Regional consultation to develop WHO action plan on interpersonal violence

11–12 May 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark 

WHO/Europe and WHO headquarters have organized a regional consultation to develop a global plan of action to address interpersonal violence. The consultation will involve 50–60 participants from some 30 countries and will focus primarily on violence against women and girls and against children. Recent figures for the European Region estimate that 1 in 4 women have experienced intimate partner violence and 1 in 10 have experienced sexual violence through their life-course. Among children, an estimated 1 in 4 have experienced physical abuse and about 1 in 10 have experienced sexual abuse by the time they are 18 years of age. 

The objectives of the consultation are: 

  •  to introduce participants to the key elements of World Health Assembly resolution WHA67.15 and the draft discussion paper on the global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system in addressing interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls and against children;
  • to obtain inputs from Member States, United Nations organizations and other relevant stakeholders on the draft discussion paper in order to inform the development of the global plan of action. 

Participants include focal points for injury and violence prevention, national experts and representatives from United Nations organizations, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and nongovernmental organizations in official relations with WHO. The meeting is closed and can only be attended by personal invitation.

Background to the consultation

In May 2014 the World Health Assembly approved resolution WHA67.15 on strengthening the role of the health system in addressing violence, in particular against women and girls and against children. The resolution asks the Director-General "to develop, with the full participation of Member States, and in consultation with United Nations organizations, and other relevant stakeholders focusing on the role of the health system, as appropriate, a draft global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence in particular against women and girls and against children, building on existing relevant WHO work". 

In response to this request, the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, with the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, is leading a process of consultation with Member States and other relevant stakeholders to develop a draft global plan of action. As a first step, a draft discussion paper has been developed with inputs from the relevant departments or units in WHO headquarters and all the regional offices; this paper will be the basis for discussion at the regional consultations.

Violence – an important public health issue for Europe

Violence led to the premature deaths of 35 000 people in the WHO European Region in 2012, of whom 75% were male. Levels of reported violence among younger people are very high, as are reports of elder maltreatment. This poses great demands on health systems: it is estimated that some 1.5 million hospital admissions and 90 million emergency room attendances for nonfatal assault occur every year in the European Region. 

Violence prevention is a priority area for the WHO European Region. Recently published reports highlighting the burden and advocating preventive action include the European report on preventing violence and knife crime among young people, the European report on preventing elder maltreatment and the European report on preventing child maltreatment. 

In response to the burden of child maltreatment, in 2014 European Member States adopted Regional Committee resolution RC64/R6, "Investing in children: the European child and adolescent health strategy 2015–2020 and the European child maltreatment prevention action plan 2015–2020". Prevention strategies for interpersonal violence are multisectoral and require a health-in-all-policies approach, in keeping with the public health paradigm underpinning Health 2020. Many of these strategies focus on early childhood, and as such would tackle the determinants of violence and noncommunicable diseases, with benefits in childhood and in later adult life.