The conference "Smart investments in strategies and partnerships to prevent and address violence against children" is organized by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the State Agency for Child Protection, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Child Protection Hub, supported by Terre des hommes and Association "Childhood without Violence"-Bulgaria.
More than 150 experts and representatives of State institutions from 10 countries in the region will take part (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Ukraine and Greece), as well as renowned academics who examine in-depth the issue of violence.
The conference aims to support the exchange of knowledge and good practice between experts and representatives of State institutions with a view to strengthening the focus on prevention programmes and services.
The key issues which will be addressed are:
- The importance of data collection in order to evaluate the prevalence of VAC;
- The consequences (psychological, physical) of violence for children themselves and the economic cost of inaction for society (expensive services for dealing with consequences, not with the root-causes of the problem);
- The need for a cross-sectoral approach among all institutions and services (education, healthcare, child protection, justice, etc.);
- The importance of engaging the whole society and partnerships (the role of parents, school, state institutions, the media, business, non-governmental sector in unified efforts in the best interest of children).
The conference organizers reaffirm their understanding that the best environment for raising children is the family environment and that parents, teachers, children and youth themselves need to be supported in building additional skills to cope with difficult situations in their lives – and thus not to resort to violence and to allow children to live free from aggression and unnecessary stress.
Definition of violence:
From the point of view of the international standards, Violence is " All forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse” - the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bulgaria is a signatory since 1991. Definition of violence is also provided by WHO: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation
The Bulgarian legislation also deals with the notion of violence against children, under which it stipulates: "Any act of physical, psychological or sexual violence, neglect, commercial or other exploitation resulting in actual or probable harm to the health, life, development or dignity of the child, which may take place in the family, school and social environment " - Rules for implementation of the Child Protection Act.
Violence against children – consequences and need for a cross-sectoral approach:
There is undeniable scientific evidence of the harm of systematic violence on the physical and mental health and development of children, their ability to learn and build relationships with others, to be meaningful adults and parents. School bullying and aggression, for example, are one of the reasons for early drop-out from the education system, reducing attendance, worsening students' performance and having significant socio-economic effects.
Except for children and families, the consequences are long-term and concern the whole society. The economic cost of violence amounts to around USD 7 trillion annually globally – money invested to address the already existing problem, not to prevent it.
The conference aims to create a space for discussion of policies, programmes and services to support children and parents on a regional and national scale and to seek expert consensus on the good practices and the working Solutions, which should be further planned and consulted with the different stakeholders at national level.