Statement from Spotlight Initiative on the report of the European Court of Auditors

UNFPA/Luis Tato
Ricksani Alice, 19, who was married at a young age but is now back in school hoping to complete her education thanks to the Spotlight Initiative poses with her kid at Tilimbike Safe Community Space in Chiludzi village, Dowa, Malawi on November 2, 2020. Spotlight Initiative targets the most at-risk groups with focused efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), and harmful practices such as child marriage. UNFPA/Luis Tato.
September 12, 2023

NEW YORK, USA - Spotlight Initiative welcomes the report of the European Court of Auditors, which observes that the ambitious Initiative has delivered positive achievements but needs more time and resources to root its results.

The European Court of Auditors has just concluded a comprehensive review of the Spotlight Initiative, an ambitious and unprecedented effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls. The audit finds that overall, the Initiative ‘addressed beneficiaries’ needs’, meaning that it has ultimately impacted the lives of women and girls. It also concluded that the ‘four-year duration of the programme is not sufficient to create lasting change worldwide on a complex issue, which requires long-term actions, and additional resources.’

We note that the Court chose to lead its title and press release headline with the issue of costs, an inaccurate single observation that was refuted in detailed responses throughout the process. While misleading, we are confident that the takeaway for readers will be the balance of the report, which highlights results, impact, and need for sustainability and scale-up of the Initiative.

Since its inception in 2018, and despite operational challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Spotlight Initiative’s programmes across more than 25 countries have ensured that 2.5 million women and girls have accessed gender-based violence services. In addition, annual conviction rates for sexual violence perpetrators have doubled in countries where the Initiative is implemented, and more than 260 million people have been reached by violence prevention campaigns in more than 30 languages.

Our impact in making the world safer for women and girls has been historic in scope, scale and results. Overall, conservative estimates predict that Spotlight Initiative in its current format will prevent 21 million women and girls from experiencing violence by 2025.

The audit’s findings make a clear case for additional time and investments in Spotlight Initiative’s model to aid broader coverage across geographic regions and contexts. We project that with an additional €300 million investment over five years, we could prevent violence for an additional 47 million more women and girls across 60 countries and help reduce the global incidence of violence for women and girls from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5.

Spotlight Initiative welcomes the ECA’s recommendations of ways to improve efficiency. Many have already been taken on board and integrated into our model. Built on a whole-of-society approach, that leaves no one behind, a 2021 independent study showed the Initiative’s comprehensive model to be up to 90 per cent more effective in preventing violence than other models.

In recognition for its strong results, Spotlight Initiative has been selected as one of 12 High-Impact Initiatives of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit this month. Chosen from more than 120 applications as the only cross-cutting High-Impact Initiative, this opportunity is testament to the critical partnership of the United Nations and European Union. In just a few years, this partnership has provided a model, demonstrating that it is possible not only to end violence against women and girls, but to accelerate across the SDGs, from ending poverty, to increased health and education, and more inclusive institutions.

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Koye Adeboye |

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