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Statement by H.E Sven Mikser at a High-Level Event on Ending Violence against Children, 19 September 2017

19.09.2017

Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Our point of view for years has been that it takes a strong child protection system to help each child in need. This is not an issue for one institution, or some individuals, it takes a widespread and comprehensive systematic approach to assure the welfare of children. No one can work alone. No partner should be left alone.

Ensuring the safety of children requires a well-functioning network. All organizations: public, private and non-governmental, must be involved and must take action when it comes to the welfare of children. I an addition to parents, family members, neighbors, and other people close to the child, an effective child protection system requires active participation of all members of the society.

Last year Estonia adopted a new Child Protection Act. The Act sets a strong basis for guaranteeing children’s rights not only in the social sector, but in all fields, including health, education and justice systems. The Act emphasizes prevention, early intervention and cross-sector cooperation. In order to guarantee that these principles are fully enforced, the Act expressly defines responsibilities of the different institutions and people involved. With this Act a new child protection department was created in the Estonian Social Insurance Board to connect child protection on the state and local government level. This solution is helpful in both ways: local level child protection officers receive better information about services available for children and families, and the Government has a better oversight of children and families in need.

Furthermore, following the example of many other countries, the Child Protection Act explicitly bans the corporal punishment of children, as well as mental abuse, including humiliation and frightening the child. To further guarantee that these provisions are implemented in practice, significant steps have been taken to support parents in raising the children without violence.

In addition, every year the Government invests in different awareness-raising campaigns in regard to the protection of children. The campaigns in 2016-2017 were mainly focused on preventing corporal punishment.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of the Interior and the National Institute of Health Development lead to a Government-financed awareness-raising web-page Smart Parent (Tark Vanem), which covers positive parenting issues, focuses on preventing abusive behavior, alcohol and drug abuse among children, co-parenting problems etc. Cooperation with non-governmental sector has led to establishment of Child Helpline, which became a part of the law in 2014, establishing an obligation for all people who have knowledge of a child in need of assistance to immediately notify the local government or the child helpline service. The Government fully funds the lines and owns the numbers, but an NGO has been given the task to develop and design the services in the best way possible.

In Estonia, we see the child protection system as a multidisciplinary system that cannot just be an issue of social welfare. We are very proud of the work of our Police and Border Guard Board and the Prosecutor’s Office, where our state officers have set children’s rights and preventing offences against children as their priority. For example, police have specialized units on reducing child victimization and web-constables who assist children and families online in regard to abuse on social media.

In the beginning of this year, the co-operation between the state, local authorities and other respective organizations reached a new level as a multidisciplinary inter-agency Children’s House was opened in our capital Tallinn. Now, for an underage victim all following agents work under one roof: child protection officers from both state and local authorities, police investigator, prosecutor, forensic medical expert, pediatrician and other medical experts, psychologist and victim support officer. The Children’s House team formed by high class experts has the competency to assure that a child who has been the victim of a crime could recover and continue living a life free from violence.

Protecting the rights of children as the most vulnerable groups is high on the Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid agenda. Estonia underlines the importance of providing continuous education for children also in the crisis, especially in situation of migration. We will remain committed to support UNICEF in the context of growing scope of humanitarian crises across the globe in order to ease the situation of children in crisis.

Estonia has carried out bilateral development cooperation projects in the field of child protection in Yemen, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus. Currently we are supporting a project in Georgia where the goal is to reduce violence against children and women and to reinforce victim support. The project includes a media campaign explaining the criminal character of domestic violence and encouraging the victims to appeal to law enforcement agencies for help. In many developing countries the need to raise awareness about domestic violence is crucial in order to get the subject under the radar and to change the attitudes about children abuse.

Regardless of the progress that has already been made, it is clear, that to keep moving towards a world in which each and every child grows up in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, and has a chance to fully realize his or her potential, much work still lies ahead of all of us.

Thank you.

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