Marta Santos Pais

I am honoured to have been appointed by the Secretary-General as his Special Representative on Violence against Children and I am deeply committed to collaborating closely with all relevant stakeholders for the implementation of my mandate.

The past two decades have been marked by significant change in the promotion of the rights of the child and in the protection of children from violence, abuse and exploitation. Guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other important international child rights standards, laws, policies and institutions have been developed to protect children’s rights; important advocacy initiatives have been promoted; and wider awareness has been raised of the many risks that hinder children’s development and safety.

Violence is one such hampering factor and remains a harsh reality for millions of children around the world. The imperative to protect children from violence calls for urgent action. Violence takes place in all contexts, including where children are expected to enjoy a secure environment and special protection - in care institutions, in the school and within the home. Violence hurts when it happens and leaves dramatic scars and lifelong consequences, impairing children’s development, learning abilities and school performance.

Protection of children against violence can only be efficient if it is done in dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, such as United Nations partners, civil society including children and young people, national governments, regional organizations, parliamentarians and national independent institutions on children’s rights. Our task is critical and we must move ahead with a sense of urgency and impatience.


Marta Santos Pais was appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG) on May 1st, 2009, and took up her position on September 1st, 2009. As a high level global independent advocate, Marta Santos Pais promotes the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children in the justice setting, in the home, in institutional care, in schools, in the workplace and in the community. She acts as a bridge builder in all regions, and across sectors and settings where violence against children may occur. 

Since her appointment, she has been strongly committed to mobilizing action and political support to maintain momentum around this agenda and to achieve steady progress across the world. Marta Santos Pais has more than 30 years experience on human rights issues, engagement in United Nations and intergovernmental processes. She is the author of a large number of publications on human rights and children's rights. Before her appointment as SRSG on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais was the Director of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, a position she held since 2001. She joined UNICEF in 1997 as Director of Evaluation, Policy and Planning. Previously, she was the Rapporteur of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and Vice-Chair of the Coordinating Committee on Childhood Policies of the Council of Europe. She was a Special Adviser to the UN Study on Violence against Children and to the Machel Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. She was also a member of the UN Drafting Group of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and of its Optional Protocols and participated in the development of other key international human rights standards.