Serbian MPs request better care for children
BELGRADE, Serbia - 23 April 2009
Parliamentarians, government officials, UNICEF, and civil society came together at a parliamentary seminar to discuss the state of children and child rights in Serbia and the measures that need to be taken with regards to the Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to the Republic of Serbia.
The seminar, organised jointly by the parliamentary cross-sectoral Working Group on Child Rights and UNICEF, focused on the Parliament’s legislative and overseeing functions and measures that should be taken by the MPs to create real and lasting change for children in Serbia.
In her opening address, the Parliamentary Speaker Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, the Chairperson of the parliamentary Working Group on Child Rights, stressed that children and child rights were of high importance for the Parliament. “The fact that the members of the parliamentary Working Group on Child Rights come from all political parties and each and every caucus clearly shows that a political consensus has been reached and that all political forces in the country are committed to make efforts and contribute to the development of a better system for the protection and realisation of child rights in Serbia”, the Parliamentary Speaker said. She stressed that it was necessary for the Parliament to more closely monitor the implementation of laws and strategies and budget allocations that directly pertain to children. “ We will request the Government to submit reports to the Parliament and its child rights body on what has been done and what has not been done and why”, she concluded.
UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg presented what it meant to be a child in Serbia today. „An average child born in Serbia today has more chances to be born in a city than in a village. He or she has a little chance to have a sister or a brother, and will probably be surrounded by four adults. Every ninth child will have some sort of developmental disability, and will be at quite a big risk to be physically or verbally punished. And when grown into an adolescent, he or she will most probably continue education, but will not have much chances to express his or her opinion or to find a job unless has finished at least secondary school“, said Ms. Reichenberg. She pointed out that not all of the children in Serbia had equal chances and that for every tenth child born in a poor family the chances for optimal development were decreased. „A chance for a Roma child to be born poor is 50%. A risk for a Roma child not to live to his or her first birthday is three times bigger than for other children. Only 66% of Roma children enrol in school and a chance for finishing it is quite small. A chance for a Roma girl to get married early is 50%, which even more decreases her chances to get education, and the risks for her child are even bigger“, Reichenberg said.
After a briefing on the work of the Child Rights Committee and a thorough presentation of the Concluding Observations and Recommendations to the Serbian Government, the Members of the Parliament concluded that a it was necessary for them to become more substantively engaged in the work on child rights, especially in the light of the current financial crisis and the proposed Government’s measures to address the crisis. They concluded that it was of utmost importance for them to closely monitor the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and subsequent Memorandum on Social Inclusion, and the impact of the measures undertaken on children. „We need to identify the key elements in the national policies, strategies and budgets that need to be protected so that children, and especially those who live in poverty, are not even more endangered by the Government’s new financial measures“, the conclusion read. The members of the parliamentary Child Rights Working Group requested UNICEF to provide assistance in the analyses of relevant laws from child rights perspective and in obtaining updated data and information on the situation of children. They furthermore concluded that a more coordinated work of all actors in the country – governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as independent bodies – was needed in the analysis, possible modification and monitoring of the implementation of the existing laws, as well as in the preparation of new laws and strategies. An agreement was reached that a thorough discussion and a public debate was to be organised on the development of a substantive Children’s Code, which was one of the recommendations of the Child Rights Committee, and that the Parliament would take an active role in the revision of the Serbian National Plan of action for Children that had been undertaken by the Serbian Government’s Council for Child Rights.
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and Vice-Chair of the National Council for Child Rights, Ms. Ljiljana Lucic, said that the Concluding Observations and Recommendations would lead the revision process of the National Plan of Action for Children. „The Republic of Serbia is due to submit the progress report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the beginning of 2013. It is therefore of utmost importance that the Committee’s recommendations, but also relevant national policies and strategies that relate to the protection and realisation of children’s rights, be fully integrated into the revised National Action Plan for Children“, Lucic said.
The seminar was moderated by the Ms. Snezana Stojanovic- Plavsic, President of the Parliamentary Poverty Reduction Committee and Vice-Chair of the Child Rights Working Group in the Parliament. The introductory presentations on the work of the Committee, reporting processes, preparation and presentation of the Serbia’s report to the Committee were given by Ms. Lucy Smith and Ms. Nevena Vuckovic- Sahovic, members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2003 to 2009. Ms. Tamara Luksic-Orlandic, Deputy Ombudsman for Child Rights, informed the MPs of the work of the body and its 2009 workplan.