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Combating sexual violence against children: towards a successful conclusion of the ONE in FIVE Campaign

Report | Doc. 13502 | 22 April 2014

Committee
Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development
Rapporteur :
Mr Valeriu GHILETCHI, Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 13401, Reference 4026 of 7 March 2014. 2014 - Second part-session

Summary

While the Council of Europe can rightly be proud of the achievements of more than three years of intense campaigning, thanks to a united effort by all three dimensions of the campaign and support from multiple stakeholders, the goals of the ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children have yet to be reached. On the one hand, a landmark 30 ratifications of the Council of Europe’s signature Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (“Lanzarote Convention”) have been attained. On the other hand, one signature and 17 ratifications are still outstanding. And unfortunately, time is running out.

The Assembly should thus make two key recommendations to the Committee of Ministers: to prolong the campaign for one extra year until November 2015 in order to reap the maximum benefits; and to install a European Day to fight sexual violence against children to carry over the benefits of the campaign in another, more sustainable form.

A Draft recommendationNote

1. The Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children was launched in Rome on 29 and 30 November 2010 and is scheduled to run for four years in total. The main aim of the campaign is to encourage the signature, ratification and implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201, “Lanzarote Convention”).
2. As underlined in Recommendation 2013 (2013) “Parliaments united in combating sexual violence against children: mid-term review of the ONE in FIVE Campaign”, the biggest success of the campaign so far has undoubtedly been the ratification of the Lanzarote Convention by 30 member States to date.
3. However, one signature and 17 ratifications are still outstanding. Full implementation of the convention in member States (and beyond) also needs to be assured, at international, national and local/regional levels. In this respect, the Parliamentary Assembly welcomes the Committee of Ministers’ reply to Recommendation 2013 (2013), in particular its invitation to all member States that have not yet done so to consider ratifying the convention before November 2014.
4. The Assembly remains very active in the campaign on multiple levels, in particular through its Network of Contact Parliamentarians, whose 52 members have undertaken more than 100 activities so far, and through its pilot project in Cyprus. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe has recently stepped up its activities within the framework of the campaign through its Pact of towns and regions to stop sexual violence against children, which has already been signed by 32 towns, regions and organisations. In addition, national campaigns are presently being run in 20 countries, contributing to national awareness raising and policy change. The participants at the Conference on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015), held in Dubrovnik (Croatia) on 27 and 28 March 2014, also renewed their commitment to the ONE in FIVE Campaign and supported the proposals made below.
5. The Assembly believes that the time frame left to reach the campaign’s aims – until November 2014 – is too short. It thus recommends that the Committee of Ministers prolong the campaign for one additional year until November 2015 in order to reap the maximum benefits.
6. The Assembly further recommends that the Committee of Ministers install, preferably following consultations with the European Union and UNICEF, a European Day to fight sexual violence against children to carry over the benefits of the campaign in another, more sustainable form. This will provide States with an opportunity to continue to raise awareness of sexual violence against children and to generate a dialogue around this scourge on a yearly basis.

