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Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children

Marta Santos Pais

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Read a CRIN interview with Marta

1. Background

In 2001, General Assembly Resolution 56/138 requested the Secretary General to conduct and in-depth study on the question of violence against children, following a recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In 2003, the Secretary General appointed Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro as independent expert to lead the study.

The UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children (A/61/299) addressed violence against children in five settings: the family, schools, alternative care institutions and detention facilities, places where children work and communities. The Study called for urgent action to prevent and respond to all forms of violence and presented a set of recommendations to guide the process of follow up. To promote dissemination of the Study and ensure an effective follow up to its recommendations, the Study called for the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children (SRSG).

2. Appointment of the SRSG on Violence against Children

The Secretary General announced on 1 May 2009 the appointment of Marta Santos Pais, of Portugal, as his Special Representative on Violence against Children at the level of Assistant Secretary General. Marta Santos Pais took her position on September 1st, 2009.

The SRSG reports directly to the UN Secretary General, chairs the United Nations Inter Agency Working Group on Violence against Children and collaborates closely with a wide range of partners, within and beyond the UN system. The SRSG and her office are funded from voluntary contributions. The position was established for a period of three years, after which time the mandate should be evaluated, including with regard to its funding.

The Office of the Special Representative is located in NY and provided with administrative support by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has established a Trust Account in order to receive, hold, administer, and disburse financial contributions in support of the mandate of the SRSG on Violence against Children.

3. Mandate

The SRSG is a global independent advocate in favour of the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children. In her report to the Human Rights Council, Marta Santos Pais expressed commitment to act as a bridge builder and a catalyst of actions in all regions, and across sectors and settings where violence against children may occur; to mobilise action and political support to maintain momentum around this agenda and to generate renewed concern at the harmful effects of violence on children; to promote behavioural and social change, and to achieve steady progress along the way.

The mandate of the SRSG on Violence against Children is anchored in human rights standards and builds upon public health and child protection initiatives and developments. The SRSG cooperates closely with human rights bodies and mechanisms, and with UN funds and programmes and specialized agencies; and she promotes a mutually supportive cooperation with civil society, including children and young people.

4. Strategic focus

As the UN Study on Violence against Children has highlighted, no violence against children is justifiable and all violence against children can be prevented. The recommendations of the UN Study provide a navigation chart to accelerate and monitor progress in violence prevention and responses.

In view of their particular urgency, the Study identified time bound targets for three of these recommendations. As a result, these are also the areas to which the SRSG will give special attention over the immediate future, namely:

  • the development in each State of a national comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, mainstreamed in the national planning process, coordinated by a high level focal point with leading responsibilities in this area, and supported by adequate human and financial resources to support implementation;

  • The introduction of an explicit legal ban on all forms of violence against children in all settings;

  • and the promotion of a national data collection system and research agenda.

Annual reports

Official website