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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2017 Serbia: Summative evaluation to strengthen implementation of justice for children system in the Republic of Serbia (2010-2017)

Author: Maja Horvat, Carole Berrih, Bistra Netkova, Dejana Razic Ilic

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows: “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as ‘Part 3’.


In the area of justice for children, the Law on Juvenile Criminal Offenders and the Protection of Minors in Criminal Justice Proceedings (Juvenile Justice Law-JJL) was adopted some ten years ago, being a milestone in the reform of the Serbian justice for children system and its harmonization with relevant European and international standards.  In order to use UNICEF’s professional expertise and mandate to support implementation of the JJL, the partnership with Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs (MoLEVSA) was initiated and subsequently, in the period 2010-2017, two large projects dealing with the above issues were implemented. In the first one, UNICEF acted as a partner who contributed through providing technical support during project’s design and implementation in the area of juvenile offenders, while in the second project it took over the lead role across the entire intervention.
Evaluated object refers to the selected components of two large projects being implemented in the Republic of Serbia in the area of judiciary and social welfare system, with components focusing on juvenile justice. These two projects represent the key reform endeavours in the respective area. The first project, entitled ‘Improving the Delivery of Justice in Serbia’ (IMG project), was implemented by International Management Group (IMG) from 2011-2014, with the value of the evaluated object of 632,000 EUR. The second project, entitled ‘Strengthening the justice and social welfare systems to advance the protection of children in Serbia’ (hereinafter: IPA project) funded by EC, was implemented by UNICEF from 2014-2017 , with the value of the evaluated object of 1.329,300 EUR.


Even though the Juvenile Justice Law entered into force in 2006, reforms in this area accelerated in 2010 with the IMG project, being the reason why this summative evaluation is taking this year as a starting point. As its follow-up, IPA project is coming to an end in 2017, so one cycle of reform is being concluded. In order to continue with reforms of the justice system, the purpose of this evaluation is to reflect what has been achieved in this 7-year period and what were effects of interventions of these two large projects.
The objectives of the evaluation were to identify the best approaches that were undertaken over the 7-year period and help further planning and implementation of justice for children policies and addressing recognized weaknesses and lessons learned by the key line ministries, professionals in judiciary and social welfare systems, EU and UNICEF, other key institutions in the justice system, main child rights coordination bodies and NGO.


The methodology model used for this evaluation was based on a mix method approach of data gathering to yield the most reliable and valid answers to the EQs, combining desk review of existing programme-related and relevant policy documents, as well as analysis of available secondary monitoring data. Primary data collection tools included survey questionnaires for various target groups (mainly center for social welfare and judicial professionals), as well as face-to-face semi structured group of individual interviews, focus group discussions and observation. This approach enabled triangulation of results and consequently robustness of the final evaluation findings.
Sampling of the relevant informants was based on the presented stakeholder analysis, recognizing their different levels and types of involvement. In order to finalize the list of respondents, the evaluation team analyzed the size and structure of various target groups across the components. Decisions on the sample were thus based on the following principles: geographical scope of programme activities, overall number of informants in certain identified stakeholder group and insurance of cost-efficiency, organizing as many interviews as possible in each visited location. Finally, the evaluators also deemed important to directly assess whether the refurnished rooms and mobile audio-visual equipment for victims/witnesses’ units provided by the project are in use and functional what was done through observations.

Findings and Conclusions:

The evaluated projects were grounded in a comprehensive problem evidence base strongly confirming the need for intervention. Conducted interviews within the scope of this evaluation (N= 120) have also confirmed that the projects appropriately recognized the needs of all main target groups and selected an intervention area in a very relevant way, with many observed implementation gaps to be tackled.
The system of ordering and executing diversionary measures/alternative sanctions reached the level of routine. Diversionary measures and alternative sanctions have had positive effect on behavioral changes of juveniles and effected the reduced trend of recidivism among juvenile offenders. The new and innovative service was established (Units) for prevention of secondary victimization among children victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings and the process of using the Units was initiated, with evident satisfaction among the stakeholders who have used their services. There is still a significant space for improving their visibility and use. In terms of supporting children in expressing their opinions and taking into consideration their opinion in civil proceedings, content and timelines of CSW reports and opinions and duration of court litigations improved. The principle of the best interest of the child, although much better understood and applied by the CSW experts is still somewhat vague among the judges. The evaluated interventions can be assessed as valuable pioneering attempts in operationalizing existing national legislation and international standards aimed at improving the contact of children and juveniles with the judiciary in the Republic of Serbia, with examples of paying attention to include home-grown knowledge, innovativeness, skill-based capacity building and partnerships building to ensure ownership as an important asset for any new intervention in this area.


Strategic: Continue with the capacity building of judicial and CSW professionals working on criminal and civil cases; Secure sustainability of the Units for victim and witness protection by formal recognition and systemic financing; Further develop additional service providers for diversionary/measures and secure the sustainability of the existing ones; Secure more capacity building responsive to specific vulnerabilities; Develop new interventions particularly focused on police officers to prevent secondary victimization as a result of their work; Re-establish the Juvenile Justice Council as a body directing reforms; Make the necessary changes or amendments to the Juvenile Justice Law; Advocate that all relevant strategic documents have reference the justice for children principle

Operational: Secure conditions for an increased use of the currently under-represented types of diversionary measures/alternative sanctions; Prepare standardized monitoring sheets for the Units to record data on the cases in which they have provided assistance; Research the practice of implementing diversionary measures/alternative sanctions outside the pilots; Prepare a comprehensive database of all service providers and their external collaborators to enable monitoring and focused capacity building; Follow-up on the recommendations for national data gathering with regards to children in civil proceeding; Put in place the monitoring of quality of provided free legal aid among the network’s members; Put in place a comprehensive monitoring of recidivism among juvenile offenders fulfilling diversionary measure and alternative sanctions; Clarify the cause of difference in data on diversionary measures and alternative sanctions between judicial and social welfare sectors; Investigate further potential use of equipped rooms for conducting interviews with children secured by the IMG.

Lessons Learned:

LL1: Always rely on partnership with local stakeholders, targeting both the political and technocratic level of governance
LL2: Always look for systemic solutions in developing new community services with up-front analysis of sustainability shortcomings
LL3: In monitoring practices, maintain the focus on capturing outcomes and impacts, without disregarding outputs, and with a focus on comparability of data
LL4: While keeping focusing on monitoring outcomes and impacts, further elaborate to what degree country-level contribution can be secured through project-level inputs
LL5: If possible, avoid conducting the final evaluation while the project is still being implemented
LL6: Be more realistic in planning needed time for implementation or secure additional management human resources
LL7: Allocate more resources to promotion of project’s results and general awareness raising

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