Regional Conference Addresses Ending Violence Against Children

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UNICEF confab welcomes officials from 13 Pacific nations

By Renate Rivers

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, May 18, 2015) – Politicians, policy-makers and advocates from the Pacific region have rallied behind the United Nations Child Fund’s call to end violence against children. This has been the overwhelming response on the first day of the UNICEF Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC) Conference held in Nadi from 18-20 May.

Fiji’s President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, delivered the opening address and said that children of the Pacific cannot wait to be free from violence, and strategies must ensure collaboration and commitment from leadership at all levels of society.

"Child protection requires an integrated approach. No one sector can work in isolation. All limitations can be overcome when we work in partnership, by pooling knowledge, expertise and resources we are better able to come up with sustainable solutions," said Fiji’s President.

Officials from 13 Pacific nations – including regional non-government organisations, civil society organisations and United Nations agencies – are represented at the conference which is addressing child protection issues, the intersection between violence against women and violence against children, corporal punishment, law reforms, social and cultural norms, resourcing and service delivery systems for prevention and awareness.

Guiding EVAC conference discussions is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which was the first international human rights convention ratified by all Pacific states.

According to UNICEF findings, child maltreatment is costing countries in East Asia and Pacific US $209 billion per year, which is equivalent to 2 percent of the region’s GDP.

High-level global advocate and Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Women Ms Marta Santos Pais, on her first visit to the Pacific region, spoke of the unique opportunity given at the conference to address the global concern of violence against children.

"As Special Representative, I am greatly encouraged by the fact that the protection of children from violence is a distinct and cross-cutting priority in the post-2015 development agenda.

"Truly sustainable development requires the elimination of all forms of violence against children," said Ms Pais.

Samoa’s delegation is lead by Family Court Judge Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Justice Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe and includes NGO representative from Samoa Victim Support Group, Mrs Lina Chang.

Masinalupe spoke during the session addressing Social Norms and the protection of children in the Pacific, and stressed the importance of an inclusive approach to addressing domestic violence.

"When we talk about protecting children, we are talking about our children and we need to remember that they are real, and not just case studies who belong to someone else," he said.

Also launched on the first day of the conference was UNICEF and UNFPA’s joint report "Harmful Connections: Examining the relationship between violence against women and violence against children in the South Pacific." The report highlights findings from Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, with Samoa’s data revealing that almost half of all women between the ages of 15-49 experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner.

The EVAC Conference continues until Wednesday.

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