Advancing child protection in the Western Balkans

24 October 2019
Opening of the conference
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Vas

Belgrade, Serbia, 24 October 2019 – Nearly 200 representatives of government institutions, academia, experts and service providers from the Republic of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia and Albania gathered at the Social Service Workforce Development conference being held in Belgrade, Serbia.

“Improving the quality of life of children is our national priority, articulated through the development of programmes and services, as well as through research and proposed measures, all with the aim of providing children with the best conditions for life and development,” said Zoran Djordjevic, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.

“It is a particular responsibility of society and the state to provide additional support to those families who face greater and complex difficulties in caring for children. That responsibility is our guiding principle in constantly improving the model of support for families and caregivers. The amendments to the Law on Social Protection envisage, among other things, the establishment of centres for families and children, which will significantly contribute to the comprehensive care of families and children,” Minister Djordjevic said addressing the gathering.

Social work was established as a profession in the region in the 1950s. Since then, much has been done to improve it, not only through the training of service providers, but also through planning, financing and providing ongoing support to the system to adapt to the needs of the users.

“Despite significant achievements, much remains to be done. In all countries in the region there are still children living in poverty, children who are victims of violence, neglect and exploitation, and there is a growing number of migrant children. Many families are struggling to provide adequate care for their children,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

She went on to emphasize that “the existence of adequately supported and competent human resources is a key pillar, the heart of any child and social protection system”.

“The existence of adequately supported and competent human resources is a key pillar, the heart of any child and social protection system.”

Suzana Paunovic, Director of the Office for Human and Minority Rights of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, presented the Framework for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“In cooperation with the Centre for the Rights of the Child and the Coalition of 40 Civil Society Organizations, and in consultation with children, a special Matrix has been developed, incorporating all the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, linking them to relevant recommendations of other committees and the UN Human Rights Council, fulfillment indicators have been developed, links have been made to the Sustainable Development Goals, and an online data collection platform has been developed”, Suzana Paunovic said.

During the two-day conference, countries with the same social welfare heritage and similar contextual and cultural factors, will exchange their experiences and examples of good practice, but also consider the challenges they face in order to come up with concrete proposals and recommendations for further work for the benefit of each child and family in the welfare system.

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