Study on the Follow-up to the implementation of the UN Study o Violence against Children for the Caribbean

15/10/2013

FOREWORD SRSG Santos Pais

Caribbean Study on Violence against Children 2013

In 2001, the Committee on the Rights of the Child called for a comprehensive UN study on violence against children. A widely participatory process was set in motion for its development in which a wide range of actors within and beyond the United Nations system took part, including States, civil society organizations, religious leaders and children and adolescents.

As part of this process, nine regional consultations on violence against children were held, the very first convened in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. With this important meeting, the Caribbean region initiated a crucial process of regional involvement and ownership in favour of children’s protection from violence.

Following the endorsement by the General Assembly of the UN Study on Violence against Children, and to ensure a steady follow-up to its recommendations, in 2009, the United Nations established the new position of Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children. I am honoured to have been appointed by the Secretary General as his Special Representative and remain deeply committed to further widening the process of regional engagement to place the prevention and elimination of violence against children high on the policy agenda and to consolidate the process of social change the Study anticipated.

The Caribbean region remains a crucial ally in this process. In 2012, the Government of Jamaica, in cooperation with Caribbean Community (CARICOM), UNICEF, the Global Movement for Children in Latin America and Caribbean and my own Office, hosted a high level Regional Consultation on the Follow-up to the Recommendations of the UN Study on Violence against Children for countries in the region.

The consultation was designed to assess and evaluate the status of implementation of the Study recommendations, and to support the establishment of national and regional monitoring mechanisms to accelerate progress in children’s protection from violence. The meeting reaffirmed the strong leadership and political commitment of States in the region and led to the adoption of the Kingston Declaration, the Caribbean Regional Roadmap and the Manifesto of Caribbean Children.

Moreover, Caribbean States supported the development of a regional mapping to evaluate advances made, persisting challenges and areas where further progress should be promoted. The key findings are recommendations of this regional mapping are incorporated in the present Study.

The Caribbean Regional Study addressed three priority areas pursued by my mandate:

• The development in each country of a national strategy to prevent and respond to all forms of violence.

• The introduction of legislation to prohibit all violence against children, and

• The consolidation of data and research to inform progress in this area.

These are critical components of a robust national child protection system and very especially for the prevention and elimination of violence against children.

The Regional Study illustrates a wide spectrum of experiences to gear cross-fertilization of experiences, as well as areas where progress can be steadily achieved.

The Caribbean Analytical Study highlights significant efforts that are being undertaken to raise awareness about the dramatic impact of violence on the enjoyment of children’s rights, and to place violence against children at the centre of the public debate and on the policy agenda. Critical initiatives within the region demonstrate this well. As captured by the contributions made by States.

UN agencies, civil society and children and adolescents, incremental steps are being undertaken at the national level by UN agencies, civil society and children and adolescents to enact protective legislation and to consolidate data and research on violence against children. In Anguilla, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago there is now a national policy to address violence against children. Jamaica has established the Office of the Children’s Advocate and the Office of the Children’s Registry and Belize has passed an explicit ban on violence against children in schools. In like fashion, Grenada and Dominica have developed reporting protocols and procedures to respond to incidents of violence. Other countries, such as Barbados, have integrated the use of child protection indicators in public policies and have promoted the collection of relevant data, disaggregated by age, gender and ethnicity.

At the same time, the Analytical Study reminds us of the urgency to act for the protection of children from violence in the region. Although all Caribbean States are Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, some areas require adaptation of national legislation to international standards, including in cases of sexual violence against children, pornography, human trafficking, violence in the workplace, forced and early marriage, and other harmful practices. Moreover, some manifestations of violence are still allowed in different settings, including the justice system, where flogging and life imprisonment can be forced for children below the age of 18.

Child participation is a cross-cutting issue in all the processes for the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Study on Violence against Children. The Regional Study shows promising initiatives for the empowerment of children and their participation, as agents of change, in building a region free from violence. The Caribbean Child Research Conference, held annually in Jamaica since 2006, the involvement of children in surveys to develop child friendly materials in Jamaica, the National Youth Policy in Trinidad and Tobago and the ‘Road to Geneva’ Report (cf. pg. 141) prepared with the children of Saint Lucia stand as meaningful examples of this crucial process. (http:/ www.risesaintlucia.com).

The Regional Study also draws attention to the importance of regional collaboration in advancing the realisation of children’s rights. The institutionalisation of partnerships with regional institutions and the strengthening of regional governance structures is a cornerstone of my mandate. It has been instrumental to reenergise political support, to capture positive developments, identify concerns and mobilise vigorous action to safeguard children’s freedom from violence.

This process has been marked by the adoption of significant political commitments and regional agendas, and in some regions it has led to the establishment of high level monitoring mechanisms to assess progress and advance this agenda steadily forward. The Kingston Declaration meaningfully illustrates this important process and it laid the foundation for enhancement of the strategic collaboration promoted with the CARICOM Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as well as the Organization of American States (OAS), in the Caribbean region.

Furthermore, CARICOM's decisions on children and framework are excellent developments to build upon. These include, the effective implementation of the Statement issued by the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD XXIII) on sexual abuse and the Bridgetown Declaration and Agenda for Action to Combat Child Sexual Abuse.

The Regional Analytical Study and the Regional Roadmap adopted in Jamaica also provide an important baseline from which to develop national roadmaps capable of nurturing the development of plans and policies with clear and measurable objectives to achieve a long-lasting change in children’s lives.

Violence against children is widespread and pervasive and remains a harsh reality for countless children in all regions. It compromises children’s development and well-being and undermines their health and school performance, with long-lasting consequences which at times persist across generations. Preventing and eliminating violence against children is a pressing need, a human rights imperative and a question of good economics.

In the 2012 Caribbean Consultation, a young participant highlighted the urgency of this cause, stating: “A world free from violence is not a utopia, it can be achieved (…) It has been seven years since this has been instigated; how much have we accomplished since then? I hear promises and negotiations but that only goes so far without real action. Speaking on behalf of my fellow colleagues, we do not want the mere comfort of hearing that we will be heard and some change will be made. What we want is to see actions. All forms of violence should be eradicated.”

I am confident this Regional Study will help us move on from commitments to action and to achieve tangible progress in the safeguarding of children’s rights and in building a region where all children can grow up and develop to their fullest potential in an environment free of violence.