A High Level Global Conference “Towards Childhoods free from Corporal Punishment” was hosted by the Austrian Government in Vienna this week, 1 – 2 June 2016. The Conference – which followed the inaugural conference hosted by the Swedish Government in 2014 – marked the 10th anniversary of the presentation of the UN Study on Violence against Children to the General Assembly. At that time, only 16 states had laws clearly prohibiting all corporal punishment of children. Today, this number has tripled; more than half of all UN member states have prohibited corporal punishment in all settings including the home (49) or have clearly committed to doing so (54).
This intergovernmental conference celebrated accelerating progress, but more importantly, aimed to build momentum for further reform, inspiring collaboration within and between governments to build a world where respect for children’s human dignity is the norm rather than the exception. To this end, the Global Initiative prepared a special progress report describing how states can work collaboratively towards universal prohibition of violent punishment. Designed to support action, the report sets out existing regional commitments, how to use opportunities at national level to achieve prohibition, and what is required for states to move from prohibition in law to elimination of all violent punishment of children.
Ministers responsible for children’s rights in many states that have achieved prohibition addressed the Conference, sharing their experience of implementing a legal ban. Considering target 16.2 (to end all forms of violence against children) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sharon Owen from the Global Initiative said given the current rate of progress, “universal prohibition by 2030 is an entirely realistic target.” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the independent expert who led the UN Study on Violence against Children, said “a child hit and hurt today will, by 2030, be an adult suffering the negative impact of that violent punishment” and stressed the urgency of law reform “if we are to have any hope of ending corporal punishment by 2030.”
Following the Conference, participants adopted a Resolution declaring, among other things, that:
…legal prohibition of corporal punishment of children is a critical foundation for changing social norms which accept or condone such violence and for promoting positive, non-violent relationships with children…”
Under the Resolution, participants committed to:
- work collaboratively and individually, at international, regional and national levels, to speed progress towards universal and effective legal prohibition of all violent punishment of children
- ensure that, guided by the best interests of the child, the law providing children with equal protection from assault in their homes is effectively implemented and enforced, recognising the special value of family relationships
- pursue and promote necessary and sustained other measures to achieve the elimination of violent punishment of children, including dissemination of the law banning violent punishment, support to parents and carers, promotion of positive, non-violent forms of discipline and relationships with children; public and parent education, and the establishment of safe and child sensitive counselling, reporting and complaint mechanisms
- establish a reliable data collection system and to encourage, and where appropriate commission, research to measure progress towards the elimination of violent punishment of children and towards full respect for their status as individual people and rights holders.
The Government of Malta committed to host the next High Level Global Conference in 2018.
- Conference programme
- Special progress report prepared by the Global Initiative
- Full speech by Sharon Owen, Coordinator of the Global Initiative
- Full speech by Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, independent expert who led the UN Study on Violence against Children
- Full resolution adopted by Conference participants