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EU and UNICEF support National Conference on “Achievements, Gaps and the Way Forward in Justice for Children Reform”

Mr. Xhelal Bajrami, Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. Blerim Bedzeti, Minister of Justice, Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative, Ambassador Aivo Orav, Head of the EU Delegation and Mr. Ibrahim Ibrahimi, Deputy Minister of Labour and SP

6 April 2012, Skopje:  The final national conference of the EU-funded and UNICEF co-funded and implemented “Justice for Children” project was held today. This major conference was convened to reflect on the status of national and local reforms to ensure that children in contact with the law are able to exercise their rights to social services and rehabilitation.

“Justice for children is an important pillar holding the palace of justice system as a whole; it reflects the degree of humanity of our legal systems,” said Ambassador. Aivo Orav, Head of the EU Delegation.

With support from the European Union, UNICEF has worked with national counterparts to ensure the original vision of the 2007 Juvenile Justice Law is fully implemented.  Achievements to date include a legal and capacity gap analysis and the introduction of a new referral protocol; the introduction of standards to help professionals work with a child in contact with the law; and establishment of a system to monitor how the law itself is implemented in practice. 

 “The results of this project contributed to advancing the legal framework, strengthening institutional and human capacities and development of plans and tools for prevention of juvenile delinquency,” said Mr. Blerim Bedzeti, Minister of Justice.

UNICEF, in cooperation with the European Union and national authorities established a multi-disciplinary training system, and ensured that approximately 660 professionals were equipped with the skills to support children in contact with the law, and to ensure that those responsible for implementing the multiple facets of the law are able to maintain the  principle of meeting the best interests of the child.

“Today, the evidence is clear; the foundations supporting a juvenile justice system consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the child, are now in place” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative. But of course, there is more work to do to ensure these results are sustained.  Fundamentally a justice system cannot function in the absence of well-organized and properly resourced social services.”

With support from the European Union and UNICEF, the country has taken long strides in establishing a child friendly justice system that: emphasizes prevention and rehabilitation over punishment;  places the best interest of the child as the primary consideration when decisions are to be made; considers the individual circumstances of an offender to ensure that measures taken are proportional to the offence committed; introduces special procedures that protect child rights and uses detention as a last resort; and, a system that places prevention of juvenile crime and delinquency at the heart of juvenile justice reform.

Recognising prevention is paramount, the project helped the government develop a first of its kind national prevention strategy, and helped eleven local governments convert the strategy into concrete local actions. The success of prevention was most evident in the pilot mentoring programme, with zero recidivism among the children buddied with mentors. 

 “We should take into consideration that the multidisciplinary approach and the development of juvenile justice preventive programmes creates opportunities for faster identification of issues and risk factors,” said Mr. Xhelal Bajrami, Deputy Minister of Interior.

Furthermore, recognising that the entire community has a role to play in prevention, the project worked with parliamentarians, media and children themselves to create an enabling environment for justice for children reform.

“This project contributes to creating a society where child rights are the most important and most objective indicators of its democratic functioning,” said Mr. Ibrahim Ibrahimi, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy

At the conference, a team of practitioners and experts reflected on the status of reforms, and the quality of their implementation,  to bring the justice system closer in line with the standards of the European Union and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  In an effort to develop a forward looking plan of action to address remaining challenges, the conference was also used to take stock of the achievements and lessons learned over the past the two years of joint work.

Justice Renate Winter, leading international justice for children expert, current member and former president of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone addressed the need to continue efforts to ensure restorative justice was at the core of justice for children.  Sessions on the further improving the legal framework and building human resource capacity to implement the framework were led by UNICEF implementing partners.

“Today is not the end, it is the beginning of a new way of working with children in contact with the law.  The legal framework is not enough, what we need is to have experts who have knowledge and motivation to implement the law,” said Judge Lazar Nanev, local expert on justice for children.

The national conference on “Achievements, Gaps and the Way Forward in Justice for Children Reform” was organised to mark the close of the EU and UNICEF Justice for Children Project.  Contributing to the broader reform of the criminal justice system, the € 800,000 project is funded by the European Union (under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) with an amount of €700,000 and co-funded with €100,000 and implemented by UNICEF. Focused on three pillars - improving the normative framework, capacity building, and prevention – the project has contributed to closing the gap between what is written in the law and the actual practice. 

For information relating to this Press Release please contact:

Mr Konstantin Jovanovski, Press and Information Officer. Tel: +389 (0)2 3248 500.

Suzie Pappas Capovska, Communications Officer, UNICEF Skopje (02) 3231-150 (ext :127),  072  629 325 or or Irina Ivanovska (02) 3231-150 (ext :107),  072  629 322 or



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