GENERAL ASSEMBLY: NGO Statement from Latin America and Caribbean

Summary: Statement presented at the UN General Assembly 62nd session on behalf of NGOs that signed the petition calling for the UN to establish a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children.

Statement to the President of the UN General Assembly 
UN Headquarters, New York, 19 October 2007

‘Gerardo and I are speaking on behalf of 188 networks and NGO’s, representing hundreds of organizations in 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean’

For many children in Latin America and the Caribbean, violence is part of their daily life. Children feel unsafe in their communities and in their schools. In some countries, children are more safe in the streets, than in their own homes.

The causes for this violence may of course differ, but much is believed to be related to the brutal history of slavery that a lot of our countries share, and the unequal divide of wealth and resources.

Corporal punishment, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, gang life and drug trafficking are either neutralized or socially accepted because of this, or tolerated, as a way to make ends meet.

Latin American and Caribbean children say that they are ‘visibly invisible’, as adults turn a blind eye to their problems:

1. Many of our children don’t officially exist, because they are not registered.

2. A lot of Caribbean children are invisible to and unheard by the international children’s rights movement, because their country is not considered independent as they are part of some sort of federation with a European nation or the US. Children in those islands are missing out on programs, support and resources by Unicef and world NGO’s. This should change: the international movement should include all children, unimportant the status of their country.

3. Much of the violence against our children goes unreported: either because the children or their parents are economically dependent on the perpetrator, or children are not taken serious or don’t trust the police.

Our young people feel that the media are complicit in perpetuating violence and that the media should be involved more positively in finding solutions to it. It is the general view in the region that the media is being insensitive and tend to sensationalize violence against children rather than report on it responsibly. The media have a vital role to play in challenging attitudes and behaviours that are harmful to our children.

It is not just a matter of reporting on children's issues but taking them into account in programming in general. 

For example, the presence and abuse of small weapons in many countries have a great impact on the lives of young people. However, law and governmental policies take into consideration other interests ahead of the interest of children.

The application in many of our countries of tough-hand laws and the surpression of fundamental rights when young people come in conflict with the law, encourages the idea that young people in general are violent and criminal, and aggravates the violence cycle against them.

Many of our children feel a deep rage.

They commit self inflicted violence or become perpetrators themselves. Thus they become victimized in another way. Two states of our regions share the highest mortality rate of young men dying by homicide, one of which is Puerto Rico, a Caribbean country.

Your Excellencies,

All of our Caribbean and Latin American children need steady and structural support. All of our children count, and should enjoy growing up without violence, now. To accomplish that, more is needed than state obligations and NGO advocacy. In Latin America and the Caribbean, we feel that the establishment of a Special Representative is needed, and we urge you to support this.’

Gerardo Sauri (Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en Mexico) and
Hellen van der Wal (Child Helpline Aruba/Community&Crime Research Foundation),
representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean
in the NGO Advisory Council for follow-up to the UN Study on Violence Against Children


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