© UNICEF Serbia

Violence feeds into, and is fed by, social exclusion. This is a key issue for Serbia, where there are worrying levels of physical and psychological violence against children and women and where violent crimes by adolescent boys are on the rise.

Social inclusion, on the other hand, is an effective way to counter violence, ensuring that those who are on the margins of society have a decent standard of living and equal access to basic services and entitlements as well as support in times of stress. UNICEF works across a whole range of sectors and with a multitude of partners to tackle violence in homes, schools and communities. One prime example is our work to help define guidelines for professionals and build capacity for the use of these guidelines in practice. Another is our support for Schools without Violence.

The challenges

There are problems in the home, in the classroom and on the street. Around 67 per cent of children aged 2 to 14 experience physical or psychological punishment at home, with boys more likely than girls to be exposed to severe punishment. Around 65 per cent of school pupils have experienced violence at least once, and 22 per cent report frequent peer violence. And from 2005 to 2008, there was an escalation in the number of violent crimes committed by juveniles.

There has been progress such as the 2009 Law on Education which mainstreams violence prevention in schools. In the education sector, the Schools without Violence initiative has improved the reporting of violence and increased the use of non-violent conflict resolution. But there is still much work to be done to enforce similar practices in the health, social welfare and justice sectors.

What we do

UNICEF helps to turn legislation into a reality through the development of indicators, standards and guidelines on violence. The 2009 Law on Education built on UNICEF’s work on ‘soft-law’ initiatives, including the development of guidelines to protect children from violence. These stressed the need for coordination between sectors on violence protection to support the General Protocol for the Protection of children from abuse and neglect in the education system, and specialized guidelines (protocols) for other sectors: health, social welfare and justice. Most recently, the Ministry of Education has built on good practice examples developed through UNICEF, and adopted a by-law (of the Education Law) on prevention of abuse and neglect. And we continue to work with the Schools without Violence (SWV) initiative, which helps schools to meet their legal obligations, and is now reaching over 200 schools – more than 17 per cent of all schools in Serbia.

© UNICEF Serbia

Building the evidence

  • UNICEF provides key data through Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys.
  • Our 2009 evaluation of SWVs confirmed that these schools had reduced violence levels and this contributed to the development of the 2010 education by-law on neglect and abuse.
  • We work with networks of rights-based NGOs that analyze available data, carry out specific research to complement general statistics and use the findings to build policy dialogue with government.

Strengthening systems

  • Having already played a major role in measures to tackle violence in education, UNICEF is now strengthening the ability of the health and social welfare services to prevent and respond to violence by providing indicators, standards and guidelines and supporting cross-sectoral training at municipal levels.

Creating social accountability

  • UNICEF’s work on the SWV initiative is part of our concerted effort to mobilize public opinion around violence, making schools accountable for their response, and raising the awareness of parents and pupils on their rights and obligations on this issue.
  • , We are building the capacities of our civil society partners to monitor violence against children. Partnerships between civil society organisations and state decision-makers are being reinforced, which will help strengthen the ability of public service systems to identify, monitor and address violence against children.

Working in partnership

  • The SWV initiative is a unique partnership between the Ministry of Education, other relevant ministries and institutions, the private sector, schools and communities.
  • It is the first such initiative to raise funds from the Serbian public – creating a real sense of public ownership.
  • Around 30 companies and organizations have adopted specific SWVs, and the initiative is backed by UNICEF National Ambassadors for Serbia, the basketball star Aleksandar Sasa Djordjevic and the tennis champion Ana Ivanovic.
  • Our evaluation of the SWV initiative led to additional funding from the World Bank to create a school mentoring and peer network among SWVs.






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