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Statements Special Procedures

Statement by Mrs. Mehr Khan Williams, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Sixty-first Session of the General Assembly - Third Committee

11 October 2006

Agenda Item 62: Promotion and protection of the rights of children

New York, 11 October 2006

Mr. Chairperson,
Colleagues and friends,

It is a great pleasure to participate in the launch of the Secretary-General’s very important study on violence against children.

Let me join others in congratulating Mr. Pinheiro and all those who have contributed to the study. While Mr. Pinheiro’s vision and energy have guided the study, it has been a very collaborative effort, bringing together the knowledge and expertise of many including Governments, agencies, NGOs, experts from around the world, and children.

UNICEF, WHO and OHCHR together provided essential perspectives on human rights, public health and child protection which inform the conclusions.

The role of non-governmental organizations in the study has been critical. I want to pay special tribute to their efforts. They know this issue well and have been working on it for many years. They prompted the Committee on the Rights of the Child to call for the study. They also ensured the full participation of children, especially in regional consultations. NGOs will continue to play an important role in putting this issue on the international agenda. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has shared its first-hand experience on the violence against children acquired over the past 15 years. But most of all it is the voices of children that have animated the study. Their experiences of violence have made us understand its many dimensions and its impact on children as nothing else could have done. They have spoken with clarity and courage. Their experience and views have grounded the report in reality. Now they expect us adults to act on its findings.

Mr. Chairperson,

I will limit my comments today to three key points.

First, this is a very important report. It casts a strong light on a problem which has continued for centuries. As the study demonstrates, all violence has a negative, and sometimes a devastating, impact on children. Facts and figures gleaned through impartial scientific analysis allow us to see the critical dimensions of the problem. This makes it imperative for us to change how we deal with it. We can no longer delay action by stating that some forms of violence are rooted in culture and so they are acceptable; or by debating the degree of impact on a child. Now we have clear information that leaves us in no doubt about the impact of violence on children in all societys. _The study shows us that there are clear risk factors, including economic development, age, sex and gender, and there are some protective factors, such as good parenting and strong families. More research is needed, country by country, but the essential facts, gathered meticulously through a participatory process, are now before us.

Second, as the report indicates, violence against children is completely unjustifiable and all of it is preventable. Prevention is critical. The study shows us what we can and must do through attitudinal change, through national legislation and its implementation, and through international cooperation. It provides a clear guide to the way forward.

My third point is that follow-up to these recommendations is essential. It will not be easy especially where prevalent attitudes and entrenched traditions are challenged. But as the study states, children should never receive less protection than adults. It demonstrates that when children’s lives are marked by denial of fundamental rights, in particular, the rights to housing, food and education, they are also often denied dignity and respect. It highlights the equality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights and the importance of developing comprehensive, rather than fragmented and reactive approaches. Structured, well-defined and focused follow-up at all levels is critical.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office support all of the recommendations of the study for strong and immediate follow up. Every child has the right to a life free from violence.