PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, 11 March 2005 - Young people from around the Caribbean gathered in Port of Spain, Trinidad to discuss violence in the region and called on governments, civil society and youths themselves to ?start serious action.?
During the opening ceremony of the two-day consultation, the 35 selected youths faced the attendees and declared in unison: ?We are responsible for our own future and this has to start now.?
Those stirring words marked the start of the Caribbean Regional Consultation on violence, which ran from 10 to 11 March. It is the first of nine consultations held worldwide as part of the United Nations Secretary General?s Study on Violence against Children. The information collected in all the consultations will be reviewed by the UN General Assembly in 2006.
The consultation included sessions on gender violence, corporal punishment, violence in the home, schools, and the workplace. Young leaders were able to share their experiences and discuss ways to help eradicate the problem. Independent Expert to the Study appointed by the U.N. Secretary General, Paulo Pinheiro, concluded that, ?Caribbean states must recognize children as full citizens with full human rights.?
?The way we educate young people about violence is not through books or literature. It?s by giving them real solutions to real problems. We need to empower youth leaders and give them the proper tools to institute change in their communities,? said UNICEF Communications Officer for Latin America, Viviana Limpias.
At the midpoint of the forum, a panel of Caribbean experts and university professors presented evidence of violence in all areas of the region and across all racial, cultural, and social lines. In their presentation, they also indicated that young people are more susceptible to being attacked or beaten by someone they know. Of particular concern to the panellists was the widespread cultural acceptance of violence in the region.
?No one wanted to talk about corporal punishment in the Caribbean. Thanks to this forum, the issue is finally on the table,? said Limpias.
The consultation concluded with the adoption of several recommendations for legislation, budgetary allocation, human rights education, and increased awareness. UNICEF will also host a series of related youth workshops in Port of Spain starting 14 March. The next consultation on violence will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 30 May and 1 June 2005.
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