Representatives of the Embassies of Sweden and Switzerland, accompanied by UNICEF Representative in BiH, visited Prosecutor’s Office of Zenica-Doboj Canton and Elementary school “9.Maj” in Pazarić
The aim of the visit was to observe the results of the Project, Justice for Children
22.09.2022.: Representatives of the Embassies of Sweden and Switzerland, accompanied by UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), visited today Prosecutor’s Office of Zenica-Doboj Canton and Primary school Pazaric. The aim of the visit was to observe the results of the Project, Justice for Children, which was implemented by UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina and partners, from 2012, thanks to funding from Sweden and Switzerland.
Delegation had the opportunity to discuss with the Deputy Chief Prosecutor and victim witness support provider – psychologist, the treatment of children in criminal proceedings and the implementation of child protection measures and services for child victims and witnesses and visited the child-friendly room.
The chief prosecutor of the Zenica-Doboj Canton, Vesna Kaknjo, in her welcoming speech, pointed out that thanks to this project, "the ZDK Prosecutor's Office has the best conditions for dealing with children in Bosnia and Herzegovina", while the deputy chief prosecutor, Vesna Bjelošević, pointed out that they were among the first in Bosnia and Herzegovina to hire an expert psychologist:
"In the department for juveniles, we have two female prosecutors and a psychologist, this department is representative and can be an example to other prosecutor's offices that we also provide advisory assistance to. This has been recognized by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as by other prosecutor's offices," said Vesna Bjelošević, while the prosecutor and head of the department for juveniles, Adisa Kadušić, also highlighted the support they provide to police administrations in more difficult cases:
"Police administrations in the Zenica-Doboj Canton do not have hired psychologists, so whenever something happens, our professional associate is there from the first contact with children and minors".
The programme made significant improvements in the areas of advancing the legal framework to introduce the measures diverting children from criminal proceedings in 63% municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, resulting in detention being used as a measure of last resort. The enhancements resulted in decreasing the number of convicted children by 71% between 2011 and 2020, while only 1.8 custodial sentences are imposed per 100,000 children, which is well below EU average of 59. Furthermore, the achievements contributed to 45% decrease in the number of children in conflict with the law reported by the police in 2020 compared to 2014.
Important aspects of the discussion also involved the key benefits of having expert advisors such as psychologists and social workers, available within the justice system in Zenica Doboj Canton.
"We do everything in the best interest of the children, so they pass the whole process with as little stress as possible. Thanks to UNICEF and the Law on the Protection and Treatment of Children and Minors, the focus has been placed on the aspect of protecting child victims and witnesses who are treated in the right way. During the past 10 months, 95 children have passed through the child-friendly room as witnesses or victims," said Melisa Vardo, expert counsellor-psychologist at the Zenica-Doboj Canton Prosecutor's Office, emphasizing the importance of the education she had the opportunity to attend during the implementation of the program.
Elementary school “9.Maj” in Pazarić is one the schools, implementing the Secondary prevention project, introduced in 2015, and being implemented in all schools in Republika Srpska and 4 Cantons of FBiH. The school-based secondary prevention programme aims at enhancing the wellbeing and protection of children and adolescents through early identification and support to children identified as exposed to risk factors such as offending, violence, neglect, and abuse. More than 150,000 children across Bosnia and Herzegovina indirectly, while 7,000 receive direct support.
Director of Primary School "9. maj" Adnan Fejzić underlined that this is a very important process that is inevitable for quality education.
"Our school was involved in this process as a pilot school, back in 2016, and this is one of the activities in which we are a pilot school - from the introduction of e-diaries to the inclusion of children on the move in regular classes. The quality of a school depends on the quality of its employees, and it should be constantly worked on".
As part of the program, prevention programs were developed, and supported training of teachers to identify risk factors to which children are exposed, training of school support service experts to provide support to children at risk, as well as training of a wider network of support experts in the community, and services to provide additional help when the risk cannot be addressed within the school's support network.
School psychologist Arijana Osmanović Štukan pointed out that the role of the staff is particularly important in spotting the risks that a child might find himself in:
"If we recognize risky behavior, we are obliged to act on the risk factors we have identified, then it is the duty of the teaching staff to report it, and we are obliged to provide professional help to every student who finds himself in that situation. The imperative of the program is the best interest of the child, protection of personal data, de-stigmatization and elimination of discrimination.".
Justice for Every Child Project supported development of the prevention programme, training of teachers in identifying risk factors children are exposed to, training of school support-service experts in providing support to children at risk, as well as training wider support network and community-based support services, to provide additional support when the risk cannot be resolved within school support network.
“Switzerland has supported the Justice for Children project over the past 11 years, and we can proudly say that we achieved very tangible results, as we could see it today. All those results could not have been achieved without continuous commitment of all domestic institutions, strongly supported by UNICEF. However, the work is not over, and we count on BiH authorities to now take full ownership over the processes, including through improved public financing for child protection, and notably through annual action and budget plans with appropriate allocation of resources”, stated Haris Lokvančić, Head of Diplomatic Affairs at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Swedish Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina also pointed out their satisfaction with what was achieved:
„Like our Swiss partners, Sweden has supported the J4C programme since its beginning. We are very proud of the results achieved during this time and pleased with the partnerships with the different institutions on different levels in BiH and with UNICEF. The good results have clearly been demonstrated throughout the implementation of the programme. Now, the challenge is to sustain - and develop what has been achieved. BIH institutions need to follow up on such as ensuring minimum standards for child friendly interview rooms, scaling up the secondary prevention in schools, development of municipal referral mechanisms as well as coordinating with civil society to enhance the well-being and protection of children and youth. Our hope is that responsible BiH institutions will allocate the necessary resources to ensure the sustainability of results achieved", said Ms. Eva Smedberg, from Development Cooperation department of the Embassy of Sweden.
The representative of UNICEF in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dr. Rownak Khan emphasized the importance of the achieved results, but also the need for further work on their improvement:
“While we recognise these impressive achievements, we know that significant work remains. And the coming months and years will require efforts to sustain the gains achieved so far, and advance new areas of work. Efforts to strengthen responses to boys and girls as victims and witnesses of crime must be prioritized. More than ever, close cooperation across the justice and social service sectors is required. And we must look to weave modern, well-trained social workers and child psychologists into the fabric of the justice response. We must strengthen the justice sector’s ability to facilitate meaningful child participation in the decision-making process and take steps to ensure that the social and economic situation of the child and the family is systematically and regularly taken into consideration by the judiciary”, said dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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.