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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hoping for important decisions: The Second Intergovernmental Conference on Making Europe and Asia Fit for Children

© UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina/2004
Children relaxing and sharing experiences after the interviews are done.

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 15 May 2004—Hosted by the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Germany, the Second Intergovernmental Conference on Making Europe and Central Asia Fit for Children, 13-15 May, focused on five areas for priority action: investing in children; children moving across borders; violence against children; social exclusion; and cities fit for children.  UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Redgrave attended the conference, along with government representatives from more than 50 countries, and delegations of young people.
The participants gathered together to analyze the systemic, socio-cultural and economic barriers that contribute to, or allow, the abuse of children and their rights. Masha Sirotkina, 15 years old, from Moscow, Russia was one of the many children who attended the conference; she shared her experiences with UNICEF.

Russian delegate Masha Sirotkina: In her own words

It is so strange to just be called “Masha from Russia!” Usually, people who know me call me “Masha from Penza [a city in Russia about 600 km from Moscow]” or even “Masha from school number six.”

But this has changed since going on this trip to represent children from Russia here at the Second Intergovernmental Conference on Children in Europe and Central Asia.

I am in Sarajevo now, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country in the Balkans. There is no need to remind anybody of the fact that Bosnia has recently gone through a terrible war. The people in Sarajevo remember those awful events and almost every corner of the city gives testimony to the destruction that took place during the siege of the city between 1992 and 1995.

Near a brand-new supermarket in the city centre—a ruined building. In the walls of almost every single house here—bullet holes, smaller ones and bigger ones. War? Yes, there was a war going on here not too long ago.

© UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina/2004
Masha and Nino interview Vanessa Redgrave, the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador who is participating in the conference.

However, today we are here to witness the Second International Conference on Children in Europe and Central Asia. The most important thing—and not only for me personally—is that children are participating in the event: 26 young representatives from 15 countries in Europe and Central Asia have arrived. I am part of the Russian delegation; the other two Russian teenagers here are Katya Tsvetkova and Stas Nikonov, who are both peer-to-peer educators from a youth project in St. Petersburg.

All the young participants met two days prior to the conference to prepare for the meeting with Ministers and other state representatives in the Bosnian capital. The preparation was done in working groups—there were five focus groups altogether, just like there were five focus topics at the conference: Investing in children, Children crossing borders, Violence against children, Discrimination and Education, Child-friendly cities. There was, however, also enough space to make friends with others, or, as adults would call it, to “establish international diplomatic relations.” We shared our points of view on all the topics, discussed them and prepared ourselves for the presentation at the plenary session of the conference.

As the conference continued, it became more and more important that we, the young people, were there to share our views. Participation of young people is very important, especially because it was our future that was being discussed there. Undoubtedly, this conference will affect our lives.



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