Building a Europe for and with children

Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, author of the UN Study on Violence against Children

President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Your Royal Highness, Deputy Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, children and young people, ladies and gentlemen,

Today I am honoured to be present at the launch of the UN Study on Violence Against Children at the Council of Europe. I wish to thank the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly for the invaluable support and the partnership during the preparation of the Study. This contribution was crucial for the development of the Study and will be highly influential in the success of follow up initiatives.

The United Nations Secretary-General's Study on Violence against Children paints a global picture of the nature, extent and causes of violence against children, and proposes clear recommendations for action to prevent and respond to it. This is the first time that an attempt has been made to document the reality of violence against children around the world, and to map out what is being done to stop it. Since 2003, many thousands of people have contributed to the study in consultations and working groups, through questionnaires to governments and in other ways. Children and young people have been active at every level.

The Study was presented to the third Committee of the General Assembly in New York on 11 October 2006 and I was requested by the General Assembly to promote the follow-up in cooperation with partners and to submit a report to the next session of the General Assembly on progress made in the initial phase of the follow-up.

Estimates contained in the Study, and the detailed World Report on Violence against Children, indicate the magnitude and pervasive nature of this disturbing problem. The Study tells us that violence against children happens in every country and cuts across social, cultural, religious and ethnic boundaries. The Study also describes that violence against children, whether in the family, schools, alternative care and justice institutions, the workplace or the community is implicitly socially condoned or legally sanctioned and remains hidden and unrecorded. Many children are afraid or unaware of mechanisms to report incidents of violence against them.

The central message of the Study is that no violence against children can be justified; all violence against children can and must be prevented.

The Study makes recommendations for each of the five settings on which it focuses. It also includes some over-arching recommendations, such as strengthened national and local commitment and action; a prohibition of all forms of violence against children in all settings, including all corporal punishment, harmful traditional practices, sexual violence and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Prevention must be a priority, as well as accessible and child-friendly protection systems and services. States should also develop systematic national data collection and research to assess the dimensions of this hidden problem.

The launch of the UN Study on Violence Against Children marks a global turning point and the recommendations of this Study are a tool for action at national, regional and global levels. I am therefore very pleased to see that the Council of Europe is giving thorough consideration to the recommendations and is ensuring follow-up action. The Council of Europe can play a strong role in finding concrete and effective solutions to violence against children.

I must congratulate the Parliamentary Assembly with the report on violence against children which was presented today and with the clear call two years ago for a corporal punishment free Europe. And I welcome the Council of Europe’s three-year action programme ‘Building a Europe for and With Children’. The progress being made by the Council of Europe should give all of us – and particularly children – real cause for optimism.

I look therefore very much forward to our continued collaboration and strong partnership in this important follow-up phase of the UN Study on Violence Against Children. Thank you.

(Council of Europe Launch of the UN Study on Violence Against Children Strasbourg, 23 January 2007)