Protection and Promotion of Child Rights are at the heart of the People’s Advocate institution

People’s Advocate in Albania for Child Rights

Anila Mirija
15 February 2021

As in many countries, UNICEF in Albania has been one of the main advocates for the establishment of a dedicated section on child rights and protection within the People’s Advocate institutions. As a result, in 2014 Albanian legislation provided for the establishment of this section. Today we are discussing with Ms. Nejla Peka, the first Commissioner for the Protection and Promotion of Child Rights at the People’s Advocate institution. Appointed by the Parliament of Albania on March 15, 2018, the Commissioner is a lawyer with over 24 years of experience in the areas of administrative law, constitutional law and human rights. Ms. Peka possesses the academic title of Associated Professor and the Doctor of Legal Sciences degree.   

  1. What does the Section on the Promotion and Protection of Child Rights (SPPCR) represent and why is it necessary?

The SPPCR represents an important unit for the protection and promotion of child rights within the Ombudsperson’s office. Its establishment by law and its activation is a meaningful indicator of guarantees put in place for the fulfilment of child rights in Albania.   

  1. How does the Section support children and what is the level of children and parents’ awareness?

The focus of SPPCR activity intertwines two main functions: the protection and the promotion of child rights. In performing its administrative functions, this Section has prioritized a child-friendly approach that maximises the accessibility by children; utilization of a simple and easy-to-grasp language; and provision of assurances to children and their families that this approach is true and genuine. To this end, we have rolled out a website for the Section, where we describe in simple terms who we are, what we do, what are our responsibilities and how can children approach us to file a complaint, present a request or simply share their thoughts. In addition, we have made use of diverse means of communication, such as: disseminating leaflets; have made a smartphone application available; and have set up a Facebook page to increase visibility of the Section’s work. These have served as a good communication bridge between us and the children as well as their parents, have provided opportunities for them to interact with us face to face or through other channels.    

  1. What is the share of child rights violations in the cases handled by the People’s Advocate over the years? How can this number increase? Do you receive complaints by children directly?

Increasing our proactiveness in protecting and promoting the rights of the child is the keynote of People’s Advocate and particularly of our Section’s work. Our Section has handled close to 200 child rights violation cases in 2020. Certainly, thanks to the effective collaboration with and the administrative, technical and financial assistance of international organisations, such as UNICEF or Save the Children, but also by making the most of every opportunity, we are seeking to identify the right mechanisms for increasing the number of complaints filed by children themselves. Indeed, compared to 2019 when we handled 10 cases presented by children, in 2020 children filed 15 complaints with the People’s Advocate.

  1. Albania reports every five years to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. What were the recommendations of this Committee or other treaty bodies to Albania as a State Party to ensure that People’s Advocate and particularly the Children’s Section has the adequate human, financial and technical resources to properly perform its functions?

The CRC Committee as well as other international bodies have pointed out and continue to underline the need for ensuring the institutional, financial and administrative independence of the People’s Advocate and that of the Section. Therefore, guarantees of a dedicated budget and strengthening of the institutional capacities are viewed as key preconditions for the fulfilment of the constitutional and legal mandate of the Ombudsperson in any democratic society, as a guardian of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every individual.  

  1. What opportunities do you offer to children living in remote locations or those who face communication challenges to present complaints for violations of their rights and to obtain remedies provided by your Section?

For all those who are unable to access the People’s Advocate or the SPPCR, we constantly try to disseminate information through open days activities and meetings in schools.  

  1. How do you find the collaboration with UNICEF as the lead organisation for child rights? What are your joint plans for re-imagining a better Albania for all children?

Our cooperation with UNICEF is quite optimal and I would not hesitate to say that it served not only in terms of establishing a network for information and experience exchange, but also in terms of a very efficient technical, administrative and financial assistance.