Spotlight: the future of violence prevention in South Africa


What would it look like if South Africa was preventing violence optimally?

This question drives the innovative work of a group representing government, civil society, and international organisations. The Dialogue Forum for Evidence-Based Programmes to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children was established in 2015 by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). It brings together service providers from all sectors, researchers and global experts to develop more effective violence prevention programmes.

‘I see the Dialogue Forum as a space where we can discuss evidence of what works and what doesn’t to prevent violence in South Africa,’ says Matodzi Amisi, Programme Evaluator at the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).

‘This is important for a department like DPME because our role is to determine how we use evidence to strengthen government’s work. The forum has also cemented relationships between government, NGOs, organisations like the ISS and academics committed to violence prevention’.

Since 2015, the forum has resulted in the formation of a network of NGOs from across the country who are delivering evidence-based violence prevention programmes – the South African Parenting Programme Implementers Network. Analysis by members of the forum has made the case for ensuring adequate funding for violence prevention and how implementation research can help the scale-up of evidence-based programmes. The Dialogue Forum has attracted support from Jet Division of Edcon that has invested in the process as well as in community-based violence prevention programmes.

ISS and its partners are pooling their expertise to build consensus about what works in practice

The forum also acts as springboard for new initiatives. The recent launch of a two-year campaign by Save the Children SA, UNICEF, ISS, Media Monitoring Africa and the DPME is an example of this collaboration. The Commitment to End Violence Against Children, or ‘We commit’ campaign, is raising awareness ahead of the 2019 elections about violence against children and what can be done. The campaign led to a workshop, hosted by the DPME, for senior government officials from a range of national and provincial departments. They learned how serious the problem of violence against children is and committed themselves to acting to prevent it. 

Although South Africa’s challenges are immense, the forum’s efforts to understand and improve violence prevention extend beyond the country’s borders. The Department of Social Development and UNICEF announced in December 2017 that South Africa is a pathfinder country under the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. South Africa must now fulfil a list of commitments, including convening and supporting a multi-stakeholder platform to plan, deliver and evaluate actions to end violence against children.

‘The global partnership exists to promote political will to prevent violence against children – and this dialogue forum supports this,’ says Sinah Moruane, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF. ‘We talk to politicians, we educate parliamentarians, we speak to people in influential positions. In this way, the Dialogue Forum and the Commitment are leading contributors to the agenda of the global partnership.’

Changing the way governments deal with violence, whether nationally or globally, is an immense task. ‘With South Africa’s high rates of crime and violence, the challenge of achieving a coherent response that produces both short and long-term results is great,’ says Dr Chandré Gould, ISS senior research fellow.

The ISS and its partners are pooling their expertise in research, capacity building and networking to build consensus about what works in practice. They are developing community-based projects that can be scaled to national and perhaps even international levels.

‘The only way we can prevent violence in South Africa optimally is to work together. The Dialogue Forum, and the successful initiatives that have emerged from it, proves that,’ says Gould.

For more information contact:

Chandré Gould, ISS: +27 83 305 4915,

For more ISS analysis on violence prevention, see:

ISS Today articles:

Developed countries must commit to ending violence against children

Budgeting to end violence?

Violent homes breed violent societies

Why societies must protect children if they want fewer criminals

The surprising solution to SA's violent crime problem

Stopping South Africa's cycles of violence

Three reasons to smile if you live in South Africa today

Policy briefs:

Reducing violence in South Africa: from research to action

Reducing violence in South Africa: resourcing violence prevention

Reducing violence in South Africa: from policing to prevention

Press releases and Spotlights:

Jet partners with ISS and Seven Passes Initiative to expand primary violence prevention programme

Spotlight: preventing violence is all of our business

Spotlight: innovative projects on course to prevent violence

Spotlight: reducing violence through positive parenting

Picture: Amelia Broodryk/ISS

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