Advancing child rights through strengthening the justice and social welfare systems in Serbia

25 October 2017
Conference participants
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Shubuckl

Belgrade, 25 October 2017 - A two-day conference to present the activities and results of the “Advancing the Rights of the Child through Strengthening the Judicial and Social Welfare Systems in Serbia” project started today in Belgrade.

The project is being implemented by UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, with the financial support of the European Union.

The conference was opened by Nela Kuburović, Minister of Justice, Zoran Đorđević, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Sem Fabrizi, Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, and Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

A justice system that is fully harmonised with the principle of the best interest of the child is essential for all children, particularly for children from vulnerable families.

Minister Kuburović pointed out that one of the top priorities of the project is the efficient application of diversionary measures in order to strengthen personal responsibility of juvenile offenders and their reintegration into society.

"The application of diversionary measures not only reintegrates children into society, but also increases the efficiency of judges and public prosecutors to speed up improved outcomes for society as a whole," said Nela Kuburović, Minister of Justice.

Children who find themselves in contact with the judicial system – either as juvenile offenders, victims or witnesses of criminal acts, or as stakeholders in civil proceedings – mainly come from vulnerable and marginalised segments of society.

“Every social community that focuses on the future and strives for progress pays particular attention to children in conflict with law and community. In fact, society’s attitude towards this group tests the humanity of a society. We are talking about children in conflict with the law, but also about children who are facing the judicial system in the role of a victim or witness.

In any case, the complexity of the issue requires a multidisciplinary approach and coordinated action of several systems in order to prevent and reduce negative consequences, and to provide the best possible support in the process of socialization and reintegration of children,” said Zoran Đorđević, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs.

The European Union, together with line ministries, works on promoting respect for the rights of the child, as well as to improve access to justice for children.

Childhood is here and now. This is the urgency that must drive us in our efforts to make the justice and social welfare systems work in the best interests of the child.

"Making the justice system more child-friendly in Europe is a significant action under the EU Agenda. It is an area of high practical relevance where the EU has competences to turn the rights of the child into reality through various instruments, such as EU legislation and support measures for Member States.

The project we presented today has an overall objective to advance the quality of child protection through securing that justice and social welfare systems act in ‘the best interests of the child’ in Serbia, and bring Serbian practices and standard closer to those in the EU", said Ambassador Fabrizi.

UNICEF supports the judicial and welfare systems to adequately respond to violations of child rights and to work in the best interest of the child.

“Childhood is here and now. This is the urgency that must drive us in our efforts to make the justice and social welfare systems work in the best interests of the child. Serbia has become a good practice example when it comes to working with children who have committed offences or when judicial bodies need to interview children who have been victims of a crime. I am glad that UNICEF, the Government of Serbia and the EU will continue this successful tri-partite partnership to further strengthen reforms in this area” said Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.

A two-day conference dedicated to the promotion of the rights of the child through the strengthening of the judicial and social protection systems will enable exchange of experiences and lessons learned in the areas of the application of diversionary measures for juvenile offenders, the protection of children victims in criminal proceedings, the promotion of child rights in civil proceedings, and the capacity building of free legal aid providers.

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