(The spoken version shall take precedence)
This year marks the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the rights of the Child. The Convention is the most ratified human rights treaty in the world.
According to Article 19 of the Convention, states parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, maltreatment and exploitation while in the care of parents.
Children do not only need protection, they are in many ways competent and strong and as you all know there is nothing as strong as a child’s self-confidence. But a child’s self-confidence highly depends on the support and loving care from the parents and other adults around the child.
I started World Childhood Foundation 15 years ago with the mission to help children at risk. Through this work I have met many strong and competent children but also children growing up in societies affected by poverty coupled with violence and abuse – far too often directed towards children from their own parents or carers.
No country in the world can easily provide children with the security and freedom from violence that is their right. Making this vision a reality demands dedication and courage not only from governments but from all adults who are close to children – parents, teachers, neighbours, relatives, friends and others.
A civil society perceptive to children and a state that supports and helps parents and defends children’s rights in law are preconditions for carrying on the never-ending task of protecting the right of all children to a childhood free from violence.
Sweden has 35 years' experience of legislation prohibiting domestic violence against children. The vote in the Swedish parliament in March 1979 started a process. The government joined hands with the civil society in spreading information about the legislation together with advice and support for parents in how to bring up children in a caring, supporting and loving way without violence.
A majority of the Council of Europe member states have now committed themselves to put an end to all corporal punishment of children. The Council of Europe programme "Building a for and with children" is promoting the abolition of corporal punishment through law reform, the promotion of positive parenting and awareness raising efforts likely to change public attitudes and behaviours.
The Council of Europe and the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children have important roles in promoting the abolition of corporal punishment and contribute to establish the topic on the international agenda.
I remember the Swedish initiative from 1996, convening the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children here in. Since then the issue of preventing and combating sexual exploitation of children and adolescents has been established as a permanent topic of the international agenda.
I hope that these two days will contribute to establish a childhood free from corporal punishment as a permanent topic of the international agenda in the same way. I also hope that you get inspiration for your future work to move the legislative processes forward, in your respective home countries or - if you already have the legislation in place - work with attitudes and compliance.
I believe – and hope – that we, when looking back in a couple of years’ time, will see this conference as an event that really was instrumental in moving forward the issue of ending corporal punishment of children globally.