Azerbaijan: Violence against children must be stopped
Report by Ayna Mollazade
Violence against children in Azerbaijan was the major focus of a roundtable that gathered together high-level government officials, members of parliament (MPs), representatives of NGOs, media and international organizations in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku on September 6th, 2005. The roundtable was co-chaired by the Azerbaijan minister of Youth, Sports and Tourism, Abulfaz Garayev, and the UNICEF Azerbaijan Representative, Hanaa Singer.
Opening up discussions, UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer noted how unrecognized the problem of violence against children was: “One of the major challenges for Azerbaijan society is the lack of acknowledgment that violence against children exists, in addition to the absence of any reliable data on such violence.
“Violence against children can take place anywhere - in their homes, in their schools, in their communities. We need to have zero tolerance on violence,” she added.
Minister Garayev replied, “Unfortunately violence against children is a problem in this country. But the government wants to take all the necessary action to end it.”
“One of the main challenges for us is the lack of data on abuses that children face. We hope that in partnership with UNICEF we can establish a databank that will contain essential data on children in need of special protection,” he added.
Children living in residential institutions were also subject to violence. According to the UNICEF Representative, it was crucial not only to prevent violence against institutionalised children, but to prevent the institutionalisation of children altogether.
The discussion was held as a national follow-up to the Regional Consultation on Violence against Children in Europe and Central Asia held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 5-7 July.*
The Azerbaijan delegation to the Slovenia Consultation had included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Youth Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, MPs and NGOs.
MP and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Policy, Hadi Rajabli, who had been to Slovenia noted, “It is especially important to give the issue of violence high visibility in Azerbaijan society and the pivotal role in this must be played by the media. It is important not only to change policies, but also to change attitudes towards the issue,” he said.
The Slovenia Consultation had adopted a final document called the "Ljubljana Commitment” which participants of the roundtable in Azerbaijan reviewed. They looked at the nine priorities outlined in the document and discussed where Azerbaijan should focus its efforts to create effective national measures to protect children from violence.
Four areas were selected as priorities to start off the national follow-up process over the next year: preparation of a national action plan on the prevention of violence against children with the participation of children and young people; conducting a situation analysis of children in schools, institutions and IDP children; capacity-building of key stakeholders; and the setting up of a monitoring and referral system on child rights’ violations.
The roundtable participants agreed to divide up the roles and responsibilities for the follow-up actions and to monitor the progress of commitment in quarterly meetings.
*The Ljubljana consultation - hosted by the Government of Slovenia and co-organised by the Council of Europe, UNICEF, WHO, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the NGO Advisory Panel - is one of nine planned worldwide that will feed into a major study by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on Violence Against Children due out in 2006.