"JUSTICE FOR EVERY CHILD" - FINAL CONFERENCE: Following the principle of the child’s best interest to better protection of children's rights
The Final Conference of the program Justice for Every Child (Pravda za svako dijete) was held in Sarajevo. UNICEF has implemented the program since 2010 in cooperation with the authorities and relevant institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and with the support of the governments of Switzerland and Sweden. The two-day conference brought together 150 participants - officials, representatives of the justice, social protection, education and interior sectors, as well as municipalities, academia, human rights institutions, NGOs and other strategic partners in the field of justice.
Šimun Franjić from the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that this Conference aims to confirm and prove the full commitment of the state to improve children's access to justice, as well as strengthening all forms of cooperation in this field:
"In the past period, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made progress in protecting children's rights, primarily in terms of harmonizing the legislative framework with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopting strategic documents and action plans for better protection of children, and establishing a state-level coordination body to implement the Convention. The government's awareness of children at risk and children in contact with the law has been raised, the legislative and strategic framework for children has been strengthened, service provision has been improved and children's access to justice accordingly, and strong multi-sectoral coordination has been established, "said Šimun Franjić, emphasizing that the principle of "best interests of the child" has been introduced into the system.
"Across the country, the program has contributed to better evidence of the Law on the Protection and Treatment of Juveniles in Criminal Proceedings, improved the use of diversion and alternative measures for children in conflict with the law, and improved support services for children in the justice system. Hundreds of professionals working in the children's justice system have acquired knowledge and skills regarding new laws, principles of children's justice, practical application, as well as identifying and working with 'at risk' children, "Franjic said. The authorities should now continue the activities, to verify the recommendations of international committees to achieve a complete reform of the child protection system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially for children in conflict with the law, including the introduction of a restorative approach.
During the conference, it was pointed out that nowadays, after the successful completion of the Justice for Every Child Program, 63 percent of municipalities and cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have conditions for implementing key diversion measures for children in conflict with the law, such as community work. As many as 67 percent of prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina use these measures instead of the formal ones. The number of convicted children between 2011 and 2020, decreased by 71 percent, and the number of children in conflict with the law decreased by 45 percent compared to 2014.
When it comes to supporting the children who are victims and witnesses, it was pointed out that the engagement of experts in the police, courts and prosecutor's offices has increased, to support children in proceedings, and as an example it was stated that in 2013 only two experts were engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whilst today there are 24 experts which are financed from local budgets. The importance of the Secondary Prevention Program in schools, which includes training teachers to identify children at risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of crime and referring them to support services was also emphasized. About 150,000 children a year benefit from this program, and about 7,000 receive direct support.
The Ambassador of Switzerland to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Daniel Hunn proudly pointed out the visible results achieved during the implementation of the Program:
“Today we have child-friendly justice services in 28 institutions such as courts, prosecutors' offices and police stations. An example of this is the special examination rooms which have been set up and are specially adapted for children. We can say that children in Bosnia and Herzegovina are much better protected within the justice, security, and social protection sector in comparison with the period when we started the project more than ten years ago. This program has played an instrumental role in bringing the country's laws and policies closer to international and regional standards and creating better conditions for children in conflict with the law.”, said Daniel Hunn, emphasizing the good results in the fields of capacity building of professionals, including the social workers, police, judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
The representative of the Swedish Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nedim Bukvić, emphasized the importance of comprehensive support provided through the Justice for Every Child Program:
"The program has supported authorities and judicial systems at all levels, as well as civil society, to improve access to legal protection and social services for children, as well as to the application of international standards in terms of achieving justice for every child. Much has been achieved, but reforms must continue. More than ever, we now need the cooperation between judicial and social services," said Nedim Bukvic.
UNICEF Deputy Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Veronika Vashchenko referred to the many successful results of the multi-year Program, and pointed out that significant job is ahead:
“Efforts to increase support for boys and girls as victims and witnesses of crime must be a priority. Public confidence in the justice system is directly related to the way the system protects children and women, protects their rights as victims and witnesses, and supports their social, emotional and developmental needs. One of the focuses is on children who are in contact with the law due to family disputes, or in cases where the abolition or suspension of parenthood is being considered. We need to strengthen the capacity of the justice sector to ensure the strong participation of children in the decision-making process and take steps to ensure that the social and economic situation of children and families is regularly considered.", said Veronika Vashchenko, adding that UNICEF take this opportunity to reaffirm its’ commitment to this ambitious reform of the justice system for children.
The final conference discussed the achievements and contributions of the "Justice for Children" program to reforms in the judiciary and child protection systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and exchange good practices on restorative approaches for children in conflict with the law, protection of victims and witnesses of crime and prevention programs. aimed at children at risk. The conference has also contributed to strengthening the sustainability of results, identifying shortcomings and ways to further strengthen interventions and services for children in contact with the justice system.
The overall goal of the Justice for Every Child program is to support necessary changes in legislation, strengthen the work of officials and decision-makers, optimize procedures and improve the quality of services to make decisions in the best interests of children, in line with international standards of child justice.
UNICEF djeluje u nekim od najugroženijih područja na svijetu, kako bi obuhvatili djecu iz najranjivijih kategorija. Širom 190 država i teritorija, mi radimo za svako dijete, bilo gdje, kako bi sagradili bolji svijet za sve. Mi nikad ne odustajemo.
Za više informacija o UNICEF-u i našem radu za djecu, posjetite www.unicef.org.