Ladies and gentlemen,
Sport should normally be a positive experience for children. It is good for their health and general well-being, and improves self-confidence and self-esteem.
But there is, unfortunately, also a negative side to the sporting culture.
Several studies show worrying levels of harmful treatment and harassment against children. Most of the harm experienced is non-physical, but also sexual and other physical abuse occurs.
Regrettably, such experiences tend to be accepted as normal by children and young people thus creating fertile ground for more serious abuse.
Our priority must therefore be to set up preventive strategies to safeguard children from sexual abuse. Children and young people need to be fully aware of their rights to participate in sport in a safe environment. Adults, such as coaches, must be examples of positive behaviour in a way that also helps shape young people's behaviour.
This negative sporting culture is not always recognised or efficiently dealt with by our member States. Sports organisations in many countries lack appropriate structures and mechanisms for the prevention of sexual abuse and the protection of children and young people.
I look forward to your exchange of views and invite you, as Parliamentarians, to use your influential political role to make governments address the increased risk of sexual abuse in sports. With your help, a strong co-ordinated response can be made by the national authorities responsible for sport.
I would like to use this opportunity to also report on the most recent progress with regard to our work on the Lanzarote Convention, the ONE in FIVE Campaign and children's rights.
Today, the Lanzarote Convention is binding for 26 Council of Europe member States, and I am quite confident that this number will continue to grow in 2013.
As you are aware, the monitoring committee set up under the Convention - the Lanzarote Committee - has decided that the first monitoring round will focus on sexual abuse in the circle of trust. The majority of sexual abuse against children is committed within the family, by persons close to the child, or by those in the child's social environment, such as in a sports context.
The questionnaire addressed to governments and representatives of civil society has been published, and the deadline for replying is set for 31 January 2014. All States Parties will be monitored and the outcome will be contained in an implementation report.
As for the ONE in FIVE Campaign, 18 national campaigns are now running, 10 new launches are being planned, and our messages are taken on board by many more campaigns.
The Underwear Rule website is available in 17 languages and the TV spot in 37 languages. People from around 160 countries consult our websites and we are receiving requests for materials from non-member States such as Morocco and Korea.
I would also like to share with you a message from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities expressing their gratitude for your Network's help in raising awareness of the Congress Pact of Towns and Regions to stop sexual violence against children.
As you are aware, the Online Pact Platform allows local and regional authorities as well as associations to create their own pages. This Platform is, in fact, becoming a database of good practices.
A month ago, I opened a very inspiring CoE-UNICEF meeting which intended to explore increased co-operation between our two institutions. It focused in particular on the role that the UNICEF country offices and COE field offices can play. I am convinced that only through joint efforts we can achieve better protection of children's rights.
The issue of the protection of children will also be taken up by the CoE Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) at a conference it is co-organising with the Hungarian Secretariat of Sport, on "Inclusion and Protection of Children in and through Sport" on 7-8 October 2013 in Budapest, Hungary.
We are also supporting important NGO initiatives such as the "Youth Sport stands‐up for Youth Rights" Project, which is led by the Youth Organisation of European Non-governmental Sports Organisation (ENGSO). The objective is to empower young Europeans in sports to combat sexual violence and gender harassment.
Moreover, we will have a strong Council of Europe presence at the next ISPCAN European conference on child abuse which is organised by the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, on 15-18 September this year in Dublin.
Finally, I would like to mention that we have also joined forces with the Education sector, through the Pestalozzi Programme, which is developing, in the context of the ONE in FIVE campaign, a training course for teacher trainers on sexuality education in 2013-14.
Thank you very much for your attention.