At a glance: Panama

UN violence study launched in Latin America and the Caribbean

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© UNICEF/2006/Ochoa
Youth representative Cinthia Karina Reyes of Nicaragua speaks in Panama at the regional launch of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children.

By Michael Klaus

PANAMA CITY, Panama, 20 November 2006 – A landmark study on violence against children has been presented to government leaders and experts in Panama.

Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert appointed by the UN Secretary-General to conduct the unprecedented global study, presented its findings at the regional launch of the report. He focused his remarks on Latin America and the Caribbean – one of the world’s most violence-plagued regions.

“All countries can and must put an end to violence against children,” said Professor Pinheiro. “We are talking about transforming the whole mindset of societies and the underlying social and economic conditions of violence. Children are sick of being considered ‘the future’. They are living today and they want to live without violence.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/2006/Ochoa
UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg; human rights expert Daniela Salazar; World Vision’s Corina Villacorta; Panamanian Vice-President Samuel Lewis Navarro; violence study author Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro; and the Caribbean Community’s Halima Kassim.

Key findings

Delegates at the launch included Panama’s Vice-President, Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro; UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg, who spoke on behalf of the UN agencies participating in the study; World Vision Deputy Regional Director Corina Villacorta, who represented the regional NGO Secretariat of the study; and young people who contributed to the report.

Among the key findings presented were the following:

  • Some 80,000 children die every year in Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of violence within the family
  • In Latin America alone, more than 6 million children suffer severe abuse each year
  • Approximately 2 million children in the region are sexually exploited
  • Violence in the Caribbean is the leading cause of death among males between the ages of 15 and 24
  • Corporal punishment in the home and at school is common throughout the region, and only a few countries have prohibited it by law.

“Violent behaviour that is learned at home and the violence that exists in most of our societies are intertwined,” said Mr. Kastberg. “The transmission of intergenerational violence must be stopped. Otherwise we won’t be able to create more just and stable societies.”

Mr. Kastberg stressed that violence in this region is related to a combination of extreme economic and social inequalities – as well as the predominant culture of ‘machismo’ and the failure to enforce existing legal protections.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/2006/Ochoa
UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg, at the regional launch of the UN violence study.

Two years of consultations

“This is not just another book,” said Cinthia Karina Reyes, a young girl from Nicaragua who participated in the UN study. “What the study describes reflects the daily life of children from around the world. We are the voices of those whose voices usually are not heard. Governments and civil society must work together to stop all forms of violence against children.”

The launch on 16 November came after more than two years of intensive work in the region involving 2,000 children from 22 countries. These consultations also involved more than 300 representatives of governments, civil society organizations, UN agencies and academic institutions.

The coordination of the entire process was led by the regional Secretariat for the study, composed of UN organizations and international NGOs – including World Vision, Save the Children, Plan International and Defense for Children International. Regional bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Caribbean Community and Common Market have served as important strategic allies in the course of the study.


 

 

Video

20 November 2006:
World Vision Deputy Regional Director Corina Villacorta discusses the UN Study on Violence against Children.
 VIDEO  high | low

20 November 2006:
Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Independent Expert appointed by the UN Secretary-General to report on violence against children, talks about his findings.
 VIDEO  high | low

20 November 2006:
UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg, discusses the UN Secretary-General’s study.
 VIDEO  high | low

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