UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean


Costa Rica Inaugurates the Sub regional Conference on Peace and the Prevention of Youth Violence

© UNICEF Costa Rica/2007
During the opening ceremony.

San José, Costa Rica, 15 November, 2007 - According to recent estimates, more than 6 million children in Latin America are victims of severe abuse, and more than 80.000 die from domestic violence each year. Violence is disturbingly entrenched throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and it affects children most of all. The study of the United Nations Secretariat General on Violence against Children (2006) reveals that the majority of violence to which children are subjected remains unseen, unreported and often tolerated by society; as is the case with corporal punishment, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child trafficking.

In order to change this situation and to promote policy changes by States, Costa Rica is hosting a sub regional conference, entitled “Peace and the Prevention of violence against children”. The conference will focus on successful approaches, inter governmental cooperation, the sense of security and insecurity so many people in the region feel daily, violence prevention against children, and on  human rights.

The meeting seeks to provide follow up to the recommendations outlined in the Global Study of the Secretariat General of the United Nations on Violence. It comes only days before the 18th anniversary of the Convention on the Right´s of the Child. The CRC was ratified by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989 and is the world´s most widely accepted humanitarian Convention. For a generation of young people growing up in one of the most unequal and violent regions in the world, there is still much to do to guarantee those rights.

The Conference was organized by the Costa Rican Government, the United Nations Children´s Fund (UNICEF) and in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Iberoamerican Secretariat General, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

© UNICEF Costa Rica/2007
Regional UNICEF Director Nils Kastberg presenting "Violence against children and adolescents: scale, causes and effects"

The Vice Minister of Justice, Mayela Coto, Seija Toro, Representative of UNICEF Costa Rica, Teresa Alberol Regional Representative of the UNHCR Central America and Virginia Murillo, Vice-President of the Ombudsman of America, conducted the opening ceremonies of the Conference.

“Sixty precent of Costar Ricans are under the age of  30,” remarked Mayela Coto, Vice Minister of Justice, “They represent the human resources on which our regional development depends. However, poor education, family disintegration and unemployment, contribute to their vulnerability. Thirty percent of young people  between  15 – 24 years of age are dually disadvantaged –out of work and out of school. .They are more vulnerable, more susceptible to drug addiction, delinquency and to using violence as a means of satisfying their material needs, and even as a way to survive. You cannot talk about violence prevention without talking about policies that allow real access to integral development opportunities.”

”The face of violence in this region, is the face of a young male, about four years behind in school, living in a marginal neighborhood, vulnerable to poverty,” said Seija Toro, UNICEF Representative in Costa Rica. “He is likely to be a boy who works in a non qualified job, or is even involved in illicit activities, whose father and mother are unemployed and who bears the burden of keeping his family afloat.”

In the keynote speech, Nils Kastberg, Regional Director for UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean, reiterated the need to end the intergenerational cycle of violence that impedes achieving the Millennium Development Goals and issued an urgent call for structural changes to include young people in, changed , improved societies where peace and social justice preside.

“There is a stunning silence to the extensive rates of violence, and shameful statistics of children killed, in this region,” said Mr. Kastberg. “What’s worse, children are often – wrongly – portrayed as perpetrators not victims of violence. Children and adolescents need to be valued and brought on board in an integral way, as citizens across this region. They need to be taken into account in public policies and in social investment, guaranteeing their rights,” said Kastberg.

Over the next two days, more than 160 representatives of Governments from Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, international experts and civil servants from various international organizations and NGO´s will cover topics such as: violence against children, urban violence, public policy, Justice and Citizen Security and the role of the media, United Nations agencies and inter governmental collaboration, in relation to violence prevention, as well as share the region’s most successful experiences.

Definitions of violence
Violence against children includes physical and psychological violence, as well as discrimination, abandonment, maltreatment, street gangs, sexual abuse in the home, corporal punishment and bullying in schools. It also includes child homicide and, so called, “honor” killings.

How violence affects children
Violence has devastating effects on children.. The sad truth is that violence also promotes violence: children, who have been exposed to violent acts or have been victims, are much more likely to become victims or carry out violent acts, creating a brutal cycle. The emotional and physical scars left behind, rob children of reaching their potential for full development. Violence also robs a society of its full development.

For more information:
Xinia Miranda. Communications Officer UNICEF Costa Rica. (506) 296 2034. xmiranda@unicef.org
Martin. Communications Assistant UNICEF Costa Rica. (506) 875 6359. mimartin@unicef.org
Segura, Press- Ministry of Justice Tel: (506) 253 0096


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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