6 June 2017 | Manila, Philippines

“Placing Children at the Heart of the Sustainable Development Agenda: Accelerating Progress in Children’s Protection from Violence”

Excellency Judy Taguiwalo, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines Leader of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development, and Representative of the Philippines as Chair of ASEAN,

Excellency Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence Against Children,

Excellency Jae-Shin Kim, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines,

Excellency Lily Purba, Chair of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children,

Dr. Mu’man Nuryana, Chair of the Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development,

Representatives of the various intergovernmental regional organisations from the different parts of the world,

Children delegates from the ASEAN Member States and Korea, together with their mentors, and  Representatives of civil society organisations, international organisations, and local non-government organisations.

Good morning.

It is an honour for me to share with you my thoughts in today’s opening ceremony of the 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable on Violence Against Children. Our gathering today could not have come at a more opportune time, considering the global momentum propelling the sustainable development agenda, and the milestones achieved by ASEAN as we in the region celebrate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN. These moments provide the impetus to advance and deepen the discourse and partnership to ensure the elimination of all forms of violence against children.

Allow me first to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Philippines for hosting the 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable. I would like to thank the Philippine AMMSWD Leader, Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, for the exceptional leadership in organising this event. This roundtable and the children’s parallel session, would not have been possible without the tireless efforts and dedication of your team in the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to the generosity of the Republic of Korea for supporting this event. As a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN, the Republic of Korea has consistently been a partner in key strategic areas of cooperation, one of which is on promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of children. The presence of Ambassador Jae-Shin Kim today, as well as the SOMSWD Focal Point of Korea and the children delegates from Korea, is a testament of this deepening relationship.

I am also immensely indebted to Marta Santos Pais and her team, for agreeing to hold the 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable in ASEAN. Without a doubt, the strategic role that the SRSG fulfils in linking regional and global developments, and different stakeholders, provides the much-needed coherence and focus to highlight the core issue of eliminating violence against children. And for this, I thank Marta and her team.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me explain why the 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable is most relevant and timely. At the regional level, ASEAN is in the midst of implementing ASEAN Community Vision 2025. Our region is in the process of consolidating our Community, building upon and deepening the integration process to realise a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community. Each of the three ASEAN Community pillars – the ASEAN Political Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community – has developed their ten-year strategic blueprints. For the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, the vision is to realise by 2025 a community that engages and benefits the peoples, and is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and dynamic.

The political commitments of ASEAN Member States are also enshrined in other regional instruments, one of which is the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children in ASEAN. This has been concretely translated into the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Children, which contains actions at the regional and national levels or how regional cooperation supports and translates into national actions on eliminating violence against children.

These regional instruments are evidences not only of high-political commitment but also of the strategic approach to ensure that no one is left behind from the development process. More importantly, there is a purposive identification of children’s rights and welfare as a key area of regional cooperation. Specific strategic measures ranging from reducing barriers, ensuring equitable access to opportunities, to promoting dynamism and resilience, have been adopted that guide regional collaboration on children’s issues.

In ASEAN, regional cooperation and partnership is leveraged to push the agenda of eliminating violence against children. Such cooperation comes in the form of setting policies, agreeing on regional standards and guidelines, and establishing platforms for knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning, and addressing issues that cross borders such as trafficking in persons and online abuse, among others.

These initiatives in ASEAN present points for engagement and advocacy to integrate the agenda of eliminating violence against children. And ASEAN has made great strides in doing so, through cross-sectoral cooperation such as between ACWC and SOMSWD on developing and implementing the RPA on EVAC, and across the ASEAN Community pillars, such as between ACWC, SOMSWD, and AICHR on persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ASEAN envisions itself as an outward-looking region within a global community of nations, while maintaining ASEAN Centrality. Within this in mind, the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 underlined the complementarity between ASEAN community building efforts and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to uplift the standards of living of our peoples. And in the context of ending violence against children, it is notable that all ten ASEAN Member States have ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child. At the sectoral level, various international organisations and entities, such as the UNICEF and the office of the SRSG, are working with relevant ASEAN bodies to jointly work on children’s issues. This includes SRSG’s engagement with ACWC, and the development of the ASEAN-UNICEF Joint Work Programme 2016-2020.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to emphasise that the elimination of violence against children starts with prevention. It is incumbent upon us to inculcate a culture of prevention, building on the respect for children’s rights and freedoms. The issues are multi-faceted, inter-linked and sometimes reinforcing, with poverty and social exclusion leading to violent extremism and lawlessness. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we protect children, and the children themselves need to have a dialogue with one another. In a similar vein, we cannot forget those at the fringes: the children with disabilities, children living in at-risk and remote areas, children without any nationality, and children experiencing multiple vulnerabilities brought about by their physical, social and political conditions.

To be truly inclusive, our strategic partnership is of utmost importance. We need to learn from one another, learn from our partners, and take strategic action on multiple levels and fronts. We need to continue to work together, and support the pioneering work of the SRSG. By doing so, we are able to anticipate the emerging issues that require new ways of thinking of how to protect and empower children, these include bullying and cyber bulling, online abuse, radicalism leading to violent extremism.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me end by expressing my excitement to this year’s highlight of the roundtable, which is the dialogue with the children delegates. A key feature of this years’ 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable is the children’s parallel sessions. This is an innovation that ASEAN proposed, learning from the conduct of the ASEAN Children’s Forum in the past four years. By gathering the children delegates and providing a safe space for dialogue, we would benefit from hearing directly from them their hopes and aspirations, and how our actions can be more responsive to their needs. And in the process, the children themselves are empowered to voice their concerns and become part of the decision-making process.

With this last note, I wish us all a productive discussion in the coming days.

Thank you.

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