United against all forms of violence against children
ANKARA/TURKEY– More than 250 officials and experts from all over 27 European countries gathered in Ankara on 27 and 28 November to discuss what more can be done to stamp out violence against children. The conference “Stepping up Progress in Combating Violence against Children” was organized by the Government of Turkey, in collaboration with the Council of Europe, UNICEF and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children.
Participants included high-level national and local government representatives, practitioners, and researchers, members of professional networks and leaders of civil society. The event aimed at sharing good practices, developing concrete initiatives and outlining priorities for future work in the region in the light of the outcome of the recent UN Global Progress Study on Violence against Children.
The main focus of the conference was exchanging European experiences in implementing integrated national strategies and addressing the gaps in accountability and responsiveness in order to safeguard children’s rights and eliminate violence against children. In particular, the conference provided an opportunity to discuss the significance of National Integrated Strategies on Violence against Children as a way of maximizing commitment for children in different countries.
Together with national and international responses to violence against children, national and international participants at the two-day conference also discussed preventive, protective and child-friendly services, the role of civil society and the media in building a culture of respect for the rights of the child, and the strengthening of public awareness on violence against children.
Another very important result of the conference was to stimulate dialogue among the different key players within Turkey, among Council of Europe member States, between State and non-State actors, and among policy makers, experts and practitioners.
International participants repeatedly congratulated Turkey on being the first country to ratify the “Istanbul Convention” (Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence) as part of its efforts in to combat domestic violence.
The opening speeches were delivered by Dr. Ayman Abulaban, UNICEF Turkey Representative; Ms. Anica Djamic, Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Thematic Coordinator for Children; Ms. Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children; Mr. Ahmad Ghanizadeh, Norwegian State Secretary of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion; and Ms. Fatma Şahin, Minister of Family and Social Policies of Turkey.
Dr. Ayman Abulaban stressed the reinforcing role of gate-keeping, minimum standards and individualized approaches in child care and juvenile detention institutions, as one way of limiting risks of violence.
Ms. Anica Djamic recalled that the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to the protection of child rights. “I am convinced that a society which is friendly to children is the only society worth living in,” she said.
Ms. Marta Santos Pais stressed the need to “narrow the gap between what the legislation says and what the reality is” in each and every country. “We continuously advocate for the establishment of child-sensitive counseling, reporting and complaint mechanisms,” she went on. “These are the institutions and interventions that help children seek support, and have professionals ready to understand their stories and to guide them in the process of recovery and reintegration. With collaborative efforts, violence is not inevitable.”
Mr Ahmad Ghanizadeh shared the experiences of Norway and explained the Norwegian National Action Plans on forced marriages, domestic violence and violence against children and sexual abuse.
Turkey’s Minister of Family and Social Policies Fatma Şahin underlined the progress made by Turkey in combating violence against children. “We call for zero tolerance for violence against women and children. We consider violence as a breach of human rights and public health,” said Ms. Şahin.
UN Study on Violence against Children
As the UN Study on Violence against Children highlighted, no violence against children is justifiable and all violence against children can be prevented. The recommendations of the UN Study are anchored in a strong human rights normative foundation, provided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols and other international instruments on children’s rights. The UN Global Study on Violence against Children recommends all states to develop a holistic national framework to prevent and to respond to violence against children. It is the mandate of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Violence against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, to mobilise action and political support to maintain momentum around this agenda and generate renewed concern at the harmful effects of violence on children; to promote behavioural and social change, and to achieve effective progress.
At the end of the conference, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, UN SRSG on Violence against Children, and Mr. Abdülkadir Kaya, Child Services General Director, Ministry of Family and Social Policies Turkey, shared the conclusions of the conference.
Ms. Pais underlined the significance of the conference to track and document progress made, to share progressive experiences and to echo on prevailing challenges and on opportunities. She emphasized the issues that need to be prioritized for the well-being of children. The concluding recommendations referred to effective national implementation of child rights treaties and importance of National integrated Strategies for the protection of children from violence. She also recommended prioritizing the provision and usage of relevant data to inform advocacy, policy and legal developments as well as the effective planning of services and building child friendly services and mechanisms. Ms. Pais concluded that children’s participation in the decision making processes is essential.
Mr. Kaya stressed the global nature of violence against children as a challenge that can be overcome with the cooperation of all the related actors. He recalled that necessary measures should be child-centred and countries should adopt a zero- tolerance approach. Mr. Kaya reminded that national strategies to combat violence against children should be developed with the participation of national, regional and local authorities, the professionals working for / with children, academicians, nongovernmental organizations, media and all the other related actors and the ownership of these actors should be ensured.