Tragically, one child in five in Europe is estimated to be a victim of some form of sexual violence, such as incest, pornography, prostitution, trafficking in human beings, corruption, solicitation via Internet, sexual exploitation or sexual abuse.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is working on implementing the Council of Europe ONE in FIVE campaign to stop sexual violence against children at local and regional levels because local and regional authorities have a key responsibility to protect and promote citizens’ human rights. This includes safeguarding and promoting the safety and welfare of children and young people living in their areas. We, at local and regional levels, are on the frontline of the fight to stop sexual violence against children as it is to local services that children will turn for help, for protection, for action, quite simply because we are there, just around the corner.
One of the major challenges we face in the Congress is how to mobilise for the Campaign the 200,000 municipal and regional authorities across the member states. To meet this challenge, we are launching a Pact of Towns and Regions to Stop Sexual Violence against Children.
Our Pact proposes a four pronged approach of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Participation - the four “Ps” - to be adopted by local and regional authorities: to prevent abuse, protect victims, prosecute perpetrators while ensuring full participation for children. This is because the ultimate aim of local and regional authorities must be to prevent children from being exploited. For this, they must decide how best to run public sector agencies to ensure that children and young people are protected and supported, whilst actively pursuing the prosecution of perpetrators. The Pact proposes a list of activities and initiatives that local and regional administrations may take towards this goal.
The Congress Bureau fully endorsed the Pact last month by adopting a declaration which encourages municipalities and regions to sign up for it. I encourage all Congress members, and local and regional elected councillors and parliamentarians to bring the Pact to the attention of councils, parliaments and administrations responsible for child welfare so they may sign up for it.
Let’s all work together to stop sexual violence against children!
Keith Whitmore, Congress President