Combating all forms of violence against children is one of the main objectives of the Council of Europe’s “Building a Europe for and with children” programme. Social tolerance of certain forms of violence – for example, corporal punishment – or the silence surrounding sexual abuse of children are major challenges which must be taken up in the fight against violence. Exposing children to one form of violence increases their vulnerability to other forms of violent behaviours. Effective prevention of and reaction to violence, as well as effective safeguarding of the rights of the child, therefore call for a strategic and multidisciplinary approach.
The Council of Europe Policy Guidelines on Integrated National Strategies for the Protection of Children from Violence aim to be a source of inspiration for states striving to adopt a holistic approach to violence against children and to guarantee their children a childhood free from violence. The guidelines contain detailed proposals on how to develop an integrated national strategy on the rights of the child and the eradication of violence against children. The strategy is defined as a multidisciplinary and systematic framework integrated into the national planning process, rooted in the UNCRC and bringing together all stakeholders.
The guidelines are based on the recommendations of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children, as well as on a comprehensive review of national policies in four Council of Europe member states (Italy, Norway, Portugal and Romania), resulting in a proposal for a model strategy against violence.
I. Key components
The aim of the Guidelines on Integrated National Strategies for the Protection of Children from Violence is to help decision-makers and stakeholders within member states to set up and implement comprehensive national strategies and policies to promote the rights of the child and eradicate all forms of violence against children. This can be achieved through the creation of a multifaceted and systematic framework based on the cross-sectoral co-operation of governmental players, non-governmental organisations, local authorities and professionals working with children.
A model national strategy should integrate the following key components:
The legal framework
- The national legal framework should prioritise the prevention of violence and safeguard the rights of the child; the national legislation should prohibit all violence against children, including corporal punishment
The policy framework
- The creation of a national child rights policy is necessary for the realisation of the child’s right to be protected from violence, and that policy should ensure that the principles and provisions of the UNCRC guide all public action affecting children
The institutional framework
- The institutional framework needs to comprise an agency for child protection; a network of public institutions contributing to child protection; an independent human rights institution for children’s rights; a national institute for data collection; networks of professionals, civil society and human rights institutions; children and their organisations
Building a culture of respect for the rights of the child
- The state needs to make information on children’s rights widely available among children and adults and provide training for professionals working with children
Child-friendly services and mechanisms
- The main objective of the institutions, services and facilities responsible for children’s rights should be to ensure the protection, development and well-being of children; reporting of violence should become mandatory for all professionals; and help lines for children should be available for children to seek advice
Research and data collection
- A national research agenda should be adopted to promote an integrated and systematic approach to data collection, analysis and research
- Both member states of the Council of Europe and other states need to be encouraged to co-operate with one another to foster the sharing of good practices and further the promotion of children’s rights protection.