Delegation of the European Union to South Sudan

Remarks by Ambassador Silvio Gonzato: Special Briefing for UN Member States on Ending Violence against Children during COVID 19 and beyond

New York, 02/07/2020 - 16:04, UNIQUE ID: 200702_13

2 July 2020, New York - A special briefing for United Nations Member States aimed at raising awareness on the rising trend of violence against children during COVID 19 and providing examples of how protection and prevention was exercised this period, was held today with 365 participants

Organised by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children together with the European Union Delegation to the UN and the Permanent Missions of France, Uruguay, Colombia, Japan and Jordan and with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Mrs. Najat Maalla M’jid, UNICEF's Associate Director Cornelius Williams, and WHO's representative, today’s briefing also covered how violence can be curtailed in the future, as COVID 19 can be an opportunity to build back better.

The meeting provided an opportunity to share challenges faced and actions being taken by countries during the outbreak and its recovery, ahead of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.


Remarks delivered by Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations


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Welcome and thanks to all for participating in today's virtual briefing co-hosted by the End of Violence Partnership, Uruguay and France, and the many prominent briefers from Colombia, Japan, Jordan, UNICEF, WHO. Thanks to the Special Representative on Violence against Children, Mrs. Najat Maalla Mjid, for her presentation that underlines the importance for keeping the issue of violence against children in the spotlight.


From the outset the coronavirus pandemic reminded us how interconnected we are. It tested our ability to preserve the dignity and human rights of all, to act in solidarity. Every year 1.1 billion children are affected by some form of abuse and violence, this means half of the child population. COVID 19 exacerbated the vulnerabilities of children, especially girls, to become victims of sexual abuse and exploitation or gender-based violence. The socio-economic crisis increased child labour, sexual exploitation and recruitment into criminal and armed groups. And childrens online safety is challenged in an evolving digital ecosystem. At the EU, we estimate a 25% increase of the demand for child sexual abuse material on the internet.


Faced with such a global crisis, the EU supports the UN response that places human rights at the centre and in front of the response and recovery.


The EU further advocates a child-right approach. The unprecedented endorsement by 171 members of the cross-regional statement in support to the UNSG Report on Children and COVID 19 offers a solid basis to move forward this agenda, and to mainstream children's rights in the peace and security or the development agenda. I thank all and especially my colleagues from GRULAC, notably Uruguay, and the Group of Friends on Child and SDGs for initiating the statement.


The pandemic challenged also our reflexes: it required swift and tailor-made actions to support children impacted by COVID 19. New or readjusted EU cooperation programs complement the Team Europe global response package of about 36 billion:

  • in Sub Sahara Africa  10 million reinforces child protection mechanisms and addresses violence against children in particular vulnerable situations, with particular emphasis on child participation;
  • the Spotlight Initiative, supports shelters and helplines targeting child sexual abuse in 24 countries worldwide to counter increased domestic violence.


These actions are grounded on an ambitious policy set: the EU Right of the Child guidelines, the 2019 Council conclusions on combating the sexual abuse of children and the EUs Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020 to 2024). Implementation however remains crucial.


On top, a robust package on child online protection, a priority for the European Commission for over two decades, comprises the European Strategy for Better Internet for Children and a number of initiatives, amongst others, Safer Internet Helplines, Europol’s “Online Safety Advice for Parents and Carers” or the “Safer Internet Day”.


But the EU action does not stop here: a) A new comprehensive Strategy on the Rights for the Chid in consultation, will include actions to promote and protect children’s rights online. b) an upcoming EU strategy for 2020 will allow for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse through legislative and non- legislative initiatives that promote the prevention, law enforcement and assistance to victims. Likewise the future EU Digital Services Act will upgrade EU's liability and safety rules for digital platforms, ensuring that companies are required to detect and report child sexual abuse on their infrastructure.


As the internet is global, so should be our actions. The EU welcomes the launch of the ITU revised Child Online Protection Guidelines and we look forward to the ongoing work of the UN digital roadmap.


Building back better beyond COVID 19, should be seen as an opportunity to collectively commit to tackle  the root causes of  violence against children, including the socio economic aspects,  step up our action and  cooperate on a multilateral and multi sectoral level. The role of the UN system in mobilising and coordinating the global response is furthermore here essential.


In the same way, recover better should be done together with children. Last year we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Right of the Child. It is time to give voice to children in designing their future being the agents of change and leaders of tomorrow.


I welcome todays briefing and looking forward to hear how we can accelerate our actions to prevent all forms of violence and abuse against children, and address the quest in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no children behind. Thank you.


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