Your Excellency the President of Malta, Excellencies, Honourable Guests,
Good morning. This year we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reminds us that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Torture and ill-treatment are among the most repulsive violations of human rights, human dignity, and physical integrity. Their prohibition is considered an absolute human right and a key value of democratic societies and countries based on the rule of law.
Violence can never be justified. Not against women, not against men, and not against children. Essentially, children have the same human rights as adults, and even enjoy certain rights that are not afforded to adults. The fact that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which shows a strong universal understanding of the importance attributed to children and their well-being in our societies, is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, is encouraging. Yet, corporal punishment remains the most widespread form of violence against children even in our days.
In all, 53 countries have prohibited all corporal punishment of children in all settings, including at home and at school. These 53 countries, however, cover a mere 10 per cent of the global child population.
It is time to act: NOW. As a matter of urgency, laws need to be reworked and attitudes changed. Legislative reform must be accompanied by policies that encourage a positive type of parenting, based on nurturing rather than punishment, on structure and guidance rather than imposition, on recognition of the child as a person with human dignity, on empowerment and critical thinking.
As States, we must persevere with our responsibility to protect all our citizens, including children, and to continue implementing the collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations under the 2030 Agenda.
These include, specifically, the target that commits the international community to ending all violence against children, and to continue to provide clear guidance and inspiration on what kind of global efforts we need to implement, especially to achieve the universal prohibition of corporal punishment against children.
Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF and founding Co-Chair of the Board of the Global Partnership to end violence against children, said: “When we protect children from violence, we support not only their development and growth; we also support the development of their societies, the growth of their economies, and ultimately, the strength and even the security of their countries. And when we fail to protect children from violence, we may reap what we sow.”
I could not agree with him more. Every single one of us can make a difference.
I wish you a successful conference that fills all participants with renewed enthusiasm and determination to contribute to a far-reaching and effective approach to eradicating all corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children.Thank you.