EDITORIAL: UNICEF Regional Director, after her Visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina
EDITORIAL after the Visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina: Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Sarajevo/Geneva, 26 March 2012.
UNICEF - A PARTNER FOR CHANGE FOR CHILDREN
Today right across the world change is happening in ways that a decade ago would have seemed impossible or unimaginable. We are all living through a moment of transformation and no country is immune. UNICEF is a part of the change and a partner in making life better for our children.
In my short visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina I have seen firsthand that this country is beginning to find surer foundations to making positive change possible for children and to share with the world its experience and its solutions for realizing the rights of children.
One of the changes that UNICEF has embraced is that no improvement for children will be sustainable unless we focus on society’s most vulnerable and most marginalized. Our research shows that this is right in principle and most importantly right in practice. I am impressed that Bosnia Herzegovina has also taken up this concept.
Making it happen is the hard part, particularly finding the solutions that are right for each society.
Broadly, UNICEF believes investing in the social sectors, especially at a time of global economic difficulty, is vital … not only in terms of human wellbeing but also for the sake of economic growth.
UNICEF believes that a society which short-changes investments in the future capacity of its people – its health, its education, its social fabric – is a society which is sacrificing its long-term growth.
Perhaps the most obvious case is education.
A recent study which tracked 50 countries between 1960 and 2000 shows that every additional year of average educational attainment a nation achieves raises the average annual GDP by around half a percentage point.
And secondly, UNICEF’S believes that investment in the health and education of a society’s most disadvantaged citizens – in equity – will lead more reliably to sustained growth and social stability.
During my meetings here, I heard about the good work that is going on and about the difficult situation of families living in rural areas, of Roma people and of children without parental care. These discussions underlined UNICEF’s cooperation with government at all levels and with other partners to focus strongly on the most excluded populations. Universal protection, inclusion and a best start in life for every child is only possible through the reduction of inequities and the protection of the rights of the marginalized and often invisible children.
It is encouraging to see that the country is trying to identify marginalized children to make sure they are included in social services, including protection, health and education. I am particularly impressed by the level of cross sector coordination among education, health and social welfare areas to ensure social protection and inclusion of the most vulnerable families and their children in several municipalities of the country.
I heard from the different Ministers I met, that by building on the complementarity of the various sectors, the Programme to enhance the social protection and inclusion system for children called SPIS manages to significantly improve the situation of children and their families. The challenge is now to scale-up and ensure mechanisms and services are in place in all municipalities to protect all children.
One social initiative that particularly impresses me is the focus on preschool education. Giving the opportunity to young children, particularly to disadvantaged children, to have access to quality early childhood education and to preschool initiatives is the best option better preparing children for life. This is central to reducing inequity.
I am also impressed with the initiatives in early childhood development centers to take care of children with disabilities. We very much encourage governments to universalize early childhood development services so that all children can be fully protected.
These are innovations and good practices which UNICEF will share among other countries.
Finally UNICEF doesn’t work alone. We share a common vision for children with the European Union, The Swiss Agency for Development, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, The Spanish Government, The Government of Norway, civil society, media, private sector, as well as children and communities across the country. We all see ourselves as being a partner of the country in its efforts to develop and to give its children the best possible future.