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East Asia and Pacific launch of the UN study on violence against children

Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF EAPRO
UNICEF Regional Director Anupama Rao Singh provides an overview of the global recommendations of the UN Study on Violence Against Children

BANGKOK, 19 October 2006

Distinguished guests,
Colleagues from UN agencies and partner organizations
Members of the media

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:

  • nine regional consultations with experts, academics and young people,
  • 136 Government questionnaires,
  • more than 270 public submissions,
  • and over 14 thematic consultations.

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...

  • To keep it hidden behind the closed door of a family home, where a parent hits his child in rage, when he fails to do what he is told. The report estimates that as many as 275 million children worldwide witness domestic violence annually.
  • To assume that schoolyard bullying or a teacher’s insult, is just part of toughening a child up. The report finds that while corporal punishment has been banned in 106 countries, enforcement is uneven and the impact of violence perpetrated by teachers and other staff, both physical and physiological has proven to leave deep scars.
  • To assume that our care and justice institutions are to protect rather than to hurt. The report finds that in far too many circumstances, children, especially those in conflict with the law, are faced with violence by law enforcement personal or locked up with adults, who in turn abuse them.
  • To want to turn a blind eye to the millions of children forced by poverty into the work place. Of the estimated 218 million child labourers in 2004, the report finds that 126 million were engaged in hazardous work and many more involved in legal work face violence from employers or co-workers. Already robbed of their childhood, they are vulnerable and exposed to the hazards of violence and abuse from their employers.
  • To see the child living on the street as a potential threat and source of violence rather than at risk. The report finds that almost 53,000 children aged 0-17 died as a result of homicide, and 1-2 million are treated in hospitals for violence related injuries, many of them living on the streets.

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.
“No violence against children is justifiable and all violence against children is preventable” was the core message delivered to Member States at the General Assembly last week. The violent abuses against children can no longer be excused, hidden or ignored. 

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:

  1. Prohibit all violence against children –including all corporal punishment, harmful traditional practices, sexual violence torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
  2. To do that we have to ensure each country has in place a national strategy, policy or plan of action on violence against children that is adequately resourced with time bound and realistic targets.
  3. At the moment, most cases of everyday violence goes unrecorded, if we are to succeed in putting an end to violence against children, we must be better informed of its impact. This means developing more systematic data collection and building better information systems to track progress.
  4. We need to promote non- violent values by strengthening national efforts to prevent violence against children through child-friendly policies and services, public information campaigns, and the provision of training for all persons working with children.
  5. The culture of impunity that prevails has to end. Perpetrators of violence against children must be held accountable and brought to justice. We need to create accessible and child friendly reporting systems and services to ensure that violations are dealt with.
  6. When children experience violence, we need to ensure they have the right support, whether it is quality health, social and legal services, as well as accessible and safe complaint mechanisms.
  7. We need to not just deal with the outcome of violence but stop it before it even occurs. This means tackling the underlying causes. Poverty, inequality, income disparity, urban overcrowding and other factors, all contribute to the social problems that can contribute to violence.
  8. Children have played already played a very crucial role in putting together the report. It is clear that if we want to end violence against them, they need to be an active part of the solution.

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.”

Thank you.

Anupama Rao Singh, Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office



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