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Speech by Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, at the High-Level Round-Table event on violence against children

New York, 11 October 2011

Thank you, Marta.  It is a pleasure to be here.  I hope this is the first of many meetings among regional partners to chart our progress and to realize the recommendations from the UN Study on Violence against Children.

Protecting children from violence, exploitation, and abuse is a moral imperative.  An urgent imperative.  Because around the world, millions of children are the victims of inexcusable acts of cruelty.

According to estimates from 2006, almost 53,000 child deaths were homicides. 

An estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys, under 18, experienced some form of sexual violence.

Last year, the ILO estimated there were 215 million child labourers; 115 million of them engaged in hazardous work.
More than half the children in the world in detention right now have neither been tried nor pre-sentenced.  Many are placed in detention facilities with adults and are vulnerable to abuse.

Today, two million children are thought to be living in institutions.

This is just a snapshot.  I could talk about child soldiers…child prostitution...child marriage…children with disabilities…female genital mutilation…and psychological violence – sometimes, just as debilitating as physical violence.  The forms violence takes are vast and insidious…and an everyday reality for far too many children. 
Violence does not discriminate.  It cuts across race, religion, class, and culture. It occurs in homes and families…schools and workplaces… care homes and communities. 

Regardless of where it occurs, the end result can be the same: A child diminished by fear…even crippled by a lack of self-confidence.  A child who does not perform well in school…and is more likely to be unemployed in adulthood.  A child who more easily falls prey to sexual abuse and exploitation.  A child who has a greater chance of delinquency… depression… destitution.

These children need our help now.  And we can help them grow up to be teachers…health workers…community leaders… employers…and skilled employees.  To be good parents.

Preventing violence against children is critical not only for their own well-being, but for the health and progress of our global community.
The 2006 UN Study on Violence against Children was a turning point in our efforts to protect children everywhere.  It was –and it still is—the only global body of evidence we have that summarizes the scale, nature, and causes of violence against children, and presents clear recommendations to prevent it.

Since then, there has been encouraging progress.  Governments, UN agencies and civil society partners have worked hard to increase data about the prevalence of violence.  Many countries have undertaken national-level surveys on violence in the home and also in schools, resulting in more targeted responses.

In four regions, policy frameworks are also now in place to protect children: the League of Arab States, the Council of Europe, MERCOSUR Permanent Commission on Children, and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children.  And work is underway in the Caribbean, Central America, and South-East Asia.

And we have made significant headway toward universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – banning the use of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.    We urge all those nations that have not yet done so to sign and ratify these critical protections.

 Last but by no means least -- far from it -- the appointment of my friend Marta Santos Pais as the Special Representative for the Secretary General on Violence against Children has been critical in raising awareness of this issue and galvanizing action. 

Bringing all of you together with all the countries and cultures and expertise that you represent can be a milestone on our journey to eliminate violence towards children.  You play a critical role in translating international commitments into regional priorities and national action. 

In this room, we have a powerful network of knowledge.  Those ties will only be strengthened with every experience that is shared… every challenge that is aired… and every solution which is debated.
Addressing violence is at the heart of UNICEF’s emphasis on equity because it requires focusing on the children who are the hardest to reach. Poverty and social exclusion put children at greater risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.   Please be assured that UNICEF is committed to working with all of you…with national governments…and other partners to build on the progress we have made in protecting children. 

And as you begin your discussions, let us remember each of the millions of children who is robbed of that precious right: the right to have a childhood.   

Thank you.




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