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The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: President marks child rights 20th year

Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 16 November 2009 -  During a panel discussion celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the President Gjorgi Ivanov, emphasized the responsibility of the State to provide basic services for all children and highlighted the role of the family in providing a protective environment.

The panel discussion was hosted by the EU Special Representative and Head of Delegation, Erwan Fouéré.  Also participating were UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett, and Slovenian Ambassador and Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, Alain Brian Bergant.

According to President Ivanov, child rights violations are more evident in economically deprived areas in the country, where the systems for health protection, social welfare and education are less developed.

“As the President of all citizens I believe that an important challenge for all of us is to ensure adequate living conditions and equal education opportunities for all children and families,” said President Ivanov.

Ratified  immediately after the country declared independence in 1991, the Convention has provided a vision for advancing child rights in the country. Under-five mortality has been cut in half from 33 per 1000 live births in 1990, to 15 per 1000 live births in 2007. Although some children are missing out, national primary school attendance rates have been maintained at over 90 per cent. Furthermore, numerous laws have been amended based on the Convention’s provisions.

Reflecting on the challenges ahead, UNICEF Representative, Mr Sheldon Yett said, “The recent global economic downturn exposes many children to increased poverty, and no country is immune to the effects of the crisis. Public budgets may need to be reallocated, but it is essential to maintain current investments in preventive health care, basic education and social services. Future gains from these investments in human capital are likely to be much larger than the financial savings that would be realised by making cuts now.” 

As a European Union candidate country, the EU integration process provides additional grounds for further building on the progress achieved for children. Highlighting the numerous EU policy instruments, Ambassador Fouéré emphasised the centrality of the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the EU agenda.

“Through the accession process, the Commission is both promoting child protection reform and is also monitoring the progress on children’s rights in all acceding and candidate countries,” said Ambassador Fouéré. 

The panel discussion concluded with the panel members signing of the Council of Europe on-line petition for banning corporal punishment of children.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding and the most widely ratified international convention to affirm human rights for all children. With its fifty four articles, the Convention spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the CRC, the country offices of the European Union Mission, UNICEF and the Council of Europe, have planned a week of activities to celebrate the tremendous progress achieved in child rights in the past two decades, as well as confront the continuing challenges.

A children's documentary film festival and photo exhibition illustrating the articles of the CRC will be organised at the EU InfoCentre, between 16 and 20 November. During the week, local and international films will be screened covering issues that remain challenges to the realization of child rights in the country.  OneMinutesJr videos made by children in Skopje on violence in schools and documentaries on Roma girls education will be screened.  As will films from Israel on inter-ethnic cohesion, the United States and Kenya on justice for children, and Japan on inclusive education. All screenings are free and will be followed by an expert led discussion where children will share their views on the different issues.

For more information please contact:
Suzie Pappas-Capovska, Communication Officer, UNICEF, E-mail: spappas@unicef.org




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