“Making child rights a reality for the most vulnerable children”
Regional parliamentary seminar hosted by the National Assembly of Armenia and organised by IPU and UNICEF
Yerevan, 14-16 June 2011
Mr Gagik Baghdasaryan,
member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Speech for Session 6 (Wednesday 15 June, Marriott Hotel)
It is a pleasure to participate in this regional seminar and an honour to represent the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I would like to thank the organisers for organising this very important seminar and for inviting the Parliamentary Assembly. The Council of Europe has been engaged for a long time in the education and protection of children. In this framework, it decided to launch a paneuropean campaign to stop sexual violence against children last year.
But let me first introduce myself. I am an Armenian parliamentarian and a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which comprises national delegations of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
1. The Council of Europe ONE in FIVE campaign to stop sexual violence against children
Last November in Rome, the Council of Europe launched the Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children.
The campaign has two main objectives:
1.1. First objective
Our first objective is to obtain the signature, ratification and implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (which is called “the Lanzarote Convention”).
The Lanzarote Convention is a groundbreaking treaty that contains all the measures needed to prevent sexual violence, protect children and end the impunity of the criminals.
The Parliamentary Assembly has published a specific Handbook for parliamentarians on this Convention. Some copies are available here but you can also download it on our website: www.assembly.coe.int/oneinfive.
This Handbook is an excellent guide to this Convention and convincingly explains the background to each of its provisions. I encourage you to use it as a tool to promote the Lanzarote Convention in your countries and beyond, should you have the opportunity to do so.
1.2. Second objective
This is more than an “awareness-raising campaign”. This is an “empowering campaign”. The second objective of the campaign is indeed to equip children, parents and professionals working with them with the knowledge and tools they need to prevent and report sexual violence.
To do so, the Council of Europe is collecting and disseminating information and good practices. The Council of Europe is promoting networking and making expertise and advice available. We are also developing material targeting children and their families, providing advice on how to discuss this very sensitive issue. You will also find some of these materials at your disposal on tables.
2. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
2.1. The necessity to involve parliamentarians
Sexual abuse scandals are hitting the headlines of virtually all countries in Europe. They very often reveal gaps in relevant legislation, weaknesses of child protection policies and the absence of awareness and prevention programmes. They also show that sexual violence is a complex, sensitive, widespread phenomenon which can only be addressed if all social and political forces join forces.
This is why the Parliamentary Assembly has developed the parliamentary dimension of the Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children with a view to associating national parliaments with the campaign and promoting the signature, ratification and implementation of the Lanzarote Convention.
We think that national campaign teams should involve all relevant stakeholders at national level, including, of course, national parliaments. I would be most grateful if you could support the launching of campaigns at national level. You could do so by contacting your focal points in the governments and the contact parliamentarians in your country.
2.2. The role of parliamentarians
The well-being of children is a potent indicator of the effective functioning of a welfare society. The decisions that adults take and their way of living have a direct impact on children. The results of this campaign will depend on the hard work of many people representing various categories of society.
As a parliamentarian I want to underline the importance of strong legislation in this field. Strong laws are the tools of political decision-making at national level. At regional level we work through conventions to move forward.
Not only the adoption, but also the implementation of legislation is a crucial factor when dealing with such difficult issues as sexual violence against children. Anyone involved in the questioning of children who were recently exposed to assaults, must have in-depth knowledge of the problem and approach their job with appropriate sensitivity. Here, the role of national parliaments is to help develop national programmes and action plans and to share them at a European level, so as to help other countries progress in this matter. Together, we need to develop methods that are efficient in fighting the sexual abuse of children but at the same time always keep the focus on the child.
I am convinced that national parliaments are amongst the key players at national level when it comes to strengthening legislation and implementing higher standards of child protection. For the Parliamentary Assembly and most of its delegations, the so-called Lanzarote Convention, is the key instrument of this campaign. Today, we would like to follow the example of the previous Campaign to combat Trafficking in Human Beings, where parliamentary action has clearly been at the origin of further ratifications of the Convention on Action to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, and stimulate further signatures, ratifications and steps taken towards the implementation of the Lanzarote Convention by as many member states as possible. We will do this through committed action at European and national level.
2.3. The Network of Contact Parliamentarians to stop sexual violence against children
The Assembly has set up a Network of Contact Parliamentarians to stop sexual violence against children. To date, this Network has 38 members representing 35 countries and one international organisation, the Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie.
The Network has met twice since the beginning of 2011, including on thematic issues like “combating “child pornography” on the Internet”. It will meet again next week to tackle the issue of “grooming” (solicitation of children through the Internet). These meetings aim at developing national laws regarding existing good practices in other countries.
Members of the Network also represent the PACE at different meetings, as I am doing at the moment.
They are organising different activities in their countries. For example, under the auspices of the Cypriot contact parliamentarian Ms Kyriakidou, a local ONG launched a widespread campaign to combat sexual violence against children in Cyprus.
Let us unite to combat sexual violence against children. We need joint action, under a renewed sense of urgency, in favour of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. I would like to thank you for your attention and wish us all success in combating this scourge, for the well-being of our children!