In 2002, General Assembly Resolution A/RES/56/138 requested the Secretary General to conduct an in-depth study on the question of violence against children, following a recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children (A/61/299), led by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, addressed violence against children in five settings: the family, schools, alternative care institutions and detention facilities, places where children work and communities. The Study called for urgent action to prevent and respond to all forms of violence and presented a set of strategic recommendations.
To promote dissemination of the Study and ensure 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).
Through GA resolution 62/141, of 22 February 2008 the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to appoint for a period of three years a Special Representative on violence against children, at the highest possible level.
Appointment of the SRSG on Violence against Children
The Secretary General on May 1st, 2009 announced the appointment of Marta Santos Pais (Portugal) as his Special Representative on Violence against Children. Marta Santos Pais took her position on September 1st, 2009.
The SRSG reports directly to the UN Secretary General, chairs the United Nations Inter Agency Working Group on Violence against Children and collaborates closely with a wide range of partners, within and beyond the UN system. The mandate was established for a period of three years. In November 2012, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly approved by consensus the omnibus resolution on the promotion and protection of the rights of children (A/67/152). The resolution recommended that the Secretary-General extend the mandate of the Special Representative on Violence against Children for a further period of three years and decided that "for the effective performance of the mandate and the sustainability of the core activities the mandate of the SRSG shall be funded from the regular budget starting at the biennium 2014-2015". In 2015, the General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/70/137) recommended the extension for a further three years.
The Office of the Special Representative is located in New York and is part of the Secretariat of the United Natons. UNICEF has established a Trust Account in order to facilitate financial contributions in support of the mandate.
Standard Contribution Agreement
The SRSG is a global independent advocate in favour of the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children. The SRSG acts as a bridge builder and a catalyst of actions in all regions, and across sectors and settings where violence against children may occur. She mobilizes action and political support to maintain momentum around this agenda and generate renewed concern at the harmful effects of violence on children; to promote behavioural and social change, and to achieve effective progress.
The mandate of the SRSG is anchored in human rights standards, promoting the universal ratification and effective implementation of core international conventions. The SRSG cooperates closely with human rights bodies and mechanisms, with UN funds and programmes and specialized agencies, and with regional organizations. She also promotes cooperation with national institutions and civil society organizations, including children and young people.
The SRSG makes use of mutually supportive strategies, including the contribution to strategic meetings at the international, regional and national levels, the identification of good practices and experience across regions, sectors and settings; the organization of field missions; and the promotion of thematic studies and reports. Recent focus areas include: Violence against children and ICTs, safeguarding the rights of girls in the criminal justice system, the protection of children from bullying and cyberbullying and the protection of children affected by armed violence in the community.
The SRSG reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. In addition to her regular reports, the SRSG can issue thematic reports on key areas of concern.
Key priorities
As the UN Study on Violence against Children highlighted, no violence against children is justifiable and all violence against children can be prevented. The recommendations of the UN Study are anchored in a strong human rights normative foundation, provided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols and other international instruments on children’s rights. With other UN partners, the SRSG launched a global campaign to achieve universal ratification by 2012 of the Optional Protocols on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography,and on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
The UN Study recommendations provide a navigation chart to accelerate and monitor progress in violence prevention and responses. In view of their particular urgency, the Study identified time-bound targets for three of these recommendations. For this reason, the SRSG gives special attention to them promoting:
• the development in each State of a national comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, mainstreamed in the national planning process, coordinated by a high level focal point with leading responsibilities in this area, supported by adequate human and financial resources to support implementation, and effectively evaluated;
• the introduction of an explicit legal ban on all forms of violence against children, in all settings;
• and the promotion of a national system of data collection, analysis and dissemination, and a research agenda on violence against children.
The promotion of meaningful and safe child participation is also at the top of the SRSG’s agenda.
Having led major advocacy efforts for the inclusion of the elimination of violence against children as a target and a cross-cutting concern in the Sustainable Development Agenda, SRSG Santos Pais is now focusing in promoting the implementation of Agenda 2030 at global, regional and national level.
In March 2016, the SRSG launched, together with many partners, the High Time to End Violence against Children Initiative. High Time aims to end violence against children thanks to the transformative power of governments’ commitment and action, organizations and communities’ engagement, and people’s time and talent. It promotes a broader and deeper mobilisation towards a world free from violence, reactivating commitment and encouraging concrete action. By providing guidance on measures to prevent and address violence, it connects the action needed with the willingness to contribute to this cause.
When joining High Time, Governments, organisations, institutions and individuals commit to undertake very concrete actions to prevent and respond to violence against children. Opinion leaders, highly talented individuals and global champions of children’s rights are joining as “Time Raisers”, lending their talent and time to free children from violence. Governments, organisations and institutions mobilize their networks and constituencies when joining as “Time Keepers”. Individuals and groups addressing a specific need join as “Time Givers”.