|© UNICEF Turkmenistan/2011|
|At the Third Central Asian Child Protection Forum (from left): UNICEF CEECIS Regional Advisor on Child Protection Jean-Claude Legrand; UNICEF CEECIS Deputy Regional Director Kirsi Madi; and Turkmenistan Parliament Speaker Akja Nurberdiyeva.|
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, 1 June 2011 – Children facing trial or in police custody and detention are among the most vulnerable in society, a five-country child protection forum has been told as it meets to discuss the rights of children.
These were the opening remarks of Kirsi Madi, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CEECIS), who spoke as the Third Central Asian Child Protection Forum got under way this week.
The bi-annual forum is being attended by delegates from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and host nation, Turkmenistan. Representatives from the UN, European Union and other donor nations are also present, as are juvenile justice experts from Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Speaker of the Turkmenistan Parliament Akdja Nurberdiyeva told the conference that countries in Central Asia shared a common heritage and had much experience to share. She said that in Turkmenistan every effort is made to keep children at home and at school, and children only enter the justice system in extreme circumstances.
According to ‘Lost in the Justice System’, a 2008 report on juvenile justice in the CEECIS Region, the majority of children in conflict with the law in Central Asia are accused of petty or non-violent offences.
Many were acts classified as offences only because they were committed by children, such as truancy or alcohol or substance abuse. Other offences were often due to survival behaviours, such as vagrancy or prostitution.
Ms. Madi told the conference that the justice system itself, when not adapted to children’s rights and needs, often pushed the most vulnerable children further into exclusion and poverty.
More active on child rights
“Juvenile justice systems needed to extend a supportive hand with tailored responses in order to prevent recidivism, ensure public safety, and to reintegrate children into society,” she said. “Experience around the world demonstrated that detention too often reinforced exclusion.”
In a statement to the forum, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov added that the Forum would help the country be more active in international legal, political and economic environments, and would serve as a vital step in the realisation of child rights.