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					A Region Fit For Children

       Civil Society Organisations’
           Vision for Children
     in Central and Eastern Europe,
the Commonwealth of Independent States,
         and the Baltics Region

            Global Movement For Children
                   Text from the Regional Consultation
                          of Civil Society Organisations
                             held in Bucharest, Romania
                                         8-10 April 2001

1. This paper outlines a vision for children living in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and the
Commonwealth of Independent States. It is based on an extensive process of consultation by civil society
organisations concerned with children’s rights throughout the region, co-ordinated by the Regional NGO Working
Group on the Global Movement for Children, and integrating views from NGO consultations in countries
throughout the region. The paper is a clear call to action in a number of key policy and practice areas, arguing that
the rights of more than 120 million children and young people are fundamental to the future development of these
new and emerging democracies.

2. In the last decade, many of the countries in the region have experienced negative social and economic
development, with some indicators of child well-being actually deteriorating. There are now very pronounced
disparities both between countries, and within countries, with particular groups excluded from access to basic
resources others take for granted – especially those in poverty, the unemployed, minorities, those with disabilities,
those in institutional care, and those affected by wars and conflicts. The combined effects of unemployment,
income inequalities and cuts in social sector investments have weakened families’ capacity to provide for and
protect their children.

3. In this context, the reassertion of children’s right to live in a family, and the need for family-centred alternatives
to the institutionalisation of children, can only be secured through reforms which strengthen families’ capacities to
care for their children. In particular, the combined effects of social exclusion based on disability, ethnicity, and
gender must be addressed through a concerted effort to develop and maintain anti-discriminatory approaches.
Within this, a vital role will be played by civil society: non-governmental organisations, networks, and community-
based organisations, especially those which involve children and young people as active participants. These
groups have been crucial in defending, promoting and advocating for children’s rights in the last decade in the
region, and have a key role in the future. Only through innovative, long-term, and systematic partnerships can the
vision outlined in this report become reality.

I.        Actions Throughout the Life Cycle
i. Infancy and Early Childhood
4. Actions are needed in early years for all children to ensure a healthy start in life and a nurturing, caring
environment, enabling young children to be physically healthy, mentally alert and emotionally secure, socially
competent and intellectually able to learn.

5. In the sphere of Early Childhood Health the report urges:
 Universal access to free primary health care
 A new holistic, integrated and rights-based approach to maternal and childhood health, immunisation,
      micronutrient supplementation, and breast feeding
 Efficient and equitable, well-funded, health care systems incorporating family and community involvement

6. In the area of Pre-School Care the report advocates:
 Greater access for families with young children to a diverse range of high quality, inexpensive, pre-school
      educational facilities
 The establishment of more family-centred preventive services to strengthen families and bolster their capacity
      to prevent or cope with risk situations in early childhood
 Social policy based on universal family allowances and targeted family income support.

ii. School-Age Children
7. Actions are needed to ensure that all children have access to and complete basic education of good quality.

8. In terms of Access to Education the report calls for:
 Increased public investment in education with particular attention to poorer areas and to disadvantaged pupils
 A recommitment to universal access and high rates of completion of primary education, combined with efforts
      to increase the proportion of children in secondary education, with special emphasis on low-income families,
      rural areas, minorities, girls, and those with disabilities.
 Increased focus on non-formal education and the creation of safe and friendly spaces for children and young
      people to be creative, learn life skills, and have access to new technologies.

9. With regard to Educational Quality and Processes the report focuses on:

   The need for curriculum reform prioritising interactive learning, peace and tolerance, life skills, and new
   The importance of ‘child friendly’ schools free from corporal punishment, violence and discrimination,
    responsive to the diversity of local communities, and based on pupils’ active participation in decision-making
   The need for access to quality education to be seen as a right for those living in conditions of poverty, crisis,
    violence and instability, and for working, street and homeless children.

iii. Adolescence
10. The report seeks to promote actions which allow adolescents the opportunities to develop fully their individual
capacities in safe and enabling environments and participate in and contribute fully to their societies.

11. In the sphere of Youth Services the report suggests:
 The need for urgent reform of juvenile justice systems including more positive, non-custodial, sentencing
     options, greater emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation, and more support to victims
 Greater emphasis on ‘youth friendly’ services which are less stigmatising and more responsive to young
     people’s own concerns
 More attention to a positive approach to young people’s health and mental health, including interventions to
     reduce stress, a focus on sexual and reproductive health, especially HIV/AIDS, and opportunities for
     appropriate counselling services.