B Explanatory memorandum by Mr Ghiletchi, rapporteur

1 Introduction

1. When the Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children was launched in Rome on 29 and 30 November 2010, it was the fourth time that the Parliamentary Assembly had joined a campaign run simultaneously at governmental, parliamentary, regional and local levels, and involving multiple stakeholdersNote. The sad statistic which gave the campaign its name – about one in five children in Europe is a victim of some form of sexual violence – spurred all the organs and bodies of the Council of Europe to united action.
2. Scheduled to run for four years in total, the aims of the campaign are twofold:
  • to encourage the signature, ratification and implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Violence (CETS No. 201, “Lanzarote Convention”) in order to ensure that its provisions are transposed into the policies and legislation of as many countries as possible;
  • to promote maximum awareness of the extent of sexual violence against children, and provide the means of preventing and punishing these crimes.
3. In the mid-term review report of the campaign (Doc. 13151 of 27 March 2013 which led to the unanimous adoption of Recommendation 2013 (2013) “Parliaments united in combating sexual violence against children: mid-term review of the ONE in FIVE Campaign”), my colleague Ms Sílvia Eloïsa Bonet Perot explained the history of the campaign and summarised all the action taken by the different stakeholders. Allow me to briefly repeat only one central point she made in her report in my own introduction: Why campaign primarily for the Lanzarote Convention? What makes this Convention so special?
4. This Convention is so special because it contains all the measures needed to prevent sexual violence, to protect children and to prosecute the abusers. The convention is open to the 47 member States of the Council of Europe as well as to non-member States and the European Union, and incorporates a solid monitoring mechanism in the form of its Committee of the Parties (the Lanzarote Committee), which has already started its monitoring work and is focusing its first round on “sexual abuse of children in the circle of trust”.
5. Allow me to cite Ms Bonet Perot in more detail on the convention: “The Lanzarote Convention is the most advanced and comprehensive legally binding instrument at international level on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse: it is the first time that an international treaty defines and criminalises sexual abuse of children in such a comprehensive manner, including new forms of sexual abuse (‘grooming’, etc.) and based on clear definitions of terms such as ‘child’, ‘sexual exploitation’, ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘victim’. A landmark Council of Europe modern ‘5 Ps’ convention, it contains provisions to:
  • prevent and combat sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children;
  • protect the rights of the child and provide assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse;
  • prosecute the perpetrators;
  • promote appropriate policies and national and international co-operation against this phenomenon;
  • ensure child participation.”
6. As Ms Bonet Perot underlined, our best opportunity to end sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children is in the form of a campaign which not only raises awareness of the phenomenon, but primarily promotes the Lanzarote Convention. While we can be proud of our success so far, we have one major problem: we are running out of time, just as the campaign is cranking up a gear. While we have managed to obtain a record 30 ratifications in very little time in our national parliaments, one signature and 17 ratifications are still outstanding. Full implementation of the convention in member States (and beyond) also needs to be assured, at international, national and local/regional levels.
7. I realise that we cannot campaign forever, but I believe we need at least one extra year of campaigning to come closer to reaching our goals. I also believe that we have to start thinking now about how we will carry over the achievements of the ONE in FIVE Campaign into the future: the instauration of a European Day to fight sexual violence against children as of 2016 could be the solution.

2 News on the three dimensions of the campaign

8. At European level, the campaign boasts three dimensions, respectively run by the Council of Europe Programme “Building a Europe for and with children” (responsible for the intergovernmental level and for the co-ordination of the overall campaign), by the Parliamentary Assembly, and by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. The campaign also builds on the support of the leadership of the Council of Europe’s various organs and bodies, such as the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, the monitoring mechanism of the Lanzarote Convention – the Lanzarote Committee of Parties – is an important element contributing to the success of the campaign.

