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At a glance: Costa Rica

Parliamentarians act on violence against children in Latin America and the Caribbean

© UNICEF video
Children playing sports with community police as part of a UNICEF-supported violence-prevention programme in Hatillo, Costa Rica.

SAN JOSE, Cost Rica, 4 September 2009 – More than 30 parliamentarians from 14 Latin American countries gathered this past week in San Jose, Costa Rica, to discuss the role of parliaments in combating one of the region’s most serious social problems – violence against children.

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“We have to make good use of our capacity to legislate and hold government and public authorities to account,” said Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Secretary-General Anders Johnsson. “We can and must make sure that our societies have effective laws and functioning institutions in place so that every child can enjoy an environment that is free of violence.”

A critical partner for children

The IPU is a critical UNICEF partner in mobilizing parliamentarians to create policies that encourage children’s development.

Latin America and the Caribbean are among the most violence-plagued areas in the world, and children and adolescents are not spared. Every year in the region, 6 million children under the age of 15 suffer abuse and neglect.

Across Latin America, the highest homicide rate is among 15 to 19-year-olds. Only a limited number of countries in the region have banned corporal punishment in schools.

© UNICEF Costa Rica/2009
Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier jumps rope with a child at a UNICEF-supported programme in San Jose, Costa Rica, where young people and police participate in recreational activities together.

Preventing violence

The parliamentarians agreed on wide-ranging actions to help prevent and eliminate violence against children in the region – from adopting legislation that prohibits such violence to allocating more resources toward solving the problem.

Parliamentarians also agreed to try to ensure that countries implement recommendations laid out in the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children.

Another key point is the need for feedback and ideas from children themselves.

“It’s important that children participate in creating and implementing violence-prevention policies,” said UNICEF Representative in Costa Rica Seija Toro. Their participation is essential for long-term success.”

‘Teamwork and respect’

The lawmakers visited a UNICEF-supported ‘Child Friendly Counties’ initiative that targets vulnerable children who are often victims of violence. They saw firsthand how sport and recreation activities that involve children and community police can help prevent violence.

“Having children and police interact in fun ways builds trust and makes the community safer,” said the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Bolivia, Edmundo Novillo Aguilar. “The children learn values of teamwork and respect, which help us prepare them for life.”




27 August 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Eduardo Cure reports on efforts to stop violence against children in Latin America.
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