Director General/Executive Director
Meeting On Prevention Of And Responses To Violence Against Children Within The Juvenile Justice System
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here today to open the meeting on violence against children within the juvenile justice system.
The meeting is the result of the ongoing partnership between UNODC, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable support provided by the government of Austria, a key promoter of the rights of the child and a strong supporter of UNODC's activities.
If a child's life is damaged through violence, what hope for their adult life?
That is the question we are addressing today and it is something we should have in our minds at all times.
Children in conflict with the law, and in particular those deprived of their liberty, are particularly vulnerable to violence
Given this, we need to be clear on the cornerstone of our approach.
Prevention is fundamental.
No violence against children can ever be justified.
However, the problem of violence exists.
To understand its scale and scope, we must objectively assess the forms of violence confronted by children.
On any given day, children encounter violence, including from police and security forces.
Some children suffer abuse from adult detainees, and from their own peers.
Others even attempt suicide due to violence and neglect.
Only occasionally do these cases become known to the general public through media coverage.
These are the invisible children. It is our role to bring their misery into plain sight.
The issue is also about perception. Quite often, the view of the public is that children in conflict with the law, in particular those deprived of liberty, are simply criminals, beyond our concern, beyond our care.
We must change this perception. The vast majority of boys and girls in detention are charged with minor crimes, and are first- time offenders.
Many have committed no offence at all, but have been rounded up for vagrancy, homelessness, or for simply being in need of care and protection.
It is estimated that over one million children are currently deprived of their liberty across the globe.
Our challenge is to create fair, effective and efficient juvenile justice systems that comply with international standards and norms.
By relying on international standards we can create a powerful source of protection for children.
It is also essential that we find the means to prosecute perpetrators of violence against children whenever it occurs.
UNODC activities are founded on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, international standards and norms, and the recommendations contained in the UN Secretary-General's Study on violence against children.
We also strongly support the principle of shared responsibility. Although States have the primary responsibility, non-state actors also play a key role.
Our common goal is to promote justice for children by, on the supply side, helping to strengthen the institutions of justice, while, on the demand side, creating the conditions for children to exercise their rights and receive legal aid.
We must enable children to express their own views on developing effective prevention. Child protection must be child sensitive.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Earlier, I asked the question: if a child's life is damaged through violence, what hope for their adult life? I will attempt an answer.
While the consequences of violence may vary, the short and long-term repercussions are often grave and damaging.
Such violence can increase the possibility of criminal activity and hinder the development of young, vulnerable children into functioning adults.
We are therefore talking about a possible cycle of violence that only begets more violence.
It is our collective duty to break this cycle and promote effective measures to protect children within the juvenile justice system from all forms of violence.
I trust that together we can achieve this.