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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

UN Secretary-General's study urges action to stop violence against children

UNICEF Image: UN Study: Violence against children
© UNICEF/2006/ Berkwitz
Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro holds a copy of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children at a reception for the launch of the report.

By Jane O’Brien

NEW YORK, USA, 12 October 2006 – One of the most detailed studies of violence against children ever conducted shows that millions around the world are being subjected to the worst forms of abuse with little or no protection.

The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, presented to the General Assembly yesterday, examines the problem in five settings – the home, schools, institutions, at work and in the community.

Although there is a chronic lack of data, the report concludes that violence happens everywhere, is usually inflicted by a person known to the child and is invariably hidden or left unpunished.

UNICEF Image: UN Study: Violence against children
© UNICEF/HQ96-0959/Balaguer
Millions of children are forced to work in dangerous conditions. These children mine pumice stone in Peru.

Testimonies to violence

“Children continue to fear and experience violence in every country of the world,” says Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General to lead the study. “Violence cuts across all social, cultural, religious and ethnic lines. From extreme situations such as communities affected by armed gangs to the daily routine of schools, children face a range of very different forms of violence.”

The study involved thousands of consultations with governments, non-governmental organizations, experts and most important, children themselves. Many gave testimonies to the violence they had experienced or witnessed.

Harry Lopez, 18, works in some of the most violent neighbourhoods in Caracas, Venezuela. He leads workshops at a local NGO where children and young people can meet and talk.

“Listening to a child telling me that he cannot come out of his house because he is afraid that he will be a victim of violence – that he is afraid to play in his neighbourhood because this could even mean losing his life – these are the ones who have pushed me to work against violence,” he says.

UNICEF Image: UN Study: Violence against children
© © UNICEF/HQ99-0638/Pirozzi
A rehabilitation centre in Iraq, where insecurity and violence are a daily part of children’s lives.

Duty to protect children

“It’s critical that people start to think of violence against children as an unacceptable reality that needs to be addressed, not as isolated but tragic occurrences that just happen,” notes UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, Karin Landgren. “The findings of this report point us in two directions. They gives us a concrete set of recommendations for states to act on, and highlight the need for far more research and study.”

Professor Pinheiro calls for states to take primary responsibility in preventing violence against children by providing a robust legal framework: “That means prohibiting all forms of violence against children whenever it occurs and whoever is the perpetrator. It also means investing in prevention programmes to address the underlying cause of violence.

“Children cannot afford for this study to be just another report that gathers dust on shelves around the world,” he adds. “We have a duty to ensure that children enjoy their right to live a life free from violence.”









12 October 2006:
Children testify about the violence affecting their lives.
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12 October 2006:
UNICEF Radio correspondent Blue Chevigny presents the viewpoints of five young participants.
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12 October 2006:
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan talks to children at the launch of the UN study.
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12 October 2006:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman says the new study is a landmark.
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12 October 2006:
The World Health Organization’s Dr. Etienne Krug highlights the extent of violence against children.
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12 October 2006:
Independent Expert Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro outlines the main findings.
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