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Contribution to the Serbia 2021 Annual Report

MODS contribution to the 2021 Serbia’s Annual Report 
The progress achieved in the field of child rights and the state of vulnerable children

Chapter 23: Judiciary and fundamental rights

The Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia (MODS) points out that the rights of the child still do not take a prominent place among the Government priorities. We would like to stress that the Work Program of the Government of the Republic of Serbia for 2020 does not foresee the adoption of the Bill on the Rights of the Child by the National Assembly, as it was predicted in the previous two years and also recommended by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Also, even though the National Action Plan for Children expired in 2015, the Republic of Serbia still does not have The Strategic Plan for the Realization of the Child’s Rights. The Strategic should serve as a state policy framework with clear priorities and should be developed along with an accompanying Action Plan for Children that will pay special attention to reducing inequalities among children. The Strategic Plan should be developed in a broad consultative process involving children, parents, associations and other relevant actors.

The Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children from Violence for the period from 2020 to 2023 was adopted in May 2020. However, the Government of the Republic of Serbia is yet to form a Working Group for the implementation and monitoring of the Strategy. Consequently, the implementation of the Strategy has not started.

The Strategy envisages that civil society organizations dealing with the promotion and protection of the rights of the child appoint, in cooperation with the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, a representative in the Working Group for the implementation and monitoring of the Strategy. We urge the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue to initiate this process since the Sector for Cooperation with Civil Society is part of that Ministry.

The Council for the Rights of the Child of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, as one of the key mechanisms for exercising the rights of a child, was mainly inactive in 2020. Consequently, it is of utmost importance to establish a Council for the Rights of the Child, bearing in mind the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic primarily affects the position of children from the most vulnerable groups – children with disabilities, migrant children, Roma children, children in the street situation, children from single-parent families and families without income or low income.

The Government adopted The Strategy for Social Inclusion of Roma for the period until 2025. However, the Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategy expired in 2018, and the new Action Plan one has not been adopted.

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again shown how vulnerable children in social care institutions are. These children are at greater health risk, especially with COVID measures (physical distance and no gathering). States should apply targeted measures when it comes to the protection of children in vulnerable situations. Simultaneously, it is necessary to continue with the process of closing residential institutions for children.

The negative trend in decreasing social protection services for children should be adverted. The data from the Mapping of Social Protection Services under the Competence of Local Self-Government Units in the Republic of Serbia (2020) show a decrease in the distribution of services compared to 2015, especially home-care services for children (and youth) and daycare services. Comparing with the services that existed in 2012, only the number of beneficiaries in elderly home care increased (for 4.2%), while the number of beneficiaries in all other services decreased up to 21% (Daycare for children with developmental and other disabilities) and up to 85% (Daycare for children in conflict with the law).

After the pandemic of the COVID-19 was globally declared, the Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia conducted a survey on the impact of measures on children. The study’s analysis on the effects of emergency measures on children during the COVID-19 pandemic in Serbia (Being a child during the COVID-19 pandemic) showed a violation of the child’s rights in terms of education, social status and mental health. The crisis has contributed to an increase in inequality and the digital gap among students (almost half of the children have a personal computer (48.3%), 37% share a computer with family members, and 14.7% of children do not have access to a computer at all). These figures suggest further negative trends when it comes to the education of the poorest children.

Following the previous comments, the MODS recommends the following:

  • the process of assessing and planning support for families at risk of child displacement should be improved;
  • the state should dedicate funds for social protection services that will prevent the separation of children from their families;
  • the state should provide financial support to improve housing conditions in low-income families, especially families at risk of child displacement.

Document is available at the following link.