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1. In its resolution 59/261 of 23 December 2004, the General Assembly invited Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General for the United Nations study on violence against children requested by the Assembly in its resolution 56/138 of 19 December 2001, to report to it at its sixtieth session. The present report, which complements the progress reports on the study provided by the Secretary-General to the Commission on Human Rights at its sixtieth and sixty-first sessions (E/CN.4/2004/68 and E/CN.4/2005/75), is submitted in accordance with that request.
II. Questionnaire to Governments
9. As at 16 August 2005, the independent expert had received 117 responses: 28 from the African Group of States, 26 from the Asian Group, 19 from the Eastern European Group, 24 from the Latin American Group, 20 from the Western European and other States Group and one from the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The independent expert expresses his thanks to Governments that have submitted responses and acknowledges with gratitude the serious commitment they have shown in their preparation. He looks forward to further responses, which will be analysed for the final report. All responses are posted on the web site of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/study.htm.
V. Field visits
35. During his visit to Israel, and with the facilitation of the Israeli Committee for UNICEF, the independent expert met with representatives of Israel’s Ministries of Social Affairs and Health and local NGOs at Adam’s School in West Jerusalem. Government officials outlined the legal framework for the protection of children, including the mandatory obligation of all professionals working with or for children to report suspected cases of abuse. Representatives highlighted the need for well-coordinated and integrated services. Representatives from Israeli civil society described initiatives to respond to violence at home and schools. such as confidential telephone hotlines and the appointment of an independent ombudsman for children. The independent expert also met with the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs which committed itself to support him in the preparation of the study.
36. During his visit to the Occupied Territories, the independent expert met with representatives of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Gaza (including the Minister of Women’s Affairs and the Coordinator of the National Plan of Action for Children), members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and representatives from local and international NGOs. The independent expert also met with children from the Children’s Municipal Council, the Safe Play Area in Gaza City, and with children assisted by the psycho-social emergency team in Rafah. Representatives presented some of the initiatives developed to prevent and respond to violence against children, such as the development of the Palestinian Child Rights Law and awareness campaigns about child rights and gender-based violence. Governmental and civil society organizations and children mentioned that despite the positive impact of such initiatives, occupation and armed violence continued to affect the level of violence against children in other contexts in the region. The effects of children witnessing or suffering violence on their way to and inside school were noted, including by the children themselves, who indicated that getting to school involved unpredictable levels of violence and difficulties caused by checkpoints and similar obstacles. Children also complained that teachers used corporal punishment. Psycho-social researchers informed the independent expert that the situation of Palestinian families was severely affected by factors including population density, especially in the refugee areas, housing evictions, high unemployment and poverty levels, the lack of access to basic services and the difficulty of travelling within the territory, and that these were among key factors contributing to the increasing incidence of violence in homes and communities. Children from the Children’s Municipal Council confirmed that the creation of “safe play areas” where children could meet and play had been an important initiative which had improved children’s situation.
62. Through the regional, subregional and national consultations, expert meetings, field visits and analysis of the work of human rights mechanisms, in particular the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the independent expert has identified a number of key areas, in particular relating to effective prevention and response to violence against children, that will be the focus of his work in the coming year. These include the continued legality and prevalence of corporal punishment against children in the home, schools, alternative care, institutions and the juvenile justice system; the vulnerability of children in conflict with the law, as well as street children, to violence; and the pervasiveness of harmful traditional practices. He has also become very aware of the underlying conditions, such as community attitudes to violence, discrimination, poverty, the unequal status of women and girls, lack of access to quality education and denial of human rights generally, which exacerbate children’s vulnerability to violence. Lack of systematic and quality data and the importance of capacity-building for those working with children have also become clear.
63. In completing his final report to the Secretary-General, as well as the other related outputs, the independent expert will build on the information emerging from the consultations, field visits, expert meetings and other events. He will give significant weight to the outcome of the analysis of responses to the questionnaire sent to Governments and other submissions and will focus on the development of comprehensive, multifaceted, interdisciplinary responses to violence against children and strategies to eliminate it.