East Asia and Pacific launch of the UN study on violence against children
BANGKOK, 19 October 2006
Just over a week ago, the UN General Assembly was presented with the findings of a global study – the first of its kind on the impact of everyday violence against children and one requested by the Secretary General.
Headed by Independent Expert, Professor Paulo Pinherio, the Secretary-General’s Study is based on three years of participatory research that included:
It has resulted in a global and detailed picture of the nature, extent and causes of violence against children. It looked at violence against children in different settings: The home and family, schools and educational settings, institutions, work situations and in the community and on the streets.
The findings are alarming. Violence in the lives of our children is pervasive. It happens everywhere in every country and society and across all social groups. Extreme violence against children may hit the headlines but children say that the daily, repeated small acts of violence and abuse also hurt them, eroding their self-esteem, well-being and trust in others. To compound this situation, most violence is perpetrated by someone they know and should be able to trust: parents, school mates, teachers, community members and employers are all possible offenders.
It is easy to ignore this problem, to pretend it does not exist...
As the report details, violence has a devastating impact on children, exposing the survivors to the risk of lifelong health, and social emotional and cognitive problems. Tragically often, violence breeds violence and in later life, child victims of violence are more likely to be victims or perpetrators themselves.
Today in Bangkok we meet to discuss the findings, the regional implications and look at the study’s recommendations. We need to initiate action that stops the intolerable situation of everyday violence that can have such detrimental impact on the lives of our children.
There is no doubt that putting a stop to the violence against children in so many environments and forms is a difficult challenge. This is compounded by the complexities in identifying where responsibility lies and how to address the often-thorny interplay of many factors such as culture, economics, gender and power relations that lead to violent behavior.
What the Secretary-General’s Report makes clear is that we must start with the law. Every country in this region has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which clearly specifies under Article 19 that every child has the right to be protected from violence and abuse. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography has also been widely ratified. As well as the Convention, other important legal instruments have been adopted and entered into force: the ILO Convention No.182 was adopted in 1999 and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish the Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children was adopted in 2000.
These legal instruments provide a universal foundation to set the standards. The Secretary-General’s Report emphasizes that although Member States have already made commitments to protect children from all forms of violence, these commitments are far from being fulfilled.
It presents clear recommendations for action.
Let me outline the overarching recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Report:
To ensure that action is taken, the report calls for the appointment of a Special Representative on Violence Against Children. This person will act as a high profile global advocate to promote follow up to these recommendations. We hope the General Assembly will adopt this as part of their resolution. It also calls for Governments to have taken concrete action by 2009, when countries will be expected to report back their progress.
As other speakers this morning will highlight, the East Asia and the Pacific region is not immune to these problems. We hope that together – governments, non government organizations, civil society groups, young people and children – we can mobilize to translate the Secretary-General’s recommendations into concrete action.
Already the ground work has been laid. At last year’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation, Governments, civil society groups, NGO partners, and children agreed on common approaches to combating the violence.
As the final declaration concluded, “the cycle of violence can only be broken by creating a culture of peace and harmony; by improving cooperation among children, adults, communities, civil society, governments and international agencies; and by recognizing that violence against children and in society as a whole, is not inevitable but rather an injustice that can be ended by recognizing that peace is a human right. This responsibility belongs to everyone.”