The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF is a global advocate for children and children’s rights and the organization is guided by the Convention on the Rights of a Child. The organization has been conducting a series of programs and studies in Belize to ensure child development, education, gender equity, policy advocacy and partnership. Another focal point for the organization is also child protection and this week, the Organization has issued a release expressing extreme concern over the increasing number of violent acts against children in Belize. UNICEF cites the United Nations Secretary General’s Study on Violence and, “No Violence against Children is Justifiable, All Violence against Children is Preventable. UNICEF Representative in Belize, Christine Norton says that Belize needs to take action to address violence against children. Norton says that as a member state of the UN Belize has committed to implement the recommendations of the UN Study on Violence. One area in which Belize can work on to advance the issue of protection of children is by developing a national Action Plan.

Christine Norton – UNICEF Representative in Belize
“Belize might find it valuable to make a specific plan on violence and I think it was one of the recommendations that came out of the study. It is important if the idea is to create a protective environment, it costs money to do that, it cost effort to do that and it might be a useful way of pulling together all of the agencies, all of the organizations all the people who are duty bearers so to speak, who have a responsibility. I think sometimes when you make a national plan, a specific national plan it allows you to work through all of the issues and to have a kind of coordinated, coherent approach.”

But what should this action plan detail? Norton speaks on several focal points that can be approached in the plan to ensure child protection in Belize.

Christine Norton – UNICEF Representative in Belize
“It falls into a number of domains, education would be one, education for parents in managing violence, managing conflict; educating a parent on alternative ways of managing discipline is useful, I think education as a cross cutting issue is an important aspect in a national plan. Another one of course is to health, recognizing the long term, this is another key message that UNICEF is bringing that violence breeds a sort of long term damage in terms of health and particularly when a child is young and abused there are psychological issues and impacts that are relevant and important and can alter a child’s life altogether. There has been important work done in the Caribbean, research done in the Caribbean which shows that wherever there has been an increase of physical violence or sexual violence that one of the outcome is a poor mental health outcome and rage and rage is a source of more violence so you see it starts a vicious circle so we need to be able to figure out what are the health services, what are the support needed, there are other things as well as legal assistance because of course a victim will need legal assistance and then you have the whole aspect beyond legal assistance and getting the justice right. How to enforce the laws that exist and if laws are not in place, the national plan, a plan of action on violence will try to ensure that we strengthen the protective framework that will allow children to remain protected,”

Norton said the response to violence against children and furthermore, the prevention of this is everyone’s business. In the release, UNICEF says it will “continue to support the Government of Belize in strengthening the child protection systems at national and local levels – including laws, policies, regulations and the provisions of comprehensive services to child victims.”