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Child Rights in Serbia 30 Years After Adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

On Wednesday, 9th October, in the Media Center, as part of the Children’s Week, the Friends of Children of Serbia organised the panel discussion “Child Rights in Serbia 30 Years After Adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

The speakers were Dragan Vulević, Special Advisor to the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs; Nataša Jović, Assistant Secretary-General for Child’s Rights, Gender Equality and Rights of Persons with Disability in the Ombudsman’s Office; Vesna Dejanović, UNICEF Children Protection Programme Manager; Jasmina Miković, Praxis Deputy Executive Director and member of the Council for the Rights of the Child; Saša Stefanović, MODS Director; and Dunja Joldžić, member of the participatory Group of 10 Friends of Children of Serbia.  The panel discussion was moderated by journalist Marija Šehić.

The speakers presented the main trends and challenges in the field of children’s rights in Serbia, after which they had the opportunity to discuss and exchange opinions on current challenges with children and other participants.

Jasmina Miković stressed that the child’s rights continued not to be a priority for our country and that we were far from the full implementation of ratified international treaties in the field of child’s rights. In this respect, she pointed to the existing shortcomings of the institutional and regulatory framework in this field.

She also drew attention to some of the trends and challenges in the field of child’s rights identified by Praxis in working with target groups, which had not been properly addressed:

•The state has not yet taken measures within its remit to remove legal barriers that prevent immediate birth registration of children born to mothers without personal documents.

•There is no adequate institutional response to child marriages, which occur disproportionately more frequently among the Roma population and particularly affect girls.

•Segregation in education continues to exist, which seriously jeopardises the rights of the child and has far-reaching negative social consequences. Although it still exists in some schools in Serbia, no concrete measures or activities have been taken to prevent this discriminatory phenomenon.

•Discrimination against particularly vulnerable groups of children is still widespread and represents a major challenge in our society. Decisions taken at the local level are also disconcerting because they often discriminate against particularly vulnerable groups of children, such as children with IDP status, Roma children, children with disabilities and others.

Based on the presentations and discussion, the following recommendations were formulated:

1. Better monitoring and implementation of the existing legislation, as well as continuous work on maintaining the achieved standards and further improving the regulatory and institutional framework in Serbia;

2. Base policies and practices on realistic research and possibilities, plan rationally and direct resources accordingly;

3. Strengthen the role of the Children’s Rights Council – provide financial and human resources so that the Council can become the main institutional mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination, with the clear mandate and authority to coordinate all activities related to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at cross-sectoral, national and local level;

4. Enhance accessibility and investment in the systems on which the situation of child’s rights directly depends – health care, social protection, education, culture, etc. Austerity measures must not affect services related to children and protection of their rights;

5. Continuously work on raising public awareness about the importance of respecting children’s rights;

6. Continuously involve children in topics that concern them – raise awareness about the importance of participation among the general public, professionals working with children at all levels and decision makers;

7. Intensify work on the prevention of child marriages;

8. Urgently amend the regulations that prevent immediate birth registration of children born to mother without personal documents;

9. Improve support and control systems for foster families;

10. Strengthen support for social services for families, especially from vulnerable groups;

11. Urgent social response to burning issues that affect children – violence, poverty, etc.

12. Work on the prevention and elimination of discrimination against particularly vulnerable groups of children and prohibit segregation in the education system, especially for Roma children and children with disabilities;

13. Work on strengthening support systems and alternative accommodation systems for young people with disabilities as well as young people from vulnerable categories of population;

14. Provide minimum housing standards for each child/family;

15. Work on the promotion and strengthening of dialogue between the government and civil sectors.