12. In the area of Youth Participation and Inclusion the report re-iterates:
 The need for systematic emphasis on the transition from school to work, improving the life skills of
     adolescents and the youth friendliness of employers, reducing unacceptably high levels of youth
     unemployment and ending the exploitation of young people in the labour market
 The importance of investing in higher education and ensuring greater participation of those from
     disadvantaged groups and communities
 The right to participate in decision-making and in turning decisions into reality through existing and new youth
     organisations and other mechanisms
 The need to end young people’s participation in armed conflict, promote the right to civil service, and ensure
     young people’s safety as civilians.

II.       Actions for Anti-Discriminatory Outcomes
i. Children and Young People with Disabilities
13. Actions are needed to ensure that children and young people with disabilities are treated as equals, with
dignity and respect, and enabled to access appropriate services, both tailored to individuals needs and serving to
promote greater integration.

14. Specific actions called for in the report include:
 Increased awareness and promotion of the rights of children with disabilities based on a shift from the
     medical model to a social model seeking to eliminate barriers caused by disabling environments
 Supporting and strengthening family-based care, through appropriate services, respite care, and adequate
     levels of benefits.
 An ending of segregation of children with disabilities within the educational system, combined with the right to
     additional tuition and support where desired
 Greater incentives for young people with disabilities to enter higher education, secure meaningful
     employment, and participate in all aspects of decision-making.

ii. Children of Minorities
15. Explicit attention needs to be paid to actions which secure equality of opportunity and inclusion of all
throughout the life-cycle, regardless of religion, national or ethnic origin, or citizenship status.

16. To secure this, the report urges:
 The universal adoption of comprehensive and workable anti-discriminatory legislation and machinery
 Systematic attention to promoting accessible and good quality education, especially for Roma, combined with
     a lowering of rates of minorities in public care
 A greater focus on conflict prevention in formal and informal education based on the promotion of peace,
     tolerance and respect for diversity.

iii. Girls and Young Women

17. The report re-iterates the need for gender equality throughout the life-cycle, with girls and young women
protected from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation.

18. Within this, the report focuses on necessary actions including:
 Systematic attention to promoting gender equality in all aspects of social, economic and family life, including
     awareness raising and challenging gender stereotypes, with a special emphasis on education for girls and
     young women
 Advocacy and awareness raising regarding all forms of violence and sexual abuse and exploitation, including
     support for grassroots initiatives offering safe spaces and acting as advocates
 Action to counter trafficking of girls and young women based on an understanding of wider social and
     economic factors.

III.       Systems Interventions
i. Social Policies to Reduce Poverty and Inequality
19. The report calls for clear social policy reforms based on a human development paradigm, freeing children and
young people from poverty and reducing unacceptably high levels of inequality.

20. Specific actions needed include:
 Halving of poverty in the next decade through increased social expenditure, more equitable distribution, and a
     mobilisation of community resources. A more flexible approach to the crisis of poverty must be adopted by
     international financial institutions
 The elaboration of children’s budgets and increased investment in children from marginalised and
     disadvantaged groups
 Specific anti-poverty programmes, focusing on children and their families, based on new partnerships with
     local NGOs and CBOs.

ii. Child Care, Child Protection and Family Services
21. It is vital that appropriate and well-funded childcare and protection, and family support, services are in place, to
allow families to nurture and raise their children.

22. Specifically, the report calls for:
 Deinstitutionalisation and the development of a continuum of child care services, in which the best interests of
     the child are paramount, and where existing institutional mandates are made more child- and family-centred
 The ending of institutional care for young children, for thos in care because of poverty, and the mislabelling of
     children, especially from minorities, as disabled.
 National norms and standards of child care services, promoting diverse provision towards universal, quality,

The Voice of Civil Society
23. A new partnership for children must incorporate the voice of civil society at a number of levels, including:
 The local level, with properly funded decentralised services involving local NGOs and CBOs who are often
     the most responsive to needs and innovators of new approaches and priorities
 The national level, ensuring the institutionalisation of the input of civil society into policy formulation,
     monitoring, and development particularly with regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
 The regional and sub-regional level, with networks promoting regional solutions to regional problems and
     sharing best practice
 The global level, with full consultation of civil society groups in global agendas for children’s rights.

