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Speaking points - Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative

Speaking points -  Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Social Protection and Inclusion Conference
4-5 November 2013, Sarajevo

• Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
• It is my pleasure and honour to open this Conference on Social Protection and Inclusion and I am so pleased to see such a large audience which confirms the high interest for improving social protection and inclusion systems in the country.
• First of all the right to social security, social insurance and to an adequate standard of living for every child is included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Social protection also plays a critical role in helping to realize other rights, such as the right to survival and development or the right to education.
• Evidence as well as UNICEF experience has proven that social protection improves the lives of children, families, and communities and that is a crucial policy tool for addressing equity and social justice. As we know, vulnerability is determined by underlying factors such as social and political marginalization, gender and ethnic discrimination, economic inequality and social protection can tackle these causes.
• Social protection is particularly important in a context of crisis and persisting inequalities when more people are at risk of falling deeply into poverty and exclusion.
• Social protection has to be tackled from four different angles:
o A minimum package of cash benefits has to be ensured for families with children. It has proven to reduce poverty and inequity, to lead to improvements in education and health outcomes and to contribute to the prevention of institutionalization, school drop-out and stunting.
o However cash transfers are not sufficient. Even when quality services exist, a number of economic and social barriers often stand in the way such as physical distance, complicated procedures or lack of awareness. Specific programmes have to be in place to remove these barriers such as home visiting or raising awareness campaigns to reach the most vulnerable.
o Additionally, some particular vulnerabilities require specific types of social support that complement the economic support. This includes, for example, day-care services for families with children with disabilities or parenting education.
o Social protection also requires adequate legislation and policies to ensure equity and non-discrimination.
• A strong inter-sectoral coordination is required between education, health, social welfare, labour and services providers in order to tackle these different components and ensure referral and coordination mechanisms are in place.
• Over the last years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made some important progress in social protection and we are pleased that as UNICEF together with the EU we have been supporting this progressive reform of social protection and inclusion.
o On the legislative front, by-laws on foster care and social work in schools, for example, complement the already good Law on Social Protection that was adopted in 2012 in Republika Srpska;
o In the Federation, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy coordinated the development of very good Laws on Social Protection and on the Protection of Families with Children which will ensure equal benefits for all chairmen and which I would recommend a very prompt adoption;
o Child benefits are ensured in RS and in half of the Cantons. They would of course need to be ensured for all children in any Canton and this is why the federal Law is so important to be adopted.
o Social protection and inclusions commissions were established in around 30 Municipalities ensuring that the most vulnerable people are identified and their needs are properly addressed. (In many of them it resulted in increased and better targeted budgets for social protection despite the crisis environment.)
o It also resulted in special services to target the most vulnerable such as day-care services for children with disabilities, counselling for parents and children outreach activities or services for young children;
• On the other hand, as analysed in the Gap Analysis that we are presenting today, much more needs and must be done:
o The absolute levels of poverty (under 238KM/119 Euro per month) increased from 18.6% in 2007 to 23.4% in 2011 (IBHI Report). It affects particularly children with an absolute poverty rate of 26%
o 58% of the population in BiH is at risk of poverty or social exclusion according to the EU AROPE concept (three indicators of the EU concept of “at-risk-of-poverty and social exclusion” (AROPE) are: poverty risk, severe material deprivation and very low work intensity).
o Unemployment for young people (15-24 years) is 63.1% (Labour Force Survey, BiH Agency for Statistics, 2012).
o While the total social assistance benefits account for 4.6% of GDP, about three quarters is paid to war veterans and their families (World Bank, 2009: 3) and only a mere 1.2% reaches the socially excluded.
o There is a need to further develop the capacity of social workers and to reduce their caseload, so that they can deal more effectively with clients.
• This is why this Conference is particularly important as it is a concrete step in the social protection and inclusion reform:
o Republika Srpska, the Federation of BiH and District Brcko will present roadmaps or strategic directions for Social protection and Inclusion that they developed in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy framework with our support:
o These roadmaps and strategic directions have been developed through a comprehensive consultative and participatory process, using a ‘bottom-up’ approach, starting from the Entities/cantons and BD. They feed into a country wide Framework for Coordination on Social Protection and Social Inclusion which will also be presented.
o These documents entail a comprehensive approach to social protection and inclusion in line with the Europe 2020 strategy framework as they include priorities, targets and indicators related to Poverty and Social Exclusion, familiy and child welfare, employment, helath, education and innovation.
o This Conference will also enable us to hear about global and regional perspectives and to learn about experiences from other countries.
• I would like to sincerely thank all of you who are leading and participating in the social protection and inclusion reforms. All present in this room, political authorities, policy makers, professionals have a demanding and challenging task ahead to continue this process and to ensure that every child and family is adequately protected.  
• As UNICEF we will be pleased to continue to support this reform in partnership with the European Union and the World Bank and to bring UN sister Agencies and other international organizations into this process as well.
• I wish you a fruitful Conference.

 

 
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