|© UNICEF Serbia - Zoran Jovanovic|
|(from left) Vincent Degert, Head EC Delegation, Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, Parliamentary Speaker, Ljiljana Lucic, State Secretary, Judita Reichenberg, UNICEF AR,|
Belgrade, 19 October 2009 - An international conference on “Children and Poverty: Global Context, National Efforts and Local Solutions“ was held today at the Serbian Parliament. The Conference was organised by the Technical Assistance Information Exchange Instrument of the European Commission (TAIEX) and the Serbian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in cooperation with the UNICEF Serbia Office and the National Parliament of the Republic of Serbia.
The Conference explored the impact of the economic crisis on children in Serbia and discussed the modalities and measures undertaken to prevent the increase in child poverty and social exclusion.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia is fully engaged in the EU integration process, and focuses especially on the harmonisation of its legislatiion with the EU standards. “The Parliamentary Working Group on Child Rights has initiated a dialogue with all relevant actors in the country - the referral ministries in particular. We have requested them to keep a careful eye on the effects of the measures and strategies on children and their families. It is our obligation to protect children from poverty and social exclusion, .and even more so in the midst of these challenging economic times”, Parliamentary Speaker and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Working Group on Child Rights Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic said in her introductory speech.
“Beyond the obvious declines in family income, experience from previous crises in other countries shows that increases in violence against children and women, declines in school attendance and, and reductions in the quality of nurture, care and emotional wellbeing of children can all be traced to times of economic crisis. Addressing child poverty is no small task. It requires a wide range of partnerships and alliances”, said UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg.
The Conference participants agreed that local authorities and other relevant actors in the society had to be actively involved in this process and work in partnership in order to improve social protection and social inclusion of children. “By investing today in children, we are making a best possible investment for the future of the country. We should perceive the funds given for the improvement of the financial situation of children from vulnerable environments as a good investment, and not as a spending," stressed Ambassador Vincent Degert, Head of the Delegation to the European Commission to Serbia.
The Conference informed on the achievements made within the National Plan of Action for Children adopted in 2004, and presented the analysis of the Plan undertaken with the aim to incorporate the emerging challenges and adapt to the new circumstances.
Talking about the strategic documents and important steps that have been taken by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the National Council for Child Rights to reduce child poverty and increase inclusion of marginal groups of children, State Secretary Ljiljana Lucic said that “the National Plan of Action for Children has a chance to be implemented only if the entire society, at both the national and municipal level, realises that the policy on children is a strategic issue of the country’s development”.
The conclusions and recommendations formulated at the Conference will form a roadmap for the future, and a basis for collective action. This is particularly important as the Government is further refining its social inclusion efforts as part of the EU integration process.