UNICEF has been working closely with the Government at all levels to aid implementation of the rights of the child and to advance national capacity in child rights, with an emphasis on universal access to quality social services. These initiatives are rights-based and grounded in the concept of preventing harm, risk, and vulnerability, as well as in the principle of a continuum of child care.
Fostering New Understanding of Protection Issues
All of UNICEF’s activities are carried out in close collaboration with a broad range of national and international partners, including the Mejlis (parliament), National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, and key Ministries.
Members of Parliament have especially strengthened their capacities on principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), through participation in a special workshop organised with UNICEF support; in turn, this facilitated their nationwide tour to promote the rights of children with disabilities. Turkmenistan’s increasing responsiveness to its international commitments also is illustrated by the Government’s membership in the important regional initiative “Ending Placement of Children Under 3 in Institutions”; most of these are children with disabilities.
Employing its members’ enhanced capacities, the Mejlis also has hosted the Third Central Asian Child Protection Forum in 2011.
Strengthening Planning, Programming and Policies
UNICEF has been providing technical assistance to the Government for development plans and programmes to ensure children’s right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. The focus is on children particularly vulnerable to such violations, including children with disabilities, children deprived of parental care, children from single-parent families, and children in conflict with the law.
For example, the well-being of vulnerable children and families has been supported through assistance to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to review its universal provisions of social protection, which is expected to help in establishing a child-sensitive social protection system. Key initiatives also include activities for promoting children’s rights and action in line with the country’s commitments to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Likewise, UNICEF is keen in supporting the Government’s ability to set priorities for children. Evidence-based advocacy, along with mobilisation of policy and decision makers, communities, families and children, is helping to place children at the centre of development agenda and to create a framework for rights-based, inclusive and protective policies for children. Through these interventions, disaggregated baseline data collected on key child protection indicators will be available for future planning purposes.
Support to Improved Social Services
UNICEF also particularly supports strengthening or establishing of community-based social services (day care, parenting education, support for children with disabilities, psychosocial support, vocational education). This includes the provision of alternative forms of care for the protection of those at risk from violence, exploitation and abuse.
A Focus on Juvenile Justice
Children in police custody, children who face trial and children in detention are among the most vulnerable in any society. The justice system itself, when not adapted to children’s rights and needs, often can push the most vulnerable children further into exclusion and poverty instead of extending a supportive hand.
UNICEF has been supporting national efforts toward juvenile justice reform since 2007. This work has included a comprehensive situation analysis of the juvenile justice system, as well as development of a vision and strategy for reform. In turn, Turkmenistan’s recently adopted Criminal Executive Code, building on this longstanding UNICEF advocacy, creates a separate section on children and largely adheres to international standards of juvenile justice.
UNICEF has supported the establishment of a national coordination body for implementation of the new Juvenile Justice Programme and has helped to set up a pilot model for the juvenile justice system that incorporates a mechanism for registering complaints from children who believe their rights have been violated.
In addition, UNICEF prioritises prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration at community level of children in contact with the law. It also has assisted the provision of welfare and rehabilitation services at the juvenile and women’s penal colonies.
Addressing Child Labour
Turkmenistan’s new Law on the Guarantees of the Rights of the Child, enacted in 2014 with UNICEF support, prohibits child involvement in agricultural and other types of work. The President of Turkmenistan has repeatedly reminded local authorities of the inadmissibility of engaging children in agricultural work. The country’s legislation on child labour also has been aligned with international standards, and strengthening of legislation on child labour continues to be ongoing.
UNICEF has supported the enactment and implementation of these progressive laws through sustained advocacy with the Mejlis, as well as through its series of trainings advocating for child rights, with a focus on protection from child exploitation.