Churches, civil society organizations and almost 100 children and adolescents - many of whom experience poverty and violence daily - attended a consultation on 11 August organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the town of Pilar, north of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Before a respectfully silent audience, one young man shared: "I want to tell you that the country is not doing well at all, we are falling little by little. Quite often the police come and beat us young people, they open our legs, they ask us for documents and beat us with a stick", he said.
He also pointed out that discrimination, bullying and mistreatment are common in school.
UNICEF data shows that half of adolescents in Argentina today live in poverty.
Participants in the consultation denounced the critical increase in violence against children and adolescents in the country, and showed their concern for the lack of access to food, education and vocational training.
“We are here today so that none of you are robbed of life and hope”, said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, alluding to the growing mistreatments by police officers that many organizations have been denouncing, and referring to a high number of cases in which children and adolescents have been victims of acts of intimidation and repression.
Judge Dr Norberto Giacoia, who specializes in juvenile justice, denounced that the budget allocation dedicated to security forces was increased by 25% more than investments for young people and the youth. “The suffering of children I witness every day is cruel and appalling,” Giacoia said. “What gives me hope is the event of today, and that together we unite for a better future for the youngest among us”.
Esquivel added: ”The local governor recently announced that she is going to put 12,000 more policemen on the streets to grant us better security. To me this creates even more insecurity, because the budget used to finance all these policemen is actually needed to improve education, health and basic infrastructures for people to live in dignity".
The consultation was coordinated by WCC Central Committee member Ana De Medio, from the Evangelical Church of the Disciples of Christ in Argentina. The activity is part of the Churches’ Commitments to Children, the WCC programme supporting churches’ efforts for children and adolescents worldwide.
Frederique Seidel, WCC special adviser on Child Rights, said: “By shedding light on what is happening to children and youth, you are paving the way for urgent measures to be taken as soon as possible, and you must be heard.”