The UN General Assembly’s decision today to establish a special representative to the secretary-general on violence against children is a welcome step toward combating this worldwide problem, said a broad coalition of human rights groups and child rights advocates.

The decision to create the new position was made under the General Assembly’s annual Resolution on the Rights of the Child, adopted today in the Third Committee by a vote of 176 to 1. The only country voting against the resolution was the United States.

The appointment follows the release last year of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children. This study exposed the shocking scope of violence against children worldwide and its devastating effects on children, their families, their communities, and broader society.

“Violence is a daily reality for millions of children around the world,” said Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch, co-chair of the NGO Advisory Council for follow-up to the UN Study on Violence against Children, a global network of nongovernmental organizations. “The special representative to the secretary-general will provide high-level international leadership to confront this global scourge.”

More than 1,000 nongovernmental organizations from 134 countries around the world signed a petition launched by the NGO Advisory Council calling for the appointment of the special representative.

The mandate for the new special representative includes enhancing the visibility of all forms of violence against children, advocating for the elimination of this violence, and supporting the implementation of the study’s recommendations. Other aspects of the mandate include identifying and sharing good practices, and enhancing coordination and communication among key actors (including the UN system, member states, NGOs, children and youth).

“It is vital to maintain the momentum created by the Violence against Children study and maximize its potential for achieving the necessary urgent action,” said Roberta Cecchetti of the International Save the Children Alliance and a Council co-chair. “NGOs look forward to working with the special representative to protect all children’s right to live free from violence.”

The NGO Advisory Council also welcomed the resolution’s call to change attitudes that condone or normalize violence, including violent forms of child discipline.

However, the NGO Advisory Council expressed deep regret that the General Assembly’s annual resolution had once again failed to explicitly identify corporal punishment among the many forms of violence that states are urged to prohibit and eliminate. This is a key recommendation made both by UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The NGO Advisory Council was established in 2006 to enhance follow-up to the UN Study on Violence against Children. It includes nine regional representatives, and nine representatives from international NGOs. The international NGO representatives include Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children, the Child Rights Information Network, Defense for Children International, ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), World Organization against Torture, Plan International, and World Vision.