EU and UNICEF launch project to protect children in South East Europe

BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) — The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday launched a joint project aimed at protecting children in South East Europe.

The $2.39 million (€1.65 million) joint initiative will strengthen public services aimed at identifying, monitoring and addressing violence against children in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Turkey.

“This is an important project that recognizes the need to provide better protection for our children from violence at home, in school and in the community, violence that all too often goes unnoticed,” said Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy.

The two-year project includes regional activities which will foster knowledge and experience-sharing among key intergovernmental organizations, networks of independent monitoring networks and civil society platforms.

“Public services must have a clear role in supporting and protecting children from violence,” said Steven Allen, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe. “UNICEF continues to develop a compact between civil society, policy makers and communities to support families and provide a nurturing and protective environment for children.”

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Turkey will analyze the flaws in its public service systems as part of the 2011-2013 scheme. In this way, the four nations will be better equipped to identify cases of violence against children and improve prosecution of the cases.

Furthermore, national civil society networks and independent monitoring bodies will be trained to raise awareness; improve the collection, monitoring and analyzing data while contributing to policy dialogue about violence against children.

The $2.39 million will be granted under the Civil Society Facility (CSF), a 2010 multi-beneficiary program under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) created in 2008 to help civil society organizations.

The project was deemed necessary as violence against children is a concern in the Western Balkans and Turkey. In a recent national survey, it was unveiled that children suffer violence predominantly at home in Turkey.

About 65 percent of school children endure taunts and physical violence in Serbia. The EU proposed amendments to the Family Law to ban corporal punishment against children in the Balkan country.

Technical support was given to police, justice, health workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina while telephone hotlines were set up in Albania. However, the EU considers that much more remains to be done to better protect children from violence.

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