Adolescents can make an immense contribution to Serbia’s national development if given the support and space they need to participate in the decisions that affect them. As Serbia’s burgeoning productive force, it is important for the country – as well as for individual adolescents – that the transition from childhood to adulthood goes well, particularly for adolescents who are marginalized and isolated.
UNICEF aims to tackle the problems that pull adolescents away from society. These include education that excludes them, the lack of specialized health services tailored to their needs, weaknesses in juvenile justice and the failure to ‘catch’ those who slip through the social services net. Adolescents also lack the means to make their voices heard on the decisions that affect them.
Many of today’s adolescents were born during Serbia’s years of conflict and isolation, and continue to pay the price today. Those from the poorest families, Roma communities and from fractured families are at greatest risk of social exclusion and loss of opportunity.
The Government adopted a National Youth Strategy in 2008 and an Action Plan in 2009, and has established Youth Offices in more than 100 municipalities. But there is some way to go before the most marginalized adolescents achieve their full rights.
What we do
UNICEF advocates for comprehensive public and private services tailored to the needs of especially vulnerable adolescents, spanning our work on health, inclusive education, child care reform, violence and justice for the most marginalized children.
Our work with schools, for example, includes a checklist of measures to spot adolescents who are at risk of dropping out, and the Schools without Violence initiative helps to catch potential problems at an early stage, before it is too late.
We help municipal Youth Offices coordinate and support programmes to inform, educate and mobilize adolescents, particularly those at risk. This includes providing information and voluntary services with and for adolescents, support for youth clubs, and support for programmes that improve their health, their safety and their job prospects.
Our work on juvenile justice includes the development of guidelines and advocacy for resources to support the use of diversionary solutions for young offenders.
And we partner with the front-line NGOs working to address the risks of HIV infection among adolescents living and working on the streets, particularly young injecting drug users and sex workers. Our aim is to connect their services, such as HIV education, condom distribution and needle exchange to local safety schemes for adolescents, linking them to state health, education and social services.
Building the evidence
Creating social accountability
Working in partnership