UNICEF in Turkmenistan
UNICEF has worked in Turkmenistan since 1992 and is firmly committed to supporting the government and nascent civil society partners to ensure that children are able to access the full spectrum of rights in a progressive manner.
The UNICEF programme of cooperation is informed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), of which Turkmenistan is a signatory. Under the Convention all children have the fundamental and inherent right to survival, development, and participation. Advocacy for children is conducted within a framework of a culture that cherishes children and with roughly two million of its population under 18, there is a firm recognition that this is a very critical segment of society.
There is also considerable fiscal space for child-friendly policies, with development of the country’s vast oil and gas reserves and energy exports that have contributed to an increase in the GDP by an annual average of 18.6% since 2000. UNICEF advocates for policies that promote equity and contribute to addressing disparities.
It is now acknowledged that at the level of quantitative targets, the country is set to achieve most of the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. This is a reflection of the nearly two decade long cooperation here. UNICEF has worked with the government in helping to achieve many of these goals – including full gender parity in school education, advances in child immunization, initiating juvenile justice reform, addressing child labour and advances in ensuring micro-nutrients through salt iodization and flour fortification.
In line with the policy decision of the Government of Turkmenistan to harmonize its laws with key human rights instruments, UNICEF works with the government to fulfil its international treaty obligations. A review of child-related legislation in 2007, for example, revealed a number of gaps between national legislation and international standards. The Presidential Decree banning child labour in 2005 was followed by the appointment in 2008 of the Prosecutor General to monitor the elimination of child labour. Reforming the juvenile justice system in accordance with international norms and standards is now a priority. Another law passed in 2008 guaranteeing equal rights of women has paved the way for greater economic and social opportunities and is likely to generate a positive effect on the growth and development of children.
Over the years, UNICEF has influenced a series of measures and policies with respect to the adoption of international standards for child immunization; flour fortification protocols and processes; baby friendly hospital norms and practices; and safe delivery practices.
UNICEF programming has also made headway in the areas of juvenile justice, child rights advocacy, and Early Childhood Development (ECD). During this programme period, UNICEF seeks to advance cooperation and internalize world-class practices and norms with respect to the collection, analysis and dissemination of critical indicators in health, social and development standards related to women and children in Turkmenistan. Work in this area has commenced. A few qualitative studies such as the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) study with regard to childcare practices have been undertaken to fill the gaps in data, but proposed studies in areas like nutritional status of families, educational attainment of children, need to be taken forward.
In addition to relevant government ministries, UNICEF works in partnership with emerging civil society organisations, the private sector, media and cultural institutions in contributing to the development of vibrant cultural and intellectual opportunities for children.
In keeping with the MDGs, the CRC, and UNDAF outcomes, the new country programme (2010 – 2015) supports the progressive and sustainable realization of the rights of children and women. More specifically, the key targets to be reached are:
(a) Reduction of under 5 mortality rate by at least one-third, from 50 to 33 per 1,000 live births by a stronger focus on neonatal health, family care and community support;
(b) Reduction of underweight prevalence by at least one-third, from 8 to 5 per cent through better infant feeding practices, elimination of micronutrient deficiencies and improved community support;
(c) Increased and equitable budget allocations for national plans on pre-school and basic education and juvenile justice;
(d) Implementing mechanisms incorporated in national child protection and gender policy frameworks to detect, manage, refer and follow-up cases of abuse, exploitation and violence against boys and girls;
(e) At least 50 per cent of children between the ages of 4 – 7 years attend kindergartens adhering to ELDS standards and at least 25 per cent of schools provide basic education using child-friendly school standards; and
(f) Reduction of HIV risks and vulnerability among adolescents and pregnant women
UNICEF employs a range of strategies to engage with the government and partners in Turkmenistan. As the emphasis is on working at the policy level to influence a range of enabling laws and instruments for the welfare of children, strong partnerships are critical. The chief strategies include: partnerships, knowledge development, capacity building, and advocacy.
UNICEF works in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry, the Ministry of Education, the Parliament, State Statistics Committee and other government ministries and agencies. In addition, strong partnerships have been established with cultural institutions, media, and civil society organisations. For a list of partners, click here.
UNICEF has developed over time, a range of resources targeted at different stakeholders and partners including children and families, policy makers/legislators, health and education professionals, donors, and the general public. These include, for example, textbooks, manuals for professionals, fairy tales for children, and fundraising kits. For a full range of resources, click here.
UNICEF helps build knowledge, capacities and capabilities of its partners at periodic intervals. Frequent workshops are organised with government support to impart knowledge and training to legislators, health professionals, teachers and the media. UNICEF uses its global reach to link institutions in country with those outside. For a list of capacity building activities, click here.
UNICEF’s advocacy in Turkmenistan is chiefly with policy makers. A range of tools targeted at influencing decision makers together with capacity building exercises are employed to highlight the issues facing children and women in Turkmenistan. These include the mass media, the web, and non-traditional media.