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Presented by: Department of Public Information of the United Nations - Non Governmental Organizations
UN DPINGO Briefings - December 16,2010 - Conference Room #2, NLB

“May I Ask a Question, Madame Special Representative of the Secretary-General?”
With Ms. Marta SANTOS-PAIS


The Briefing of the December 16th 2010, was also the last Briefing of the season which looked at the work of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children. This office was created in May 2009 in fulfillment of one of 12 recommendations of a UN Study on Violence Against Children, concluded in 2006.

The Study, by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, found that millions of children throughout the world live with the devastating effects of violence, including injuries, disabilities, life-long emotional and psychological effects, sometimes death, as well as significant economic and other costs to society. The study recommended among other things, that "governments act to establish a Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence against Children (SRSG)." The role of the SRSG would be to "act as a high-profile global advocate to promote prevention and elimination of all violence against children".

Report and Photos by Sirin CENGIZALP, Lightmillennium.Org
Youth Representative to the UN DPINGO

- More on the UN/DPI-NGO Briefings on the Lightmillennium.Org

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, opened her speech by explaining the history of the office and the role of the Special Representative, which is to act as a high-profile global advocate to promote prevention and elimination of all violence against children. For the first time the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children led by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and with active and substantive of civil society organizations, including young people’s organizations addressed violence against children in five settings:
* the family,
* schools,
* alternative care institutions and detention facilities,
* places where children work and
* in the community.
To promote dissemination of the Study and ensure an effective follow up to its recommendations, the Study called for the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children (SRSG). The position was formally established by a decision of the Secretary General, and Ms. Pais took the position on 1 September 2009.

Later in her speech Ms. Pais stated particular statistics about childe abuse. For instance, according to the researches between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence every year. In Europe, one in five children suffers some form of sexual violence, and in 70% to 85% of cases, the perpetrator is known to the child victim. This dramatic pattern has led the Council of Europe to launch a wide advocacy campaign designed to raise awareness about sexual violence of children, support parents and children in its prevention, and encourage governments to ratify and enforce relevant international standards addressing this child rights violation.

"According to the researches between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence every year.
In Europe, one in five children suffers some form of sexual violence, and in 70% to 85% of cases, the perpetrator is known to the child victim

According to Ms. Pais’ speech Internet use is gaining an undeniable relevance in children’s lives. Increasingly younger children are going online and facing risks, which tend to grow as they get older - according to a 2010 report by the EU Kids Online Network children are exposed to nasty and hurtful messages, and harmful information, including sexual and pornographic images.

In many nations, ill treatment and beating of children by teachers and school staff is considered unlawful and punished with disciplinary measures; in the case of some more serious forms of violence, such as sexual harassment or abuse, the outcome may be the dismissal of those found responsible. However, violence in schools remains lawful in more than 80 States. Some serious forms of violence, such as canning and whipping, are officially regulated as a disciplinary method.

marta_santos_pais gail_bintley_taylor_sainte
Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children
Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Information Officer, UN DPINGO, moderated the session

In some communities, traditional harmful practices, including honor killings, female genital mutilation and forced and early marriage, are deeply rooted in society and hard to abandon without the genuine mobilization and active involvement of those concerned. According to Ms. Pais’ data, every year nearly 70,000 girls between 15 and 19 years of age die from pregnancy related complications; mothers younger than 15 years are at a particular risk.
According to a survey conducted by the European Commission amongst 15 and 18 years olds from within the European Union Member States, violence against children and sexual abuse and exploitation of children were identified as the most serious problems affecting young people, and also the most pressing priorities for policy action.

Furthermore, the most recent report issued by Child Helpline International, bullying, physical abuse and sexual abuse are the most common forms of violence reported – cases of bullying amount to 27%, incidents of physical abuse amount to 29%, emotional abuse amount to 11% and sexual abuse affects 16% of the children know and trust, placing the child at risk of long term and continuous incidents of violence. According to this recent report, in 51% of the cases, violence was perpetrated by foster and step parents, and in 17% of the cases by members of the extended family.

Guided by the sense of urgency, Ms. Pais particularly committed to pursue three critical goals: 1) the development in each country of a national plan or strategy to prevent and respond to all forms of violence. 2) the introduction of legislation to prohibit all violence against children, and 3) the consolidation of data and research to inform progress in this area.

According to Ms. Pais’ speech, globally, only close to 5% of children are legally protected from all forms violence in all settings. In fact, only 29 countries have legislation prohibiting violence in all contexts, including in the home, in schools and institutions.

In her conclusion, Ms. Pais emphasized that the family has the greatest potential to provide for the child’s care and safety and to build a protective environment for children to grow up. The role of Governments is critical in violence prevention and response, in providing the needed support to families in their child rearing responsibilities, and in ensuring the needed assistance to those at risk. National institutions, civil society, schools and the media are key actors in the promotion of a society where violence has truly no place.

dec16_10 dec16_2010_audience

Q: My concern is about the children who are in the refugee camps of Chad. Many of them are orphans. Do you have any procedures in Chad currently that would address the particular kind of child, who is under the extraordinary situation?

A: Although I have not been in Chad myself nor I have been informed any specific case about this issue, in order to take action first we need information about a child’s background, the reasons of suffering, and the type of family that child has. While doing that we definitely collaborate with UNHCR, which is very closely working with refugees.

Q: How much emphasizes is placed on treating alcoholism or addictions, which is one of the strongest reasons of child abuse?
A: We all know that alcohol and drug dependency aggravate violence. In addition to that places in poverty have no social services to protect the abused victims. As a result, they are only not there the most of the times to support; they might also not have the enough professional skills. We need to make sure professional are well trained, resources made available by the State for these particular families and children, then prevention would happen.

Marta Santos Pais, a national of Portugal, was appointed on 1 May 2009 as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children. She brings to this position more than 30 years experience on human rights issues, her engagement in United Nations and intergovernmental processes and her tremendous passion and a firm commitment to the rights of the child.

Before her appointment, Marta Santos Pais was the Director of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, in Florence Italy, a position she held since 2001.

Prior to this she served as the Rapporteur of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and Vice-Chair of the Coordinating Committee on Childhood Policies of the Council of Europe.

Ms. Santos Pais is member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the International Journal of Children’s Rights, and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Inter-disciplinary Course on Children’s Rights.

Ms Santos Pais was also a Special Adviser to the UN Study on Violence against Children and to the Machel Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

Ms. Santos Pais is the author of a large number of publications on human rights and children’s rights. She was a member of the UN Drafting Group of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and of its two Optional Protocols; she has also participated in the development of other key international human rights standards.

She speaks English, French, Spanish and Italian.

- More on the UN/DPI-NGO Briefings on the Lightmillennium.Org

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