We, Ministers and Senior National and International Authorities on Human Rights, have gathered in Buenos Aires for the Latin American Consultation within the framework of the United Nations General Secretary’s Study on Violence against Children and Adolescents, taking into consideration the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments, as well as the principles that guide them, to proclaim the present Declaration:
1. Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the world, with children and women the main victims. Millions of children on our continent live in fear of being victims of violence at home, in schools and on the streets. Physical and psychological violence aimed at children include extrajudicial executions, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, corporal punishment even within the family, sexual abuse and exploitation, and trafficking in persons.
2. A worrying social tolerance towards violence against children exists, often compounded by the inadequate way in which the media and political actors handle the problem. This results in impunity for the perpetrators, silence about sexual abuse, a tacit acceptance of the inhuman and degrading conditions suffered by many children and adolescents deprived of their liberty; in the repeated proposals to reduce the age of criminal responsibility; and in sentencing to life imprisonment or the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18.
In relation to these serious problems, we consider of paramount concern the following:
3. Emphasize that there is a growing will among the States of the region to change the economic patterns that generate poverty, to which violence against children is closely linked.
4. To radically change social, cultural, political and legal parameters for children and adolescents, who must not be targets of stigmatization or discrimination. Public policies for children must not be approached exclusively taking only into account considerations of public safety. Proposals such as reducing the age of criminal responsibility and increasing penalties are not adequate solutions to violence related to children.
5. Parents, teachers and other people interacting with children must refrain from using physical or psychological punishment as a disciplinary method or for any other purpose. This type of punishment must be banned by law and an end to these practices must be promoted.
6. All public policies on children and adolescents, as well as any interactions by State agents with all people under the age of 18, must be based on the premise that all children are human rights holders. Children have the right to receive protection, care and special support from the State, which must provide them fully, respecting the general principles of the “best interest” and the “integral protection of children”. Children must have a voice on issues related to them.
7. State policies on the human rights of children must focus on meeting their basic needs and provide opportunities for a decent life. For this purpose, efforts must concentrate on eliminating violence through public policies on the human rights of children and provide education, health, protection, nutrition and welfare programmes and services both within the family and the community.
8. Education is key to preventing violence. To this end, quality education that is free of charge and equitable must be ensured. In any case, it is necessary to eliminate any fees, such as parents’ and representatives’ contributions, the obligatory purchase of books or materials, and the mandatory use of uniform or shoes to attend school, since in practice these requirements deny children their right to an education. Equally important is that States provide poor children with nutritional supplements, including at least one meal per day. We also emphasize the specific importance of sexual education to prevent violence.
9. Also key is respect for the life and the physical, psychological and mental integrity of children and adolescents, and their right to judicial guarantees and the presumption of innocence. Nobody can be deprived of liberty without a warrant, or under the excuse of such concepts as social danger. When in special circumstances it is imperative to take these kind of measures, children and adolescents should be treated humanely, with respect and guaranteeing their basic rights, especially to life, personal integrity, health, education and the preservation of their family ties. All professionals offering services in social networks who encounter any case of violence against children and adolescents in the course of their work must report such cases to the competent authorities for the investigation and sanctioning of perpetrators.
10. We recognize and encourage the role of organizations such as UNICEF, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization, the Office of the Rapporteur on Children of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as the civil society organizations working on human rights, especially those that promote children’s rights.
Buenos Aires, 1 June 2005
The Buenos Aires Declaration has been signed by:
Daniel Filmus, Minister of Education, Science and Technology; Nilmario Miranda, Minister of State and Special Secretary for Human Rights of Brazil; Leonardo Franco, Undersecretary for Latin American Policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina; Rodolfo Mattarollo, Undersecretary of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice of Argentina; Juan Faroppa, Vice-Minister of Interior of Uruguay; Elizabeth Patiño, Vice-Minister of Yourh, Childhood and Third Age of Bolivia; Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Regional Director for The Americas & Caribbean; Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Independent Expert named by the UN Secretary General; Jorge Rivera, UNICEF Representative of Argentina; María Jesús Conde Zabala, Regional Advisor on Child Protection for The Americas & Caribbean; Roberto Garretón, Regional Delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Latin America; Susana Villarán, Member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Santiago Cantón, Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Ignacio Álvarez, Office of the Rapporteur on Children of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Norberto Liwski, Vice-President of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Victoria Martinez, National Director of Direct Assistance to Vulnerable Groups of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Ministry of Justice in Argentina.