Romania is the second-largest country in Central and Eastern Europe, and the seventh-largest of the 27 current member states of the European Union (EU), of which it became a member of the European Union on 1 January 2007. Much remains to be done in terms of the country’s reform agenda and structural adjustment for sustained real and nominal convergence with the EU. However, disparities and an unfinished economic and social reform agenda are highlighted as important challenges which could be more difficult to address once cooperation agreements with most international donors are gradually phased out. In early 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) confirmed its commitment to complete the agreed UNICEF Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP) until 2009.
The UN Cooperation Framework for Romania (UNCF 2010-2012), which replaces the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), is the strategic instrument for programming of operational activities of the UN agencies in Romania. As the programme has been developed in the context of a new EU member state, it is consistent with the Romanian Government’s priorities driven by EU strategies, policies and instruments as well as the National Development Plan 2007-2013, the National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013, and the National Pact on Education and Strategic National Report regarding Social Protection and Social Inclusion. In addition, the programme is also relevant to the priorities of Romania’s Foreign Policy and National Strategy on International Development Cooperation. With its focus on the inclusive policies and practices, decentralization, inter-sectoral interventions, and broad-based partnerships, the UNICEF country programme directly supports national goals related to further reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and assure primary and secondary education.
UNICEF opened an office in Romania in 1991 to help respond to the extremely difficult situation of children at the time. Since then, indicators of child wellbeing have improved considerably with U5MR falling from 32 per thousand live births in 1990 to 15 in 2007. Widespread reforms have taken place in the child care system and the situation has drastically improved with standards now modelled on EU criteria. Following a 7-year accession period, Romania joined the EU in January 2007. The current 5-year UNICEF programme of cooperation ends in 2009 and the time has now come for UNICEF to transform its engagement in line with the current situation of children and the new realities of Romania as an EU member country. Since the office was opened 18 ago, UNICEF has gradually changed its forms of assistance from one based largely on service delivery to one which focuses on policy and system reform. In parallel, the office has developed a resource mobilisation capacity. The challenge is now to consolidate the progress for children and gradually transform UNICEF’s partnership into a new model of engagement, featuring a programme emphasis on the socially excluded, and a strengthening of the resource mobilisation component in a way which would lead towards the creation of a National Committee.
The EU promotes a social inclusion agenda which among other priorities encourages all member states to eradicate child poverty and to overcome discrimination and increase the integration of ethnic minorities. Within this framework, UNICEF will use its experience in evidenced-based advocacy and partnership building to make an impact on these priority areas. Key results will include: i) the identification of knowledge and capacity gaps by undertaking and supporting research and developing position papers and publications on themes and emerging issues of concern among Roma children; ii) best practices and high quality technical expertise will contribute to knowledge of what works best in different areas, including birth registration, early learning, parent education, and access to quality services for Roma children and families, including enhanced school attendance of Roma and other vulnerable children.
This programme component will support the development of new tools and strengthened capacities in the national statistical agency for sex- and age-disaggregated data collection on child poverty and well-being, as well as an enhanced capacity for analysing impacts on children of emerging economic situations and proposed policies. UNICEF will support participatory policy advocacy networks to influence national and regional debates in order to adjust policies and action for increased access to quality basic social services and resource allocations. This includes the leveraging of approximately EUR 3 billion in EU structural and cohesion funds, to which Romania is entitled since becoming a member of the Union, and some of which are intended for social sector funding, which could be used to assist reforms in the health and education sectors.