A fair chance for the most vulnerable
Although components of a child protection system exist in Uzbekistan at the institutional level, it is not functioning effectively due to human resource gaps, insufficient funding and weak inter-agency coordination. Children who experience violence, abuse, neglect or non-accidental injuries do not always receive the appropriate protection services and are often placed in residential care institutions. An assessment of the child protection system conducted by the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in 2017 indicated that local government authorities and education and health professionals are not equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and tools to identify children in need of protection and address their needs where. Data on child protection-related issues is also limited.
There is inadequate public data on abuse and neglect, and no systematic means of identifying and supporting children at risk, or children who suffered such violations.
There is a further lack of legislative frameworks and services to promote the participation, protection and reintegration of child victims and witnesses of crime into society. The absence of specialized professionals, including specialized judges to consider cases involving children in all court proceedings, represent another challenge. Children are not fully provided with legal guarantees in criminal nor in civil proceedings. Since 2006, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern about the use of solitary cells as punishment in juvenile prisons and the lack of access of international community to observe the situation of children deprived of liberty.
UNICEF is currently providing high-level technical assistance to the Government of Uzbekistan with a focus on policy development and system reform through the development of an national action plan for children. The plan to strengthen the child protection system puts investment in social work delivered through a case management approach and core services at its heart. Building the capacity of local authorities and service providers to identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families at the district level will contribute towards the prevention of institutionalisation and support a child’s right to live in a nurturing family environment.
The establishment of a specialized approach for child victims and witnesses of crimes in the justice system will remain priority area for UNICEF and the Government of Uzbekistan. With regards to improving the situation and treatment of children deprived of liberty, UNICEF continues to cooperate with the Government of Uzbekistan in light of reforms outlined in various Presidential Decrees. Further efforts will be made to bring national legislative framework in compliance with international justice for children standards and increase the capacity of justice professionals to apply child-friendly procedures in their work.
UNICEF in collaboration with the Women’s Committee assessed the child protection system in Uzbekistan and developed a framework for Child Protection System Strengthening to be included in the broader and ongoing administrative reform agenda (2018-2021) of the country. Key reform recommendations include investing in the social work profession delivered through a case management approach and the creation of a Department for Social Work through merging the Guardianship and Trusteeship and the Inter-Agency Commission on Minors at district levels.
The Government established a Specialized Department of Social Work at the National University of Uzbekistan. UNICEF provided technical assistance in the form of curriculum design and training of instructors.
Justice for children
The Government took steps to further enhance the protection of children in contact with the law, as well as the introduction of modern forms and methods of investigation, including video-recording of interrogation of children which prevents repeated interviewing and re-traumatization of children. The Ministry of Interior established a first pilot child-friendly investigation room at pre-trial stage to enhance protection of the rights of child victims and witnesses of crimes. In this area, UNICEF provided technical assistance in designing a specialized approach to child victims and witnesses of crimes.