UNICEF in action
Today, we work at every level – locally, nationally and internationally – to guarantee a child’s right to a caring family environment. We are working with governments and other partners to prevent the institutionalization of children under 3 years old because these are the most crucial years for child development and future prospects. Our ultimate goal is to prevent the separation of all children from their families, with a particular focus going to prevent separation of children under 3 and children with disabilities because these groups have often not benefited equally to reforms so far, especially given their particular vulnerability.
At a practical level, our work provides day-to-day interventions ranging from preventive measures to the provision of emergency shelters. At a fundamental level, however, preventing and responding to violence against children requires tackling the social norms and behaviours that allow violence often to be disguised as discipline or to go unpunished. It also requires strengthening national protection systems – including laws, policies, regulations and services across all social sectors, especially social welfare- and protection, education, health, security and justice.
Through its work in child protection, UNICEF supports the development of accountability mechanisms for early identification, reporting and referral of cases of violence by professionals who come into contact with children in their daily work. In the continuum of child protection services, which are needed to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation and abuse, UNICEF also supports the development of social welfare services, which were mostly absent in earlier child protection systems.
While much remains to be done, important progress has been made in recent years:
• Laws prohibiting violence against children have been put in place, e.g. the Criminal Code of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was amended in 2008 to prescribe more severe punishments for sexual abusers.
• National guidelines and protocols have made professionals more accountable for identifying and referring cases of violence against children, e.g. in Serbia.
• Professional expertise in detecting, referring and reporting violence against children has been enhanced, e.g. in Ukraine, training courses have been integrated into the curricula of three universities for social workers, teachers and police.
• Hotlines for child victims have been set up in several countries, including Albania, Croatia and Bulgaria.
• Violence-free schools have been established in Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.
• Mobile outreach teams have been established in Serbia.
UNICEF also supports the Council of Europe’s Children and Violence programme in the region, including the campaign for signature, ratification and implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.
Last updated November 2013
Strengthening child protection systems to protect children from violence - Regional experts' meeting in South East Europe (Tirana, Albania, 12/13 November 2013)
Strengthening child protection systems in their response to violence against children, in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina (18-19 September 2012)