A ‘young’ country on the move

Country Programme 2006-2010

The new UNICEF representative in Albania

Related information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Mr Palm's speech during the launching of the Child Poverty Card on 20 November 2013

Who of you knows Liqeni i Zi in Valikharde? I was recently walking to the beautiful lake, on a beautiful Sunday morning, across a mountain called Mali i Lopes. One of the summits is Dhoksit. It is more than 2000 meters high.

On the top of the mountain, right on the summit, we found 2 boys, perhaps 12 and 14 years old, with a mule. They had a big sledge hammer, and there were using it to pound on an old bunker, which probably Enver Hoxha had built there 30 or 40 years ago. The hammer was far too big for them, but they kept on hammering on the bunker, in order to get to some old iron metal. They would hammer it out, load it onto the mule, and bring it more than 1200 meter down the mountain to the town of Bulqize where they would sell it for scrap.

This was on a beautiful Sunday, where young boys should playing football, sleep long, go fishing in the beautiful lake, or visit their cousins.
I am still trying to understand, why children in Albania have to work, under hazardous conditions, on a Sunday morning, more than 20 years after a revolution freed the country from an unwanted regime.  And I do not think that anyone will have an acceptable explanation.

Child poverty has many dimensions. Material well-being is just one of them. But think of the many opportunities that children will not have, because their parents are poor. Think of the social networking – and I do not only mean facebook - but real interaction with friends, participation in sports or other activities. Think of the peace of mind, the feeling of safety and security at home or in the neighbourhood you know. Think of the dreams that children are trying to fulfil by going to school. Child poverty has many aspects, and it takes more than Ndihma Ekonomike to deal with it.

That is why we find the report card on child poverty so important. The report card looks at the multiple aspects of exclusion – the deprivations that hurt children, often more than material poverty alone. The card looks at health and safety, education, risks, behaviours and environment. There are 26 indicators that have been systematically reviewed, all over Albania, in every region, in every district, in every municipality, in every commune.

We will hear more later on the actual measurements, the methodology of data collection and findings. But I want to stress the importance of being able to drill down to the locations and identify the places that need most of the attention. To me, the value of the report card and the data behind is not just in the statement of how many percent of all children live in poverty; but the card and the data tell us exactly where the most pressing issues for children are, in which districts and communes.

So that resources can be directed to those that need it most. And that you can hold the authorities to account for doing something about it.

The strategy of government to bring issues into the open, and have a public discussion about what can and needs to be done, is very good. Problems can only be addressed if we know that they exist and where. The report card, and the way data was collected, assembled, analysed and reported is an excellent contribution to this public discussion. The report card, and its standard set of indicators, also allows measuring progress over time.

I like to thank – and recommend for future cooperation with many of you involved, especially the government institutions – the child observatories, which are present in all regions. It is a good model of investigation. It is an excellent example of the type of reports that should be routinely produced and read, to inform those who accepted the burden of public office and who have to make decisions about the use of public resources.

Protecting and promoting the well-being of children is not just a moral imperative. It is also a very pragmatic one. Failure to address all aspects of child poverty may cause unacceptable risks towards a wide range of outcomes later in life - of the individual, their communities and country. The anniversary of the entering into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a good time to renew the commitment, to complete the reforms that children have been waiting for for the last 23 years.



 Email this article

unite for children