Speech on SAARC Ministerial Meeting
Hon. Ministers from South Asia,
Hon. Members of the Constituent Assembly,
Distinguished Delegates and Guests,
Representatives from International Organisations,
Ladies and Gentlemen !
I am extremely pleased to attend the Ministers’ Meeting to address violence against children and promote regional cooperation among the countries of South Asia to protect children of the region. I take this opportunity to welcome all our distinguished guests who have come to take part in this meeting and wish and expect your stay in our country to be pleasant and comfortable. Nepal is naturally proud to host the Third Ministerial Meeting of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Children, formerly known as South Asian Forum for Ending Violence against Children. I am happy that the Kathmandu meeting is being held with such a focus to eradicate all forms of violence against children as children are the backbones of our society and represent hopes and aspirations of our future.
In Nepal like in many other South Asian countries, the saga of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence is widely prevalent and affecting millions of children. Such violence cuts across social, cultural, religious and ethnic lines. Children in these countries are suffering at home, in their schools and communities, in their workplaces and in institutions. Conflict, natural disaster, calamities, climate change and other emergency situations have made their lives more vulnerable. It is strange and ironic that in many cases, perpetrators of violence are those known to the child and whom the child trusts.
On a conventional term, South Asian children also face discrimination and marginalization because of poverty, caste, ethnicity, belief or disability that can prevent from accessing necessary child protection and social welfare services. Besides, children in the region are subject to numerous social beliefs and traditional practices that have retarded the growth of the society. The most common evil is the system of early marriage. There are still millions of child labourers, children without caregivers and street children. In addition, millions of children are trafficked throughout the region every year. Despite numerous challenges, there is now a general awakening on the part of our children. Children in the region are now up against numerous harmful traditional practices. There are millions of children who are compelled to be involved in the worst forms of labour, drug abuse and commercial sex industry who need our support and sympathy so as to eradicate these evils afflicting our region.
Traditionally, girl children in the region face gender biases even before birth, and the degree of such discrimination continues throughout their lives. In Nepal, we have already recognised this as an urgent issue requiring priority attention and intervention. The Government of Nepal has, therefore, appropriately named 2010 as the Year against Gender-based Violence. The basic objective of our goal is to create a new Nepal free from gender-based violence where women, men, girls and boys can have full opportunity to realise their full potentials, live a life of dignity, honour and self-respect, and contribute their mite to national development in keeping with the aspirations of the people. The National Plan of Action on Eliminating Gender-based Violence that is being introduced with a focus on gender-friendly development based on equity and justice, is expected to go a long way towards ensuring the rights of girls and women throughout the country.
However, we are all aware of the fact that issues concerning children, including violence and abuse, often transcend our national borders. Our region is already cooperating on some of the key issues through SAARC and Global Mechanisms and Directives. The SAARC Social Charter, the SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Optional Protocols, SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution, SAARC Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Children Affected by HIV/AIDS, the SAARC Development Goals (SDGs) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) all reinforce our regional commitments to ending violence against children in a collective manner.
In 1996, in the SAARC Rawalpindi Resolution on Children in South Asia, SAARC Ministers declared 2001-2010 as the Decade of the Rights of the Child and agreed to eliminate child labour, initiate and strengthen community-based social support systems, reduce the Under-5 Child Mortality Rate, lessen the prevalence of severe and moderate malnutrition, and enable all children of primary school age to complete school education.
The COLOMBO STATEMENT ON CHILDREN OF SOUTH ASIA in 2009 reiterated a regional commitment to children’s needs and recognized that South Asia continues to face challenges in timely attainment of SDGs and MDGs and the realization of children’s rights. In 2001, based on the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations General Assembly called for a global study on violence against children.
Let me recall that a South Asian Regional Consultation on “Violence against Children” was held in Islamabad in May 2005 and involved government ministers, development partners and civil society representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. One of the major outcomes of the Regional Consultation was the formation of the South Asia Forum for Ending Violence Against Children, a regional mechanism initiated with the vision of ending all forms of violence against all children in South Asia.
Friends and Delegates,
In view of the severity and complexity of the problem affecting the status of our children, there is no room for complacency. While it is time to fully operationalize previous agreements, it is all the more important to understand the importance of protecting children from violence and establish a strong regional centre to end violence against children under the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children.
In Nepal, a full-fledged organization, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, has been created as a nodal ministry to work for devising among other things short-term and long-term policy measures that are designed to the promotion and welfare of children. Besides, a Central Child Welfare Board has been established to better ensure the rights of the children and work for their protection. Now the Government of Nepal is picking up Child Friendly Local Governance System. Besides, we have many non-governmental organizations and their umbrella organization which are dedicated towards the elimination of violence against children. Many other development partners are collaborating towards this effort. But we must accept that so far our efforts have been sporadic requiring more concentration, deliberation, attentiveness and integration. In addition, a national network called the Consortium of Organizations Working for Child Participation was established in 2000 for the promotion of children’s participation at all levels of society. The development of over 4,000 child clubs throughout Nepal is an incredible step forward for effectively launching child rights movement and in the realization of child rights throughout the country.
I am happy that child representatives from all SAARC countries are also present here with us today. They are chosen to represent their countries and this has been an inspiration and driving force to our meetings. I urge our Hon. Ministers and distinguished delegates who have gathered here, to accord top priority to children's voice. Listening to them and considering seriously what they have said can be a hallmark for our new regional centre, and an integral part of our decision-making on a national basis as well.
To conclude, I call on all the Ministers and government representatives from across the region to seriously consider the proposals and make suitable recommendations that can be implemented on a regional basis. I can fully assure you that the Government of Nepal would give serious consideration to your valuable inputs and suggestions. I also reiterate the commitments of the Government towards the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Optional Protocols. Let’s promote collaboration and partnership among us that can pave the way to sustainable and long-term solutions for ending violence against children in the entire region.
Thank you very much.
(Addressed by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to the Ministerial level meeting of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) on June 23, 2010 in Kathmandu)