In 2001, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution directing Secretary General Kofi Annan to begin a worldwide investigation into violence against children. The resulting study, which began last year, is a worldwide collaborative effort between U.N. agencies, governments and nongovernmental organizations to understand the roots of and to help prevent this violence-and several APA members and staff are contributing their expertise to the effort.
Between March and July, hundreds of experts gathered at nine regional meetings from Trinidad to Pakistan to Slovenia. The North American regional consultation took place June 2-3 in Toronto, and included representatives from the Canadian and U.S. governments, UNICEF and others-including youth representatives.
APA U.N. Representative Harold Cook, PhD, was a member of the steering committee, and attended along with Julia Silva, director of the ACT Against Violence Program in APA's Public Interest Directorate, and APA members Sharon Portwood, PhD, from APA's Div. 37 (Child, Youth and Family Services), Ray Lorion, PhD, from Div. 27 (Society for Community Research and Action) and Janet Saul, PhD, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The conference was mainly research-oriented, according to Cook. Attendees discussed violence in the juvenile-justice system, schools, home and family, media and communities, as well as measurement issues, epidemiology, legislative issues, minorities, people with disabilities and other related topics.
Cook is helping to compile the North American regional report that will come out of the meeting. The final global report will include contributions from all of the regional meetings and other government reports. It will include research and information about the forms, causes and impact of violence affecting children, and will present ideas for measures to prevent and reduce violence at the local, national and international levels. The report's drafters will present it to the General Assembly in the fall of 2006. "An earlier study like this, on child soldiers, was very influential and resulted in real actions," Cook says. "We hope that something similar will come of this."