitarian situations’.
What does the resolution call on the UN and member states to do?
It calls for governments and the international community to take specific actions, including:
- A call for governments and other stakeholders to continue efforts to monitor and address CEFM within the context of COVID-19, in particular in the areas of child protection, economic protection, education, unpaid care work, violence, and health.
- Calls for action to ‘mitigate the impact of COVID-19 response measures on the ability of civil society organisations and other relevant stakeholders working at the local and national levels to continue their work’ on girls and local communities around CEFM.
- A request to the UN Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report to the General Assembly on progress towards ending CEFM worldwide, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report should be based on evidence, and submitted before the end of the General Assembly’s seventy-sixth session.
Which countries co-sponsored the resolution?
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Viet Nam and Zambia.
In the time it has taken to read this article 38 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds
Zoe is the Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer, at Girls Not Brides. She develops global-level policy strategies, recommendations and initiatives, and supports the engagement and alignment of member organisations in global advocacy.