I.   Introduction: taking stock
1. The region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the Baltics, and
the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), is frequently termed a
region „in transition‟, in reference to the major social, political
and economic changes which have occurred in the last decade and are
still occurring. The term „transition‟ is in danger of hiding more
than it reveals in terms of complex processes which have real human
impacts, especially on children and young people. Whilst the region
is now central to a new global consensus, and many gains have been
made in securing economic and political rights and freedoms, the
suddeness, scale, rapidity, and uneveness of changes have disrupted
the social fabric throughout the region. Many parts of the region,
including the most populous, are in serious dissaray, with major
reversals of human security. With social values turned upside down,
children and young people have suffered most from the upheavals of
the past decade. Even in those parts of the region where political
and economic progress has been made, many groups have been left
behind and suffered new forms of exclusion.

2. This paper outlines a vision for children representing the voice
of civil society organisations throughout the region. It is based on
an extensive process of consultation by civil society organisations
concerned with children‟s rights throughout the region, co-ordinated
by the Regional NGO Working Group on the Global Movement for
Children, and integrating views from NGO consultations in countries
throughout the region. The text was agreed at the Regional CSO
Consultation meeting in Bucharest from 8-10 April 2001. This agenda
for a new decade, and new century, more than a decade after the near
universal adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child, represents a clear call to action in a number of key
policy and practice areas. This document is an attempt to elaborate
and build upon key aspects of the CRC and other international
treaties, as they apply to this region, and should be read alongside
a number of important country and sub-regional NGO consultation
documents. It seeks to combine a sense of urgency with a sense of
possibility, arguing that the rights of children and young people are
fundamental to the kinds of societies being built. The growing voice
of civil society organisations throughout the region in the last
decade has contributed to greater freedom and a new dialogue and
debate, of which this paper is a logical and necessary extension. In
particular, local non-governmental and community-based organisations
and networks have been crucial in providing services, defending
rights, and developing new, creative and innovative programmes. The
voice of civil society must be heard more in the next decade if
progress is to be made in the region. The paper builds on the
contribution, at a global level, of the Child Rights‟ Caucus‟ ‘Child
Rights Agenda for the Coming Decade’ and seeks to articulate policies
necessary to promote „A Region Fit for Children‟ in a „World Fit for
Children‟, to be taken further in inter-governmental consultations
and in the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children in
September 2001.

3. In a decade of fundamental global change, the region itself looks
very different from the way it looked in 1989. It now contains 28
countries whereas, in 1989, there were only 9. At the start of 1999,
the total population of the region was some 410.6 million, of which
111.8 million were children aged 0-171. Many of these countries have
experienced negative social and economic development in the last
decade, and whilst some indicators of child well-being have been
maintained or improved, too many have actually deterioriated. There
are now very pronounced disparities both between countries, and

within countries, with particular groups excluded from access to
basic resources others take for granted – especially those in
poverty, the unemployed, minorities, those with disabilities, those
in institutional care, and those affected by wars and conflicts.
Throughout the region, although in different ways in different
places, the combined effects of unemployment, income inequalities and
cuts in social sector investments have weakened families‟ capacity to
provide for and protect their children. Wars and armed conflicts in a
third of the countries in the region, have devastated lives,
destroyed   families,  and   led   to  mass   forced  migration   and
displacement. In addition, new, emerging and newly discovered social
problems and new forms of exploitation, often with a transnational
dimension, have stretched resources, human and material, at times to
breaking point. Squeezed between the advanced industrialised world
and the developing world, the specificities of the region are
sometimes lost in global debates.

4. There is an urgent need for action to meet the challenges facing
children and young people throughout the region. This document
outlines a set of priorities and goals which form an agenda for the
next decade. It is a strong call for action made by Civil Society
Organisations,   Non-Governmental   Organisations,   coalitions   and
networks involved in defending and promoting children‟s rights. As
advocates for children‟s rights, we urge the mobilisation of
resources and commitments from all sections of society, including
Governments, within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, in order to ensure that significant progress is made in
the next decade towards securing rights, meeting needs, and releasing
children and young people‟s potentials. This can only be achieved by
partnerships involving the participation of children and young people
themselves. Strengthening of families is also fundamental to the
growth and well-being of children, so that the protection and
promotion of family life is a crucial element of the agenda.

5. The document outlines a series of key issues and themes, urging a
number of necessary actions, to meet our visions. It is based on
three inter-linked approaches. The life-cycle approach focuses on the
need to address and alleviate risks associated with each phase of the
lives of children and young people. The report then focuses
specifically on the need for an anti-discriminatory approach to
challenge all forms of discrimination and intolerance. It seeks to
challenge negative outcomes for particular groups in the population,
especially those with disabilities; minorities; and girls and young
women. A systems intervention approach outlines a policy and practice
agenda focusing on social policies to counter poverty, inequality and
social exclusion; and new forms of child care, child protection and
family services to support children and to reduce the reliance on
institutional care.