2.1 Intergovernmental and national level: Building a Europe for and with children

9. Since March 2013, when the mid-term review of the Campaign was written, the intergovernmental dimension has focused on providing the secretariat to the Lanzarote Committee, the monitoring mechanism of the Lanzarote Convention (on which the Parliamentary Assembly has a seat without voting rights). The Committee has held seven meetings so far, and adopted two questionnaires at its fifth meeting, setting the deadline of 31 January 2014 for the responses. The first is a general overview questionnaire on the implementation of the Lanzarote Convention, the second focuses on “Sexual abuse of children in the circle of trust”,Note which is the subject of the Committee’s first monitoring round.
10. Progress on signature and ratification has been steady in the last year: While there is still only one country which has yet to sign the Lanzarote Convention, the Czech Republic, five countries (Lithuania, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland) have ratified it since the mid-term review report was written. This means that 16 countries still need to ratify the convention. In many of these States, the parliamentary work to incorporate legislative amendments before ratification has begun. In other States, ratification bills are already making their way through the parliamentary process (which can take some time, in particular in federally organised States).
11. For the countries which have ratified the convention, implementation is key. Usually, a country’s legislation will already have been brought into conformity with the provisions of the Lanzarote Convention during the ratification process (although there may be exceptions). In the spirit of Article 38 of the Lanzarote Convention, on international co-operation, the Lanzarote Committee will also have the role of gathering examples of good practice. Since the Committee has only just started its first monitoring round, it is currently too early to give information on how State Parties are complying with the convention.
12. However, it is already clear that multi-stakeholder involvement is key. As regards the campaign, some good practice examples have already been featured in various campaign material (for example in the 2012 web and television documentary “Keep me safe”, in the Handbook for parliamentarians, or in the parliamentary newsletters). The 20 national campaign partners have widely diffused the children’s book “Kiko and the hand” and other related materials, to teachers, parent associations and other professionals, helping adults to talk to children in a positive and child-sensitive manner about their right to define their personal boundaries, their right to say no and how to seek help. In 2013 and 2014, developing teacher training materials to address sex education within the Pestalozzi Programme has been a key focus, as well as using the Handbook for teachers devised by a Spanish non-governmental organisation (NGO). Work on combating sexual violence against children in the domain of sport together with the Council of Europe’s sports sector culminated in a Conference held in Budapest (Hungary) on 7 and 8 October 2013 on “Inclusion and Protection of Children in and through Sport”, during which the Greek Contact Parliamentarian, Ms Eleni Rapti (Greece, EPP/CD), promoted the ONE in FIVE Campaign’s relevance in the sports sector.
13. The issue of eliminating all forms of violence against children, including sexual violence, is an integral part of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015 which the Committee of Ministers adopted on 15 February 2012. The Committee of Ministers set up, at the end of 2013, a new Committee of Experts on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2019), which is to report on the implementation of the Strategy 2012-2015 and draw up a draft Strategy for 2016-2019. This is a welcome development.
14. The intergovernmental dimension of the campaign has also organised two big conferences which were devoted (at least in part) to the campaign theme since the mid-term review report. The first took place in Madrid on 10 and11 December 2013 and focused on preventing sexual abuse of children, bringing together some 180 participants from about 50 countries. Organised in co-operation with the Spanish Government and with the support of the Foundation “La Caixa”, the conference served to present an overview of the various problems and discuss the solutions applied in Europe. It also permitted recognition and promotion of the role of the various policies (on education, social services, communication, justice and health), the national, regional and local authorities, civil society, the private sector, families and children in developing and implementing actions and policies of prevention.
15. The second conference, entitled “Growing with children’s rights”, took place in Dubrovnik (Croatia) on 27 and 28 March 2014. This mid-term review conference on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012‑2015) also focused on the Lanzarote Committee’s work as well as on the ONE in FIVE Campaign. My two key proposals were presented by my colleague, Ms Liliane Maury Pasquier, who chaired the Assembly’s Network of Contact Parliamentarians for three years (2011-2013): the extension of the Campaign for a further year up to the end of 2015 and a European Day to combat sexual violence against children to be introduced with effect from 2016. The participants at the Conference renewed their commitment to the ONE in FIVE Campaign, and supported both of my proposals.

2.2 Parliamentary dimension: bringing together parliamentarians to fight sexual violence against children

16. The Assembly has continued to deal with the subject of sexual violence against children both in its statutory role (through the adoption of three reports on the matter this year and last year), and through the animation of the parliamentary dimension of the ONE in FIVE Campaign, notably via its Network of Contact Parliamentarians and its 52 members.Note The reports focused on the campaign itself,Note on fighting “child sex tourism”,Note and on increasing the reporting of suspected sexual abuse of children.Note
17. In January 2014, the Assembly published its third compendium of action and good practices, covering the 2011-2013 period.Note This compendium illustrates both the action of the Assembly – of the Network of Contact Parliamentarians, and of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, and the newly established post of General Rapporteur on Children – and of parliamentarians and national parliaments.
18. As regards the action of the Assembly, the compendium covers the 16 meetings of the Network of Contact Parliamentarians, the sub-committees and parliamentarians participating in 15 international conferences and high-level meetings, parliamentary participation in the six meetings of the Lanzarote Committee, the launch of a pilot project in Cyprus, the 17 interviews of prominent figures and experts uploaded onto the campaign website, as well as other communication tools such as 12 parliamentary newsletters and the video spot for adolescents called “The Lake”. As regards the activities of parliamentarians and national parliaments, it illustrates more than 100 such activities in 25 countries.Note
19. Since the mid-term review report was written in March last year, the Network of Contact Parliamentarians has held five more meetings. The 13th meeting on 24 April 2013 was devoted to the subject of sexual abuse of children by their peers, the 14th meeting on 25 June 2013 to the subject of the sexual abuse of children in sport. The 15th meeting on 1 October 2013 focused on monitoring the fight against sexual violence against children at European and national levels, introduced by Mr Eric Ruelle, Chairperson of the Lanzarote Committee. The 16th meeting on 29 January 2014 dealt with the sexual exploitation of girls.
20. An extraordinary, full-day meeting was held in Geneva on 13 November 2013 on “Taking the fight against sexual violence against children to the world – Sharing the European experience”. Participants in this meeting included Ms Najat Maalla M’jid, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, Mr Hans Guyt, campaigns director for the children’s rights NGO Terre des hommes, and Ms Susanna Greijer, PhD, Department of Law, European University Institute. Mr Guyt presented the “Sweetie” project designed to unmask sexual predators on the Internet using a virtual girl. Representatives of UNICEF and the Inter-Parliamentary Union also contributed.Note
21. As part of the ONE in FIVE Campaign, a three-year pilot project (May 2013-April 2016) was launched last year on “Strengthening national policies against sexual violence against children: a Council of Europe project comprising pilot initiatives in Cyprus”, co-financed by the A.G. Leventis Foundation and co-ordinated by the Assembly. It seeks to enable Cyprus to ratify and implement the Lanzarote Convention in the next three years.Note The project was launched in Nicosia on 12 and 14 October 2013 and the project steering group met in Cyprus on 14 October 2013 and 19 February 2014. A Facebook page devoted to the campaign (Council of Europe ONE in FIVE campaign) was created to coincide with the launch of the project.
22. A two-minute video clip aimed at adolescents was commissioned from the film director Roland Edzard in this context.Note Called “The Lake”, the clip was launched first at a press conference on 11 October 2013 in Cyprus as part of this pilot projectNote. Produced in four languages (English, French, German and Greek) with the financial support of the A.G. Leventis Foundation, “The Lake” illustrates, at an apparently peaceful family picnic, the psychological pressure that family members guilty of sexual abuse can exert on their victims. The clip concludes with a message aimed directly at the victims, who are encouraged to “break the silence” by calling the Europe-wide helpline 116 111. A short (30-second) version has also been made. An information kit comprising the two versions of the clip was widely distributed to European television stations on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day on 20 November 2013, reaching an audience of 6 to 8 million in seven countries.

