European Day on the protection of Children against Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation

Strasbourg , 

As delivered


President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,

There are few causes as worthy as the battle to stop sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

Here at the Council of Europe, we are proud of our contribution to that effort, with our Lanzarote Convention helping member states to protect young people and bring perpetrators to justice.

We are also fortunate that our Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport brings together a unique network of governments and sports organisations that works towards safe, ethical and inclusive sports – for children as much as anyone.

This year, we have brought together those two assets – the standards contained in the Lanzarote Convention and the structural strength of EPAS – to launch this important Start to Talk campaign:

A campaign in which well-known athletes and coaches and well-established institutions and organisations have come together to make one thing very clear:

The wall of silence must be broken.

Abuse must be prevented, children must be protected, and impunity must be fought.

The campaign supports practical strategies to make this happen:

These include protection frameworks, safeguarding strategies and codes of conduct that sit alongside training sessions for coaches, managers and others.

This – all of this – is designed to empower professionals, parents and children to prevent abuse, and to have the confidence and capacity to speak out where it occurs.

This is crucial.

After all, sports should be a force for good for young people – for everyone.

At their best, sports teach us about team-work and perseverance, and they enhance our self-esteem.

They are of huge personal importance to the millions of children who take part in them every single day.

But they often involve entrusting those children to adults who have enormous influence over them.

Feelings of guilt, shame and confusion are bricks that make up the wall of silence surrounding many of the young people who are abused in this scenario.

It happens in a minority of cases of course – but it does happen, and it must be stopped.

The wall of silence must be taken down, never to be rebuilt – and it’s up to all of us to make that happen.

So I thank the EU, EPAS, member states and every one of you here today for showing your support.

And I look forward to us blowing the whistle together, calling time on abuse in sport, and signalling that we too are ready to talk and act in the interest of safer sports for our young people.