Welcome Remarks by Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough UN Resident Coordinator and Representative, UNDP Barbados and the OECS

Nov 20, 2012

UNiTE Conference "Combating Sexual Violence Against Children in the Caribbean: From Isolated Actions to Integrated Strategies".

Hon. Stephen Lashley, Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Barbados

Hon. Edison Baird, Minister of Social Development, Anguilla

Hon. Anthony Martinez. Minister of Human Development, Belize

Hon. Gloria Shillingford, Minister of Social Services and Gender Affairs, Dominica

Hon. Sylvester Quarless, Minister of Social Development, Grenada

Hon. Colin Riley, Minister of Community Development, Montserrat

Hon. Alvina Reynolds, Minister of Human and Family Services, St. Lucia

Hon. Frederick Stephenson, Minister of National Mobilisation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Hon. Claudia Groome-Duke, Secretary of Health and Social Services, Tobago House of Assembly

Senator the Hon. Malaka Parker, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social Transformation, Antigua and Barbuda

Dr. Morella Joseph, Representative of His Excellency Ambassador Irwin La Roque, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community

Mr. Bernt Aasen, Regional Director, UNICEF, The Americas and Caribbean Regional Office, Panama

Colleague Representatives of UN Agencies

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Children of the Grantley Prescod Primary School

Specially Invited Guests

Members of the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning and Welcome.

We are honoured that you could have joined the UN Team here in Barbados for these next two days to reaffirm our commitment and accelerate our efforts to UNiTE to end violence against women and girls.  The UNiTE Campaign, which was launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2008, is a multi-year effort to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls in all parts of the world by 2015.  The Campaign calls on governments, civil society, women’s organisations, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.

By 2015, we aim, as in other parts of the world, to UNiTE to achieve the following five goals:

  1. Adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls;
  2. Adopt and implement multi-sectoral national action plans;
  3. Strengthen data collection on the prevalence of violence against women and girls;
  4. Increase public awareness and social mobilization; and
  5. Address sexual violence in conflict.

With only three more years to the 2015 deadline, we all must redouble our efforts and target our actions where it matters most. 

Today’s event focuses on rooting out an aspect of violence, shrouded in secrecy and abetted by shame - violence against children in the Caribbean. Today’s meeting builds upon the November 2010 high-level Caribbean launch of the UNiTE Campaign held here in Barbados,  the UN Secretary-General’s 2006 Study on Violence against Children, and on regional efforts to reduce violence against children spearheaded by the Office of the UN Secretary-General, UNICEF and other UN agencies, regional institutions like CARICOM and the OECS, and national government initiatives. Today we take the next step in reinforcing country actions and existing regional initiatives, to come away with an integrated, multidisciplinary, regional strategy.

Girls the world over are most affected by sexual abuse. A 2006 World Health Organisation report estimated that in 2002, the prevalence of sexual abuse among boys amounted to approximately 73million, and among girls, twice that at 150 million. Whereas the trend at the time saw young boys facing greater physical violence, girls were more likely to have suffered sexual abuse by the time they were 15, more likely to have been exposed to sexual and gender-based violence at school by male teachers and classmates, and to have been forced into human trafficking.

The Regional Assessment of Violence Against Children in the Caribbean Region highlights the high prevalence of girls being the reported victims of sexual abuse in relation to boys, tracking the global trend. The Caribbean Report, as one contributing factor, pointed to the cultural and socially entrenched attitudes of entitlement to young girls’ bodies associated with care responsibilities.

All CARICOM countries have signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, committing to putting in place the necessary legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the region’s children from all types of violence. Further, in the Caribbean UNiTE Consensus developed as an outcome of the 2010 launch, Ministers of Government, members of the judiciary and other stakeholders acknowledged the differential vulnerabilities to violence facing girls and boys and “reiterate[d] the need for comprehensive and multisectoral responses to end violence against women and children that address prevention, protection, services, access to justice and cultural change.”

There still remains much work to be done in creating legislation to address sexual abuse issues, including child trafficking; strengthening institutional capacity; and enforcement to support current legislation. In reality, and according to the Caribbean Regional Assessment, weak institutional capacity to enforce the laws and inadequate funding for research and public education are among the challenges in identifying and supporting child victims of sexual abuse and enforcing suitable legislation in Caribbean countries.

So too is the problem of under reporting and the inadequate quantitative methods to fully investigate this social problem, as noted in the 2009 Report on Perceptions of, Attitudes to, and Opinions on Child Sexual Abuse in the Eastern Caribbean. Also of importance to all of us here are the social, cultural and economic linkages that allow child sexual abuse to continue to occur, with the resulting implications for the individual, the family, our countries and the region.

It is out of recognition of the myriad challenges we face that the The Kingston Declaration was created in May 2012.  The Declaration emphasises that “to eliminate[e] violence against children requires a sustained and coordinated effort from all,” and this is why we are here today. This is the call of the Secretary-General’s campaign to UNiTE to end violence against women and girls around the world.

Through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for 2012-2016, the UN agencies work individually and collectively to build programmes in the Caribbean that address the economic and human security of the individual. While Caribbean governments retain the primary role for ensuring citizens’ protection from crime and violence, as well as the survival, livelihoods and dignity of their citizens, the UN system, through UNiTE initiatives like this one, and other UN programmes and activities, are able to support Caribbean institutions and, increasingly, citizens to address the root causes of crime and violence in Caribbean societies.  For example, the UNDP 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report on Citizen Security informs our understanding of citizens’ perceptions of violence and victimization realities that crime statistics alone may not be able to capture. This new analysis, and the Citizen Security Action Plans that will be developed starting with Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, and St. Lucia, address both state and non-state actors’ responsibility for and participation in creating the peaceful, crime-free societies that we all envision.

The UNiTE campaign gives all of us – governments, civil society, and UN and other development partners - a platform to support inclusive, integrated strategies to address child sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence, to ensure we give meaning to the three pillars of UNiTE in Latin America and the Caribbean which are:

  • No more impunity.
  • No more victims.
  • It’s everybody’s responsibility

To find solutions to end sexual violence against children in the Caribbean.

I look forward to the outcomes of the discussions on how to break through the gender dynamics that increase sexual violence; ways to improve current legislation to address all forms of violence against girls and boys; and strategies for a more integrated approach to prevent and manage gender-based violence against children – all of which are key elements of “A Call To Action on Sexual Abuse Against Girls and Boys.” We must act now, together, to secure a Caribbean fit for our children. 

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