The Convention’s newest member: Promoting child rights in the Republic of Montenegro
Democracies are measured by their ability to offer all citizens an equal chance to participate in social, economic, political, and cultural life. They assume a special responsibility to provide for the well-being of their youth. In the short years since its emergence as a democratic country, the Republic of Montenegro has recognized this and continues to establish policies and programmes that provide for the empowerment and development of children. Part of this effort includes integrating child rights, and applying the principle of respect for the best interests of children, into all of the Government’s strategic documents and policies.
Nearly five months after regaining its independence, on 23 October 2006, the Government of Montenegro submitted a statement on accession to a set of United Nations conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. Exactly one month later, it became the 193rd, and newest, State party to the Convention, assuming obligations, in compliance with article 44, to submit periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Government of Montenegro prepared the initial report for the period 2006–2008, in addition to reports on the implementation of the Convention for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
From paper to pavement
Both sets of reports highlight how Montenegro’s ability to comply with the Convention is due, in large part, to the everyday activities of its citizens, who are creating a society where children are protected from all forms of inequality, where they enjoy healthy lives and where girls and boys have equal access to quality education. The reports also show that special attention is being paid to the protection of children deprived of parental care, those who are living with poor families or with disabilities, who have been victims of violence, abuse and neglect or who are in conflict with the law.
The reports demonstrate that considerable attention is directed towards the inclusion of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) population, and to children from internally displaced and refugee families. Programmes that provide education, foster care and health services to these communities are taking root throughout Montenegro. The national government has provided grants enabling municipal governments to undertake projects as specific as providing relocation and funding for two families from Niksic to contributing free textbooks for RAE students. Non-governmental organizations are also taking an active role in caring for these communities. Grants to groups such as the Institute for the Care of Refugees and the Red Cross Niksic are allowing them to provide refugee services, education programmes and social integration efforts for the RAE populations.
Integrating the Convention into National laws
The work that is being done throughout the country is possible because of Montenegro’s political and legal commitments to child rights. No document, or set of standards, has had a larger impact on the creation of laws and policies for children in Montenegro than the Convention. Its provisions form a baseline for the Government’s preparation and adoption of new legislation on family relations, child protection, education, health care, labour relations and criminal law. In addition to preparing laws to support children who have experienced domestic and institutional violence, the Government is updating amendments monitoring the ombudsperson’s office to ensure special provision for cases brought by children.
The Government of Montenegro has adopted a number of strategies and action plans that are central to the exercise and protection of child rights. The National Plan of Action for Children in Montenegro, 2004–2010, is the framework document that guides the activities and programmes fulfilling the rights of Montenegrin children. It covers child protection, access to and participation in education, implementation of birth registration and citizenship privileges, stewardship of the environment for sustainable development and security for children to grow up in healthy and safe communities. With these guidelines, Montenegro’s legal system is providing comprehensive safeguards for child rights. To ensure the enactment of these policies, the Government is working to establish institutional protection of child rights, including coordinated policies across the legal system, guardianship bodies, the Council for the Rights of the Child and various government and civil society sectors.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has stimulated greater protection, advocacy and awareness of child rights worldwide. In Montenegro, we are proud to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention and grateful to join the community of nations that acknowledge children as vital members of our communities, for whose futures the world’s governments must bear responsibility.
Dr Gordana Djurovic is a Professor of Economics in Podgorica, where she specializes in development economics and transition economies. She is the author of more than fifty articles published in international and national journals, as well as the author of a number of papers covering economic development, comparative economic analysis, and European integration. Since 2009 she has served as the Republic of Montenegro’s Minister for European Integration. Professor Djurovic is married and has two sons.
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