6. In taking stock of the eleven years since the World Summit for
Children, and setting an agenda for the next decade, it is inevitable
that the paper focuses on failures, problems, and the need for
remedial actions. There is a danger, however, of understating the
progress which has been made, not least in terms of all the
Governments in the region having ratified the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, and, albeit unevenly, developing mechanisms and
procedures for greater attention to children‟s rights, sometimes in
genuine collaboration with civil society. Many Governments have
sought to develop partnerships to minimise the harmful effects of
transition on the most vulnerable members of society, and some have
implemented major reforms in the most difficult of circumstances. The

need for more attention to the role of civil society, as one element
of a partnership approach to children‟s rights, is addressed in the
final section of the report.

II. A Life-Cycle Approach
7. There is a need for action based on key outcomes for children, in
all three stages of the life-cycle: Infancy and Early Childhood; The
Years of Basic Education; and Adolescence. Risk and protective
factors are cumulative, and affect the lives of all children and
young people. Interventions which minimise risk factors and
strengthen protective factors, in child- and family-centred ways, are
crucial at all stages of the life-cycle. Whilst, inevitably, there
has been a need to select certain themes for emphasis in specific
stages of the life-cycle, it must be asserteed that interventions
throughout the life-cycle are crucial, in particular in terms of
participation, education, and health.

a. Infancy and Early Childhood
    “Investing in early childhood … is one of the best ways of having an
    impact on a wide range of social issues¨”2
Our vision:
8. “All infants start life healthy and young children are nurtured in
a safe and caring environment that enables them to be physically
healthy, mentally alert and emotionally secure, socially competent
and intellectually able to learn.”

i. Health
Issues and themes:
9. There is now widespread recognition that a healthy start in life,
with health viewed as much more than just the absence of disease, is
a crucial building block for welfare and development at all stages of
the life-cycle. It is a right which is being denied large numbers of
children, with a major mortality, health, and nutritional crisis in
much of the region.

10. It is certainly positive to report that infant and under-5
mortality rates have fallen in most of the region. The impact of a
steep increase in adult, particularly male, mortality rates in some
parts of the region is a worrying phenomenon, however, especially
when coupled with higher rates of family breakdown. When data is
dissagregated, and too often it is not, it is also clear that a wider
mortality crisis has had a deep impact on particular groups of
children: minorities, those in conflict areas; those in poverty; in
rural areas; and so on.

11. Worryingly high levels of illnesses affecting young children such
as diarrhea and respiratory infections have been coupled with the
return of diseases, many associated with poverty, which were thought
to have been eradicated such as diptheria and tuberculosis. Poor
nutrition, reflected in iron, iodine, and vitamin deficiencies, as
well as blood diseases as a result of environmental damage, are major
problems affecting infants and young children in parts of the region,
and are also traceable to deteriorating economic conditions. Breast
feeding   remains  far   from   universal   throughout  the   region.
Immunisation rates vary greatly and are affected, particularly, by
conflicts resulting in large-scale population movement which make
necessary follow-up extremely difficult. All of these issues are
compounded by the lack of appropriate health and hygiene information.

12. There is a crisis of health services where reforms, even given
broadly favourable conditions and normal circumstances, would have

been difficult in the region in terms of securing a transition from
an   expensive,   curative-based,  inefficient  model,   to  a   more
preventive-based,   community-oriented,  flexible,   and  accountable
system based on partnerships. As it was, severe economic crises and
complex emergencies increased demand whilst eroding health resources,
so that in parts of the region health systems virtually collapsed and
became partially dependent upon high levels of international
assistance. Reforms based on the introduction of a degree of
marketization of services have exacerbated an inverse care law
whereby good quality health care is available only to those who can
afford it and need it least with widening inequalities in access to
services. This has impacted particularly on maternal and early
childhood health services.

Necessary actions:
13. There is an acute need for universal access to free primary
health care to guaranteee levels of early childhood health, and to
safeguard reductions in indices of infant, early childhood, and
maternal mortality, in the next decade, throughout the region. It is
particularly important to gather dissagregated data on which to base
efforts to achieve realiseable and meaningful reductions. In
particular, there must be a greater emphasis on early child
development through support for maternal health, the development of
flexible, quality services, and increased investment in early
childhood care and development.

14. This requires a new approach to „health for all‟ based on a more
holistic or integrated approach to maternal health and childhood
illness, immunisation, micronutrient supplementation, and breast
feeding. Without this, advances in health technology, improved
vaccines,   and   greater   understanding    of   the   benefits   of
micronutrients, will not have the impact they should have, throughout
the region.