2.3 Local and regional dimension: a pact of towns and regions

23. Local and regional authorities are on the frontline of the fight to stop sexual violence against children and are busy developing and implementing action plans and strategies to deal with current cases and prevent new ones. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has recently stepped up its activities within the framework of the campaign, through the appointment and activities of its Thematic Spokesperson on Children, Mr Johan van den Hout (Netherlands, SOC) and its Pact of Towns and Regions to Stop Sexual Violence against Children.
24. The Pact of Towns and Regions to Stop Sexual Violence against Children was already endorsed by the Congress Bureau in 2012. It has now been signed by 32 towns, regions and organisations. The Pact contains a list of initiatives, such as the ones detailed in the Lanzarote Convention, which local and regional authorities may take; these initiatives are organised according to the four-pronged approach of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Participation. As, in these times of economic and financial crisis, many local authorities are seeing their resources cut, the list includes initiatives requiring very little if any public spending, as well as others which necessitate substantial investment because of the need to define specific strategies and set up dedicated structures.
25. The Congress is urging as many towns and regions as possible to commit to the ONE in FIVE Campaign by signing up for the Pact, which has been translated into 22 languages.Note A specific programme of awareness-raising was launched in 2013 and a “Pact Platform” has been set up on the Congress’s ONE in FIVE website, where towns and regions can sign up and provide information on what they are doing in the fight to stop sexual violence against children.NoteNote This Platform, launched in March 2013, also serves as a database of good practices. The Thematic Spokesperson, Mr van den Hout, toured the Netherlands, Cyprus and the United Kingdom last year to promote the pact. Last January, meetings were held with ministers and representatives of the three Communities of Belgium. Later this year he will undertake similar visits to Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany.

