At an event organised on the occasion of International Children’s Day, His Excellency, Sonxay Siphandone, Deputy Prime Minister, President of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children, launched a multi-sectoral response with priority actions to address violence against children in Lao PDR.
The event also served to present the results of the National Children’s Forum, organised by Child Fund, which took place in the three preceding days.
In his address, the Deputy Prime minister highlighted that the Government has always given priority to promoting, developing and supporting Lao children to grow up in a safe environment, receive education and have access to basic health services.
“To achieve these objectives and goals, the Government of Lao PDR has developed policies, legislation and budget allocations, and has assigned the concerned sectors at central and local level to implement these policies, emphasizing awareness raising in order to prevent and eliminate violence against children, trafficking and sexual exploitation, and child labour,” said Mr Siphandone.
The priority actions to address violence against children have been developed in response to the findings of the country’s first national survey on violence against children, which was conducted in 2014. The survey was carried out by the Lao Statistics Bureau under the lead of the then National Commission for Mothers and Children, with technical and financial support from UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and funding support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The survey found that more than a third of girls and boys in Lao PDR are subjected to some form of violence – physical, emotional or sexual. One in six children experience at least one form of physical violence before the age of 18. Roughly a fifth of children in Lao PDR experience emotional violence at home and 1 in 10 experience some form of sexual abuse as a child. The report revealed that few children ever receive the support they need to recover from their experiences of violence.
The full report of the survey findings, also made available at the event, provided a number of wide-ranging recommendations to help Lao PDR to effectively address violence against children over the short-, medium- and long-term.
Speaking at the launch event, Octavian Bivol, Representative of UNICEF Lao PDR, welcomed the decisive step that the Government has taken to identify priority actions to work towards the elimination of violence against children and emphasised the need for a fundamental shift in the way the protection of children is approached. “More emphasis must be placed on creating a culture of prevention at all levels, which should form a critical component of the nation’s child protection system,” Mr Bivol highlighted.
In the past, lack of comprehensive data on the different forms of violence against children and the context in which violence takes place has been one of the major barriers towards effective action to address the issue in Lao PDR. This solid evidence has enabled the Government, under the leadership of the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children, to produce a set of concrete actions that are tailored to eliminate violence against children in the Lao context.
“Special attention and increased investment is needed to raise awareness, build the capacity of human resources at all levels and invest in the development of our children. We need to do this together with regular and continued coordination and monitoring,” said Mr. Siphandone while acknowledging the support of civil society organisations, international organisations such as UNICEF, the Australian Embassy and Child Fund for their support and assistance and for working together with the National Commission for the Advancement of Women, Mothers and Children and the Lao Women’s Union to implement strategies, action plans as well as international and regional commitments.
Mr Bivol also emphasised the essential role of strong partnerships to address violence against children, acknowledging that “Child protection requires an integrated approach across the family welfare, health, education and justice sectors.”
In a special video message shown at the event, the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, Ms Marta Santos Pais, referred to the results of the survey and said they are helping to place this concern at the centre of public debate and at the heart of the national development policy agenda in the country.
“The Government of Lao PDR can point with pride to the Violence against Children Survey and its proposed follow up response as a powerful illustration of its commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I would therefore like to encourage the Government to consider highlighting the Survey on Violence against Children and the policy response to its findings as part of its reporting on progress on the SDGs and contribution to the High-level Political Forum in New York”, said Ms Pais.
The multi-sectoral response to the survey findings will be followed by a detailed and costed implementation plan with a monitoring and evaluation framework to monitor implementation of the priority actions. This work will contribute to implementation of the National Plan of Action on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women and Violence against Children (2014-2020) that aims to protect all children in Lao PDR from all forms of violence.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.