Why do we need a Special Representative to the Secretary-General on violence against children?

Summary: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS about the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Violence against Children

Questions and Answers 

The Secretary-General’s Study on violence against children presents member states with a challenge and an opportunity. The Study has revealed devastating and pervasive violence against children in all parts of the world and makes specific recommendations for action. A Special Representative is needed to ensure effective follow-up to the study’s recommendations, ensure continued visibility to the issue, and maintain the momentum that has been built during the Study, including its nine regional consultations and the unprecedented involvement of children.

We already have existing mechanisms related to children. Why do we need another?

Existing mechanisms leave many aspects of violence against children unaddressed, including many forms of violence against children in the home, in schools, in care and justice systems, and in the workplace. A Special Representative to the Secretary-General would be able to address comprehensively all aspects of violence against children in all settings. It would complement the existing Special Representative to the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict by addressing violence in non-conflict situations.

Why a Special Representative? Why not a Special Rapporteur?

Because violence against children relates to the mandates of multiple UN bodies and agencies, a high-level post is critical to ensure strong leadership and coordination. In addition, several key UN agencies that have been involved in the study and will play an important follow-up role, including for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), do not have a formal relationship with the Human Rights Council or the human rights mechanisms.

Isn’t this the wrong time to consider a new mandate, while existing special procedures are being re-evaluated?

The study has clearly documented the need for strong leadership to address violence against children. We can’t afford to wait for more than a year until the review of special procedures is complete to take action, particularly since the study’s report to the General Assembly sets out time-bound targets to be achieved within a four-year period. To follow up the study effectively, an initial mandate is needed now, before the momentum of the study is lost.

What would be the mandate of a Special Representative?

The key tasks for the Special Representative would be:
+ To act as a high-profile advocate to promote prevention and elimination of all violence against children;
+ To systematically monitor the implementation of the Study’s recommendations, assessing progress achieved and difficulties encountered in protecting children from all forms of violence, including through country visits;
+ Raise awareness and promote systematic collection and dissemination of information about violence against children and its effective elimination;
+ To ensure multi-sectoral coordination within the UN system to address violence against children, working closely with relevant UN and regional bodies, specialized agencies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and with non-governmental organizations and civil society;
+ To ensure the continued participation of children and children’s organizations in follow-up to the study, and that their participation in the prevention and elimination of violence against them is supported and their views heard and respected.
+ To report on an annual basis to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

Why can’t UNICEF or other UN agencies coordinate the follow-up? What is the position of key agencies on the Special Representative?

UN agencies, including UNICEF, WHO and the OHCHR, are committed to follow up the study, and have formed a special inter-agency working group to ensure effective coordination. However, none of these agencies focus exclusively on violence against children, or are in a position to conduct consistent, high-level advocacy on this issue. The agencies support the appointment of a Special Representative to support and enhance their work on violence against children and maintain the visibility to the issue.

What is the position of the Committee regarding the Special Representative?

The Committee fully supports the appointment of a Special Representative. Jaap Doek, the chair of the Committee, states that:

The Committee is of the opinion that this Special Representative is crucial for an adequate follow up of the results of the study and its recommendations. Follow up at the national level is of course of prime importance, but to promote, support and encourage that follow up the Special Representative is a necessary instrument. It is important to keep the international momentum and awareness going. Violence against children is a very serious problem in all member States of the United Nations. We have to take measures to monitor via the Special Representative and in close cooperation with the CRC Committee and other relevant special procedures the States' efforts to eliminate and prevent violence against children. The Special Representative on children involved in armed conflicts show how important a Special Representative can be. I would argue that violence against children is a problem that equally deserves the activities of a Special Representative.

How would the Special Representative be funded?

The Special Representative and a small secretariat in New York would be funded through voluntary contributions from member states. These should come from a wide range of countries, especially from those which have been involved throughout the study process and hosted national and regional consultations and follow-up.

What do children and youth say?

Children and youth from around the world who are part of the NGO Advisory Panel for the UN Study say that it is important to have a single focal point within the UN for children and youth to continue their participation in the study’s follow-up. They propose that the Special Representative could work with a special Youth Council to mobilize children and youth to help influence and pressure governments to fulfill their commitments. They want a Special Representative who is “someone who has a strong background, a good understanding of the issues, and enough status to be taken seriously.”

More information:


pdf: http://www.crin.org/docs/QA_SRSG.doc


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