against Children: “Children Are Not Mini-
Human Beings with Mini- Human Rights”
Work on a global study aimed
at countering violence against children is gathering
momentum, with three UN institutions and a number
of international partners pooling their efforts
to deliver a set of recommendations to the General
Assembly next year.
The study, requested by the
General Assembly in 2001, is intended to provide
an in-depth global picture of violence against
children and propose clear recommendations for
the improvement of legislation, policy and programmes
relating to the prevention of and responses
to violence against children. The study will
document the magnitude, incidence and consequences
of various types of violence against children.
For each type of violence against children addressed,
the study will also review what is known about
the causes and associated risk and protective
Speaking in Geneva earlier
this month, the expert leading the project said
the situation warranted international attention
because “children are not mini-human beings
with mini-human rights”. The study would
not be a “catalogue of horrors”,
said Prof. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, adding that
the aim was to be constructive. In his work,
he said, he had been seeking information on
strategies for preventing violence against children
and the responses to it, including those considered
to be best practices and in particular those
that had been developed by children.
Indeed, the participation of
children themselves in the study is considered
essential. UNICEF Deputy Executive Director
Rima Salah told a Caribbean preparatory meeting
for the study in March that the presence and
participation of young people was the most important
element in the collective voice on this issue.
Thirty-five young people drawn from across the
Caribbean were among the 150 participants at
the conference in Port-of-Spain, the first of
the nine regional consultations to be held worldwide
to gather information for the study.
Gopalan Balagopal, Senior
Child Protection Officer of UNICEF, said the
participation of children in the Trinidad meeting
had a visible effect on how the conference progressed.
But he added that ensuring that children’s
voices are heard is not always easy. “To
let children express themselves in this context
is in many countries against culture and tradition”,
Jane Connors, of the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, notes
that it is sometimes difficult to consider children
as actors because some parents still view their
children as their own property. She said she
hoped that participation of children in the
consultation process would increase, although
she cautioned against exploiting them or forcing
them to cooperate.
Violence against children
is a reality of children’s lives around
the world. According to the World Health Organization
an estimated 57,000 children under 15 were victims
of homicide in 2000, and global estimates of
child homicide rates suggest that infants and
very young children are at the greatest risk.
In its League Table of Child Maltreatment Deaths
in Rich Nations, UNICEF estimates that in the
industrialized world, almost 3,500 children
under the age of 15 die from maltreatment, in
other words from physical abuse and neglect,
every year. These estimates almost certainly
underestimate the incidence of homicidal violence
against children. Meanwhile, non-fatal violence
permeates the lives of many children.
The Study, rooted in children's
human rights to protection from all forms of
violence, is a UN-led collaboration, mandated
by the General Assembly, to draw together existing
research and relevant information about the
forms, causes and impact of violence which affects
children and young people (up to the age of
18 years). The Secretary-General appointed Prof.
Pinheiro as Independent Expert to lead the study.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, UNICEF and the World Health Organization
are supporting the Independent Expert. A major
report will be published in 2006 and recommendations
presented to the UN General Assembly.
The regional consultations
will pull together regional information on violence
against children in four settings: the home;
the community; schools; and state institutions.
These will articulate the agenda for action
and contribute recommendations to the study.
Information on the study
can be found at the following address: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/study.htm