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Statement: UNICEF Representative at the Conference “Together for Children”

Statement: Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative in BiH at the Conference “Together for Children of Bosnia and Herzegovina” organized by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina for Children’s Week in BiH (3.10.2011)

I am really glad that this event is being organized this week as it is very much necessary to draw the attention of society on the situation of children. As stated in the Convention which was ratified almost universally more than 20 years ago, it is important to keep the best interest of the child at all times in all decisions.
Since Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the country undertook important efforts and made relevant progress towards its implementation.  Many laws, action plans, and strategies have been adopted and implemented throughout the country.
One of the main challenges remains the exclusion of some of the children whose situation is not visible from statistics: This is the case of most minorities. In the case of Roma, for example, it is estimated that only half of them go to school and when they do they often suffer from discrimination. The school system rarely takes into consideration their rights to be taught in their own language and to be brought-up in a manner that respect their cultural and families’ believes.  There are cases where they are not registered at birth which limits their access to any of the economic, social, civil and political rights. Their access to health services is also limited in comparison to other children.
Another example of exclusion is related to children without parental care. There are around 1,000 children amongst them who are living in institutions while this is not in their best interest. It is indeed key to further develop alternatives to institution, such as foster care and adoption to ensure their development to the full potential. 
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind us about the situation of children with disabilities who are amongst the most excluded from society. Two weeks ago I met Avdo from Sanski Most. He is a young boy with heavy disabilities who just entered in the 8th grade. With tremendous efforts from his parents and teachers he is able to study in mainstream education and furthermore developed excellent painting skills.
Another form of exclusion is the fact that access to pre-school is very low at around 10% while it is proven that it is essential to ensure success at school.
Those are just few examples to highlight that, despites the efforts and success, a long way is still ahead of us in order to ensure that every child has its space in society. This is why UNICEF gathered government partners, local communities and civil society with the slogan “For Every Child”, to improve social protection and inclusion systems for children. With support from the European Union, the programme “Enhancing the Social Protection and Inclusion System for Children in BiH - SPIS” contributes to systems and policies for the protection of the most vulnerable children.
It is time to adopt an equity focus in all policies, plans, strategies and budgets. This means ensuring that the focus is on the most marginalized and vulnerable children and families in society. This is the only way to fight exclusion, reduce disparities, break the vicious cycle of poverty and ensure equitable development. It is important to remember that the focus on children is essential not only this week but all year around to ensure children rights are protected, respected, and fulfilled every day.

 

 
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