IHEU Letter to the Independent Expert for the UN Study on Violence Against Children — December 2002 — To: Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Independent Expert for the UN Study on Violence Against Children
Dear Professor Pinheiro,
We would like to offer our warm congratulations on your appointment as the independent expert for the UN Study on Violence Against Children. As national, regional and international non-governmental organizations that are committed to protecting and promoting the rights of children, we look forward to working with you in this critically important role. We also take this opportunity to make several recommendations as you begin work on this study.
Our organizations have documented violence against children, have created and implemented programs to both prevent and respond to this violence, and have actively advocated for an end to violence against children.
In our work, we have seen that children are at risk of violence in nearly every aspect of their lives – in their homes, in their schools, on the street, at work, in institutions (both public and private), and while in detention or police custody. Often they are beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted or even murdered by the very individuals that are responsible for their care. Violence affects children in every region of the world.
Although violence against children is pervasive, effective responses are often lacking. A UN study on violence against children will be of vital importance in drawing attention to this problem and developing an international plan of action to eliminate such violence. Such a study is particularly timely, as the declaration and plan of action adopted at the recent UN General Assembly Special Session on Children identified the protection of children from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation as one of four priority areas of action.
The Machel Study on Children and Armed Conflict provides a model of what can be accomplished as the result of an in-depth UN study. The Machel study is widely credited with:
– gaining significant international attention to issues related to children and armed conflict;
– strengthening protection efforts for war-affected children within UN and other agencies;
– securing the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict to ensure on-going efforts to promote the protection, rights, and welfare of children at every phase of conflict;
– and providing key support for the drafting of the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to raise the minimum age for recruitment and participation in armed conflict.
We hope that a study on violence against children will prompt similar attention and response.
NGOs played a central and active role during the preparation of the Machel study. NGOs oversaw and carried out case studies in various countries specifically for the Machel Study, served on the report’s technical advisory and expert groups, submitted information documenting the impact of armed conflict on children and effective responses, and have been actively involved in promoting and following up the recommendations from the study.
The NGO community is also keenly interested in the UN study on Violence Against Children. Each of our organizations is prepared to support your work by sharing our research and knowledge regarding the nature and scope of the problem and effective interventions, encouraging broad NGO involvement in the study, and helping to mobilize effective advocacy and follow-up to the study’s recommendations. We have already taken several specific steps to facilitate effective NGO participation. These include:
1. The establishment of a Subgroup on Children and Violence within the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This group has met regularly since April of 2002 to share information, receive briefings from UNICEF, WHO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and discuss avenues for NGO participation. The Subgroup will work to engage NGOs in the preparation and follow-up of the study, to engage the Committee on the Rights of the Child and other UN bodies and mechanisms, and seek ways to ensure that the commitments made regarding violence against children at the UN Special Session on Children are fulfilled.
2. The establishment of a Children and Violence email listserve to provide the broadest possible information flow among NGOs about the study. The list will provide information on how NGOs can contribute, regular updates as the study progresses, and information on regional consultations and other related events. Nearly 200 individuals and organizations have already signed up to the listserve.
3. Formation of an NGO advisory panel to facilitate input from the NGO community. The Subgroup on Violence and Children has facilitated the formation of an NGO advisory panel to facilitate input on the study’s content, process and outcomes from the NGO community.
This group has been selected from a large number of nominations received from individuals and organizations around the world. Members have been selected to ensure a high level of expertise related to violence against children, representation from all regions of the world, access to broad NGO networks, expertise across the range of issues expected to be covered by the study, and representation of the various sectors of the NGO community. Members of the panel represent advocacy, operational, research and child-led organizations, as well as academic and professional groups, including medical professionals, social workers, school psychologists, etc. We hope that this group will be a valuable resource for you as you carry out your work.
As the independent expert for the study, your leadership will be essential for the study’s success. As you embark on this work, we urge you to:
1. Ensure that the study is based on a child rights/human rights approach, and facilitates full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
2. Ensure that the study is based on the recommendations made for the study by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, based on the general days of discussion on violence against children held in 2000 and 2001;
3. Engage NGOs as full partners in the preparation of the study by inviting and incorporating their contributions, conducting regular briefings for the NGO community, and consulting with NGOs through regional consultations and other fora;
4. Work closely with the NGO Advisory Panel regarding the scope, content and methodology of the study;
5. Ensure meaningful participation by children and ensure that their experiences and perspectives are included.
We hope that you will make it a priority to meet with NGOs at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the study and ways that we can work together to ensure its success.
We wish you the very best in this important endeavor, and thank you for your consideration.
-Sergio Vieira de Mello, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director UNICEF
Gro Brundtland, General Director World Health Organization
Jaap Doek, Chair Committee on the Rights of the Child