3 Challenges

26. For all its success, the ONE in FIVE Campaign has faced several challenges. The one which was stressed most in Ms Bonet Perot’s mid-term review report was the scarcity of human and financial resources. In a time of budgetary austerity for the Council of Europe and several of its member States, finding money to finance what is by definition a staff-intensive activity has not been easy. While the Committee of Ministers has increased its support for the Lanzarote Committee from the Organisation’s ordinary budget, and the Parliamentary Assembly has allowed its permanent staff members to devote considerable chunks of their working time to campaigning, it really has been governments, parliaments and a private foundation which have come to the rescue.
27. The parliamentary dimension of the campaign in 2013 has largely been financed by a generous voluntary contribution from the German Government, and considerable contributions from the Parliaments of Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal, as well as from the Government of Norway. Without this support, the extraordinary meeting of the Network of Contact Parliamentarians in Geneva in November 2013, which brought the European campaign experience to the international community, could not have been held. The conclusion of the agreement on the pilot project in Cyprus with the A.G. Leventis Foundation made it possible to develop such successful communication tools as “The Lake” video clip and a Facebook campaign page – tools which were on the top of Ms Bonet Perot’s wish list last year.
28. Following a further call for funds, more contributions have been received and pledged for the Assembly’s campaign work in 2014, including a generous voluntary contribution from the Norwegian Government, and considerable contributions from the parliaments of Israel, Luxembourg, Poland and Switzerland. While the Assembly has not yet reached its fund-raising target for the campaign, I hope that this will be the case in the second half of the year. Which brings me to the currently greater challenge: the lack of time left to successfully conclude the campaign.
29. As illustrated in chapter 2, the campaign is in full swing. All three dimensions of the campaign are creating added-value at this point: the intergovernmental dimension will soon have the results of the first monitoring round of the Lanzarote Committee on child sexual abuse in the circle of trust to share, which will help focus campaign efforts on closing gaps in implementation for the 30 States already bound by the convention; the parliamentary dimension is campaigning hard to increase the number of meaningful ratifications, i.e. properly prepared ratifications which will allow the convention to be effective from “Day 1”, and would like to prepare a communication tool aimed at the age group so far not covered (6 to12 year-old children) via its Cyprus pilot project; and the local and regional dimension is promoting its pact in a way that ensures that the Lanzarote Convention is implemented at local and regional level, namely those closest to the children affected and where many competencies for child protection lie.
30. Now is not the time to let the campaign expire. It is the time to ask the Committee of Ministers to prolong it for an extra year until November 2015, so that the dynamic is not lost, and the campaign’s goals are achieved. I am most happy that the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General and the participants at the Dubrovnik Conference all explicitly support this proposal.
31. The extension of the campaign for an extra year will solve most of our immediate problems. However, the final challenge will come after the campaign has ended in November 2015: how to keep up the momentum created by the campaign? As Ms Bonet Perot indicated in her mid-term review report, of course even without an official campaign parliamentarians can keep up the pressure on their governments to sign and ratify the Lanzarote Convention (for example through parliamentary questions), and can also ensure that adequate legislation is passed for its implementation, and can influence the budgetary resources which are devoted to fighting sexual violence against children at national level. Of course, the Lanzarote Committee will keep monitoring developments and make recommendations to achieve more progress in implementation. But wouldn’t the instauration of a European Day to fight sexual violence against children (as of 2016) help carry over the benefits of the campaign?
32. This is indeed not a new suggestion: as rightly pointed out in the Committee of Ministers’ reply to Recommendation 2013 (2013), a decision on the instauration of such a day is already included in the 2012-2015 Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child – with a decision due this year, in 2014, which is already being prepared on the intergovernmental side (a concept paper is due to be presented in May 2014). In my view, it is important that the European Union and UNICEF are also consulted on this proposal.
33. I would like to take up this suggestion – I believe the most appropriate date would be 18 November, preceding 19 November (World Day against Child Abuse) and 20 November (Universal Children’s Day). The choice of date is important. The instauration of the World Day to combat violence against women (25 November) liberated 8 March (International Women's Day) from a focus on women as victims of violence, and tied in well with the 15 days of activism until 10 December (Human Rights Day). A European Day to fight sexual violence against children could likewise liberate Universal Children’s Day from focusing on children’s victimhood, and create a 3-day campaigning period for children’s rights.

4 Conclusions and recommendations: towards a successful conclusion of the ONE in FIVE Campaign

34. While the Council of Europe can rightly be proud of the achievements of more than three years of intense campaigning, thanks to a united effort by all three dimensions of the campaign and support from multiple stakeholders, the goals of the ONE in FIVE Campaign have yet to be reached: one signature and 17 ratifications of the Lanzarote Convention are still outstanding. And unfortunately, we are running out of time.
35. I thus have two key recommendations to make:
  • The Assembly should recommend that the Committee of Ministers prolong the campaign for one extra year until November 2015 in order to reap the maximum benefits;
  • The Assembly should recommend that the Committee of Ministers install, preferably following consultations with the European Union and UNICEF, a European Day to fight sexual violence against children to carry over the benefits of the campaign in another, more sustainable form.
36. I hope and I believe that, if the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers heed these recommendations, the Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children will become one of the most successful campaigns ever run by the Organisation.