The President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, addressed today the opening of the conference “Scaling up Prevention and Response to Violence against Children in the Western Balkans”.

The following is the integral text of the address.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first thank the young people for the performance a while ago, a performance I believe that caused strong emotions in all of us.

Violence against children is one of the most deviant phenomena today which unfortunately happens every day, in every corner of the world. We learn about many of them from the media, from the community, from schools, but there are thousands we will never learn about.

I consider it a great opportunity for North Macedonia to host this Conference where the Western Balkan countries will reaffirm their commitment to work together through the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, as well as share the situation in their countries, share best practices and new, effective approaches to addressing this problem.

The UNICEF global survey of two years ago showed that the vast majority – nearly 80 percent of parents and custodians use at least one form of violence against children, and one fifth of those surveyed reported using only positive and non-violent parenting methods. Studies have shown that children who are victims of abuse and violence are at greater risk of having to repeat or commit violence themselves when they become adults, most often against their own children. Violence does not only harm children and families, but society as a whole. Astonishing indicators include numerous surveys of pupils and students indicating that they have experienced physical and emotional abuse, corporal punishment, physical and emotional neglect and perhaps the most severe form of sexual abuse in childhood. Some estimates of 2013 show that the global economic impacts and costs resulting from the effects of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children can reach up to USD 7 trillion globally. These are more than worrying results and estimates.

In our country, in the Republic of North Macedonia, the numbers are also unyielding.

Research says that 8 out of 10 parents use physical and psychological violence, primarily to educate their children. The prevailing view is that the child should be obedient versus curious or independent. Research indicates the general view that society should not intervene in the family and its established practices and that it is the right of the parent to nurture his or her child as he or she thinks is most appropriate.

Our response to combating violence against children must be comprehensive. No conference, campaign, or political commitment will be enough to tackle violence against children. It requires joint action by all of us as individuals, by line ministries, social services, educational institutions and the civil sector, through raising awareness, learning how to prevent violence and protecting children from violence. If we fail to prevent and protect, the consequences will be traumatic and long-term. Therefore, an integrated solution is needed, a common approach to the problem that concerns us all.
The health professionals should be able to recognize early signs of violence. The education system should reinforce children’s social-emotional skills to prevent peer violence. The social protection system should provide appropriate response through operational and multidisciplinary expert team. Police officers need to be professionally trained to work with children.

Dear All,

I wish you a pleasant work and fruitful discussion at the Conference in order to find a systematic solution, to eradicate this phenomenon and to create a child-safe society. Finally, as a country, to make a contribution and with a lot of work and commitment to meet the 2030 sustainable development goals – to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

Thank you.

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