Mr Palm's speech during the Scientific Conference on "Violence against Children in Albania" held on 21 November 2012
When I was young, one teacher used to pull my ear. It didn't help me learn better. It caused me to lose interest in education at least for a while.
Violence, whether physical or psychological is always a degrading and debilitating experience. Especially for children. Nothing positive comes out of being humiliated. Children who are shouted at, beaten, threatened, excluded from social life, pushed, pulled or pinched will not learn how to constructively solve conflict. There is a great likelihood that, as adults, they will use violence to bring up their own children. They may have greater difficulty to find compromise and they may be indifferent to the interests of their wider community.
Violence against children is widespread, but also hidden. The media will only report on the most gruesome of events. We hear only about the extremes. The silent suffering of most children is no news. According to a recent survey, 60 percent of children experience violence at home, in school or in institutions. The vast majority of those children do not seek help - although I want to acknowledge ALO 116, the Albanian child helpline, which receives many calls from children every month.
Albania is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Albania submitted its progress report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Following the review of Albania's report a few weeks ago, the Committee recommended that the laws prohibiting corporal punishment are effectively implemented, and that government raises more awareness on the detrimental effects of using violence against children. The Committee also made several other related recommendations.
Albania has made some progress. The law on the protection of children's rights adopted in November 2010 is a major milestone. The related Decision by the Council of Ministers on the specific mechanisms of referring children at risk is another very good step forward. There is a law on domestic violence. Still, there is no legal obligation to report incidences of violence against children, and it is rare that perpetrators are sanctioned.
There still is a public perception that it is acceptable to use violence to discipline children. It will take a long time to change these societal perceptions - and it is the more urgent to start now. UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education in a massive campaign in all compulsory schools, to introduce non-violent ways of discipline. The response, so far, is very good.
The protection of children from violence and abuse must become a regular part of the system of social work. I am pleased that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has initiated the reform of the system of social services, which is also expected to address violence against children more comprehensively. We are grateful to Switzerland for financing a major part of the reform to all other partners who contribute to it. I also like to thank the EU for supporting specific actions – such as the conference – to end violence.
Of course we know that parents or teachers or caregivers who resort to violence have never learned to use their natural authority. I know that most parents feel bad after they slapped their child. We - all of us - need to learn more about how to strengthen the legislative framework and its enforcement, we need to learn more on how social service institutions can help to prevent or intervene, and we need to learn more on how to help the parents who cannot but use violence.
This is where I am really pleased that Albanian academics, researchers and scientists have stepped forward to unite for children. To be honest, I did not expect such a large number of scientific contributions - from Albania - all aimed to help ending violence against children. Let’s listen to what Albanian researchers have to say. They should know best. And let's use their findings to move forward to end violence against children.