United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children

The protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right, which the international community has solemnly pledged to safeguard for all children, everywhere and at all times. Unfortunately, violence remains a harsh reality for millions of children around the world. Available research leads us to believe that up to 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence every year.

Violence hampers a child’s development, learning abilities and school performance; it also inhibits positive relationships, provokes low self-esteem, emotional distress and depression; and, at times, leads to risk taking, self-harm and aggressive behavior. Moreover, violence is associated with serious economic costs for society, reducing human capacity and compromising social development.

Violence takes place in all contexts, including where children are expected to enjoy a secure environment and special protection - in care institutions, in the school and within the home. Younger children are at special risk, having less ability to speak up and seek support, and also greater chances of suffering irreversible emotional and health damage.

Although of epidemic proportions, violence against children remains hidden and socially condoned, and often perceived as a social taboo or a needed form of discipline. It is seldom reported; and official statistics hardly capture its magnitude and incidence. Violence is often perpetrated by people children know and trust and, openly or implicitly, child victims feel pressed to conceal it.

This is a pattern we must reverse urgently. The protection of children from violence needs to evolve from being a concern of a few into a priority for all.

To address the dramatic impact of violence on children, the United Nations carried out a global Study on Violence against Children and subsequently established a new position of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children to act as a global advocate, keep this topic high on the global policy agenda and promote steady action to prevent and address all forms of violence against children.

Within my mandate as Special Representative of the Secretary General, I underscore the urgency of developing in each country a well-coordinated and adequately resourced national strategy on violence against children; promoting the enactment and enforcement of laws to ban all forms of violence against children, wherever it may occur as well as consolidating data and research on this phenomenon to break its invisibility and to inform laws and policies to address it effectively.

Our partnership with Day of Prayer and Action for Children and UNICEF renews our energy and hope to bring people together and to take action for the well-being of children around the globe. Through concerted efforts to put the protection of children from violence in all our prayers and actions high in the public debate, and at the center of the national policy agenda in all countries, I am confident we can build a world where violence truly has no place!