Commitment to free children from corporal punishment grows!

Vienna (Austria) 4 June 2016 - Governments from over 70 countries, many represented at ministerial level, met last week in Vienna to reflect on strategies to prevent and eliminate the corporal punishment of children.

Convened by the Austrian government, the High Level Global Conference “Towards Childhoods free from corporal punishment” is the second in a series of high level events initiated by Sweden in 2014 and designed to support governments in their efforts to put an end to this widespread form of violence. Welcoming the participants, the Austrian Federal Minister of Families and Youth recalled the right of all children to grow free from violence. “There are 2,2 billion children in the world. This means 2,2 billion reasons to stand up for their rights. An upbringing free from violence has been the premise of Austria’s family policy in the last 25 years. Unfortunately, children keep being victims of violence. We cannot turn a blind eye to this reality,” said Minister Sophie Karmasin.

The Conference allowed participants to share national experiences, reflect on lessons learned and engage with experts providing clear evidence of the negative impact of violent discipline as well as on the positive results of a nurturing, caring and empowering education without violence.

Speaking at the opening, Special Representative Santos Pais stressed the steady progress achieved since the presentation of UN Study on violence against children in 2006:

“Since 2006, the number of States having introduced an explicit legal ban on violence against children, including corporal punishment, has tripled. Today, more than half of the United Nations member States have either introduced the ban or firmly committed to do it. Policies to support positive parenting and early childhood initiatives and to promote zero tolerance for violence against children are taking ground in an increasing number of countries. In turn, this is helping to overcome deeply rooted social norms, attitudes and behaviours condoning violence against children.”

As highlighted during the meeting, the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development provides a strategic opportunity to consolidate the protection of children’s rights and to end all forms of violence against children, as called for by SDG target 16.2.

“Listening to the views and experience of children will no doubt help to raise awareness, assess and accelerate progress towards the elimination of this widespread form of violence against children. In the countdown to 2030, everybody counts and everybody is needed. I call upon all participants to join the movement to end violence against children. The sum of all our forces will be Zero. Zero violence” said Santos Pais.

The Conference Resolution contains significant commitments to free children from violence, including:

• “to work collaboratively and individually, at international, regional and national levels, to speed progress towards universal and effective legal prohibition of all violent punishment of children in all settings of their lives,
• to ensure that, guided by the best interests of the child, the law providing children with equal protection from assault in their homes is effectively implemented and enforced, recognising the special value of family relationships,
• to pursue and promote necessary and sustained other measures to achieve the elimination of violent punishment of children, including: comprehensive dissemination of the law banning violent punishment and of children’s right to protection from all forms of violence; promotion of positive, non-violent forms of discipline and relationships with children; public and parent education, including on the negative impact of violent punishment of children, and the establishment of safe and child sensitive counselling, reporting and complaint mechanisms to address incidents of violence against children and support child victims,
• to establish a reliable data collection system and to encourage, and where appropriate commission, research to measure progress towards the elimination of violent punishment of children and towards full respect for their status as individual people and rights holders”.

Expressing her appreciation for this high level forum, the President of Malta, H.E. Marie Louise Coleiro Preca offered to host the third Conference in Malta, in 2018. “Together, we can make this the last generation which perpetuates the lie that violence inflicted on children is ever acceptable”. Participants warmly welcomed the invitation, as well as the government of Mexico’s offer to host a preparatory meeting in 2017.

Resolution of the Vienna Conference "Towards Childhoods free from Corporal Punishment