SRSG-VAC calls for urgency in strengthening children’s protection from violence at Solutions Summit

“The Solutions Summit is an important milestone in our journey to end violence against children. And we have strong reasons to feel encouraged by the excellent national experience and tangible progress that is being made on the ground. But much remains to be done to protect every child from violence and we need to move ahead with a deep sense of urgency” said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, during her address at the End Violence Solutions Summit in Stockholm on 15 February.

“Violence, fear and insecurity are constant concerns children share. But even when emerging from the depths of the worst nightmares, children remain resilient, generous and forward looking, inspiring hope for a better world with their determination to achieve lasting change. We must not disappoint them! Together we can break the cycle of violence and deprivation that stunts children’s development. Together we can prevent neglect, abuse and exploitation. Together we can protect victims and ensure the quality services they all desperately need.”

The End Violence Solutions Summit gathered leaders who share the common goal to end violence against children, with over 400 delegates and 35 Ministers from countries around the world participating in the Summit on 14-15 February.

During her address, SRSG-VAC Santos Pais highlighted examples of tangible national progress made in efforts to end violence against children, including:

·  More than 90 countries now have a comprehensive policy agenda on violence against children.

·  There are important regional plans to promote violence prevention and monitor national progress, most recently in ASEAN where a baseline study on implementation of its regional plan has just been launched.

·  In Indonesia, children’s protection from violence is a core priority in the national development plan, helping to influence policy actions across sectors and catalyze progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

·  Paraguay established a high-level coordinating body with representation from relevant authorities and civil society organizations, to promote synergies, ensure cross sectoral coordination, mobilize needed resources and assess implementation progress.

·  Progress is being made in legislation banning all forms of violence against children: Sweden broke new ground with its 1979 law; and today, more than 50 states have enacted similar provisions, with many others are moving in the same direction.

·  A recent landmark law in Brazil provided detailed guidance to protect the rights of child victims and witnesses, including through confidential child-sensitive counseling, reporting and complaint mechanisms, as well as safeguards to prevent re-victimization.

·  Chile has established an independent Ombuds for Children to uphold children’s best interests, receive their complaints, access and protect them in residential care and detention centers, and influence public policies for their effective protection.

·  New research by the Children’s Ombuds in Poland assessed attitudes and behavior towards corporal punishment within the home, showing how the enactment of the legal ban in 2010 is helping to increase levels of disapproval of this practice.

While encouraged by these positive developments, SRSG-VAC Santos Pais stressed that the task at hand remains enormous and emphasized how important it is to move ahead with a deep sense of urgency. “Still today, children are intentionally targeted in politically driven processes, manipulated by organized crime, forced to flee community violence, sold and exploited for economic gain, groomed online, disciplined by violent means, sexually assaulted in their homes, neglected in institutions, abused in detention centers, bullied in schools, tortured as a result of superstitious beliefs or harmful practices” she said. “In addition to the dramatic toll this takes on children’s lives, the economic costs, some US$ 7 trillion according to best estimates, are enormous. At the same time, we know that proven prevention strategies can have very large returns on investment, saving money that can instead be invested in services for children,” she added.

But it is the voices of children - and their heartbreaking stories that too often go unheard - that are our most compelling reason for action, the SRSG stressed.  “In my work across regions, I am constantly inspired to see young advocates, including those here at the Summit, joining hands with national authorities, civil society and other allies to raise awareness about the harmful impact of violence. I am inspired when I see young advocates empowering children to be the first line of protection and inspiring others to take action to bring an end to abuse and exploitation.”

The SRSG pointed to the opportunity presented by 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to bring an end to violence against children. “The historic inclusion in the 2030 Agenda of a distinct target - Target 16.2 - to end all forms of violence against children, is mobilizing nations around the world,” she said. “With the 2030 Agenda, the world has an ambitious vision: by investing in children, we create the conditions for every child to grow up free from want, from fear and from violence. In turn, by safeguarding children’s safety and protection, we enhance the chances to reach other sustainable goals and targets.”

SRSG-VAC Santos Pais noted the strategic importance of the annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and in monitoring progress toward Target 16.2.

“We have an opportunity in 2019 that we cannot miss,” she said. “For the very first time, there will be an in-depth review of Goal 16, including target 16.2 to end all forms of violence against children. 2019 also marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This provides a unique platform to gain a comprehensive picture of how far we have come in ensuring children’s safety and protection, and how to best accelerate progress to end all violence against children. The HLPF reporting process towards 2019 can help maintain momentum generated by the Solutions Summit and transform the continuum of violence surrounding children’s lives into a continuum of protection.”

In closing, the SRSG urged all participants to harness the commitment of all members of society to join the cause of ending violence against children, pointing to examples ‘Celebrating Childhood: a journey to end violence against children!’, a book recently launched by her office. “’Celebrating Childhood’ vividly captures the passion of child rights champions from all regions and sectors of society who are eager to add their voice, share their experience, and drive action for our cause … inspiring and encouraging others to join us on our important journey to end violence against children.”

“Together we can help write the best chapter in history – about a world of peace for children!”