At the international conference on
"Combating violence against children: from isolated actions to integrated strategies”
organised within the Ukrainian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in co-operation with the Ukrainian State Department for Youth and Sports, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, and UNICEF
Venue: Ukrainian House, Kyiv
Date: 24-25 May 2011
Mr Deputy Prime Minister,
Mr Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have the honour to greet you at the opening of this international conference as the Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and at the same time as a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Also, I would like to extend to you sincere greetings from the President of the Parliamentary Assembly Mr Mevlut Cavusoglu, who regrets that he is unable to personally participate in this important meeting.
However, the Assembly intends to make an active contribution to the conference: in addition to myself, there are also members of the PACE Sub-committee on Children, who will inform the Assembly about the results of our joint work.
As we all know, protecting children is a priority of the Ukrainian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers (May-November 2011). These priorities were recently presented at the 121st session of the Committee of Ministers in Istanbul on 11 May 2011. And our conference is one of the major items on that list. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ukraine after independence in 1991, confirms the right of every child to protection "against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”.
I am convinced that the national parliaments should play a key role when it comes to child protection and prevention of violence against them. They should ensure the strengthening of national legislation and introduce the highest standards of protection.
The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, known as the Lanzarote Convention, is a key tool in this field for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which I represent today.
In this regard, the Assembly decided to support the Council of Europe’s campaign "One in Five" to combat sexual violence against children, to be held in the period from 2011 to 2014. The Assembly supports the ratification of the Lanzarote Convention in the parliamentary dimension, and thus the strengthening of the relevant laws in all member states and the raising of public awareness in general about sexual violence against children. The main tool for spreading information about the campaign is the network of parliamentarians, consisting today of 38 members, who meet during each session of the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg.
Also, I would like to draw your attention to the recent and current activities of the Parliamentary Assembly in this field. Our work can serve as a model for other institutions: in October 2010, the Assembly adopted Recommendation 1934 (2010) "Child abuse in institutions: ensuring full protection of the victims”.
Reports are currently being prepared on the portrayal of violence against children on the internet and on the state of children as a result of natural disasters or political crises.
Undoubtedly, the campaign "One in Five" is aimed at combating sexual violence against children, but we should not forget about other forms of child violence, namely: lack of childcare, isolation from family, child trafficking, labour exploitation, poverty, lack of access to healthcare - these are the problems faced by many children in our societies.
The Parliamentary Assembly has always been engaged in these issues and will continue to be so. At the same time, being a European forum for debates and political initiatives, it cannot achieve alone full success in this regard.
The Parliamentary Assembly needs co-operation with all of you, in the way it already co-operates closely with the governmental sector of the Council of Europe, which is one of the co-organisers of this conference. Only cohesive actions will lead us to our goals.
I would like to remind you about our common goals in combating violence against children:
- First of all, it is the solution of the problem of violence within the public debate;
- Besides that, everyone should understand his/her responsibility for the fate of children who became victims of sexual violence;
- And finally, it is the application of drastic measures to eradicate this terrible form of violence against children because they are the most vulnerable members of our societies.
Experience in all member states of the Council of Europe demonstrates the significant progress made in recent years in the field of protecting childrens' rights through close co-operation between the various international organisations - the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the United Nations. By the way, the representatives of this last organisation are also participating fully in our conference.
However, the protection of children depends directly on the social and economic development of the country. Therefore, the protection of childrens' rights becomes of particular importance during the period of the financial crisis. It should be emphasised that the significant deterioration of the social and economic state of children, most of whom live near the poverty line, is the result of the current financial and economic crisis. That is why the efforts of international organisations and governments of all countries should be aimed at quickly overcoming the consequences of this crisis, which in its turn will cause the improvement of the lives of children.
As a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, I am grateful for the opportunity to hold this conference in the capital of Ukraine – the hero-city of Kyiv. I am convinced that we can stabilise and significantly improve the state of children in all the member states of the Council of Europe in the coming years in close co-operation with all the international organisations represented at this conference, and using comprehensive approaches provided by the Council of Europe.
European parliaments have consolidated their efforts to combat sexual violence against children within the Council of Europe "One in Five” campaign. Besides this initiative, I hope we all will unite our efforts to fight against other forms of violence against children.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights - this is obviously true for children as well. Thus, I urge you to address your national governments and parliaments so that they ensure the signing and ratification of the Lanzarote Convention if they have not done so yet.
I want to wish all of us fruitful work and a productive conference in order to achieve our ultimate goal for all children, and I hope that we will make our modest contribution to a better and safer world for our children during these two days.
Thank you for your attention!