15. Health care reforms combining efficiency and equity must be
introduced,   incorporating    community-based   approaches,  family
involvement, and the re-education of health professionals in new
approaches. Particular attention must be paid to access to health in
early childhood for disadvantaged groups and regions.

16. All of these actions require increased investment in health,
based on a partnership between state funds, external assistance, and
private sector and voluntary and civil society initiatives. The role
of civil society organisations is crucial, in preventive services, in
new forms of provision, and in monitoring access to health for all.

i.   Pre-school care
Issues and themes:
17. Social competence and intellectual abilities are formed in early
childhood. Without attention to learning in the pre-school years,
educational inequalities cannot be addressed properly, and many
children simply cannot take advantage of formal, compulsory,
educational provision. Yet, throughout the region, there has been an
erosion of pre-school provision, so that over-stretched families
increasingly are left to cope alone and find it increasingly
difficult to provide a stimulating environment for their children.
Conversely, when families cannot cope, reception into institutional
care, is often presented as the only alternative, with often
catastrophic consequences for children‟s development.

18. Enrolment rates in pre-primary education (from the ages of 3 to 5
or 6 years) fell between 1989 and 1998 in 18 of the 24 countries in
the region for which data are available, in some cases dramatically.
The number of pre-school facilities has declined throughout the
region and, increasingly, pre-school provision is regulated by the
market or by rationing of free places. The role of unreformed pre-
school institutions in stimulating early childhood development is
contested, due to the rigid and authoritarian nature of the learning
process, in part a result of underqualified and unsupported staff.

19. Rates of infants (aged 0-3) placed in public institutional care
have increased since 1989 in 20 out of 27 countries. Particularly
worrying are trends “contrary to all policy intention”3 in countries
which already had high rates. Adding figures for placement in
substitute families suggests a major increase in risks for families
with young children in a large part of the region, associated with
complex interactions of poverty, ethnicity, and disability. Given
that reception into care is rarely followed by family reunification,
this   trend,   unless  reversed,   will   have  serious   long-term

20. Public expenditures on universal family allowances, child-care
and maternity benfits, which initially rose in 1989 and 1990 in many
countries, have subsequently fallen as a proportion of GDP in much of
the region. As per capita GDP fell, the real value of such schemes
became lessened, and led to large numbers of families with young
children being drawn into poverty.

Necessary actions:
21. There needs to be an urgent response to the closure of pre-school
education facilities throughout the region. This must involve a re-
emphasis on expanding choice for families with young children,
involving the right of access to a range of diverse pre-school
educational opportunities. Experience in parts of the region has
shown the benefits of high quality, relatively cheap, community-based
alternative pre-school provision and these examples need to be more
widely discussed and adopted. The role of local Non-Governmental
Organisations is crucial in this respect, and every means must be
taken to develop and promote innnovative pre-school programmes.

22. A renewed emphasis on family-centred preventive services
minimising the risk of reception into public care, needs to be
established throughout the region. A continuum of intermediate
services, counselling and family centres, parenting assistance, and
so on, needs to be initiated to strengthen families and bolster their
capacity to prevent or cope with risk situations in early childhood.
Again, Non-Governmental Organisations are often the pioneers of such
approaches and should be supported and funded within a framework of
nationally-agreed policies. The promotion of foster care and other
alternatives to institutionalisation should also be a priority.

23. The re-establishment of basic universal entitlements through
family allowances and parental leave should be a cornerstone of
social policy throughout the region. Indeed, targetting family income
supplements for families where children are at risk of being received
into institutional care, is a very cost-effective measure to support
family-centred outcomes.

b. School-age children
    “Good quality basic education is one of the keys to successful child
    development. A good education delivers more than facts and figures –

    it recognizes the rights and responsibilities of children as young
    citizens. In strengthening this role, reforms in education are an
    integral part of the transition to more humane societies and a
    better quality of life”4

Our vision:
24. “All children have access to and complete basic education of good
quality, based on child-friendly principles, building skills and
forming future citizens”.

i. Access to education for all?
Issues and themes:
25. Universal access to free basic education, a key element of
children‟s rights, was a major cornerstone of the state socialist
societies of CEE, CIS and the Baltics. With declining levels of
investment in education, some of these gains have been reversed and,
everywhere, are under threat. In addition, lack of access to basic
education for particular groups in the population has become markedly
more pronounced. Education is in danger, in the region, of
contributing to inequality rather than promoting equality of

26. Enrolment rates for basic or compulsory education have fallen in
16 of the 27 countries in the region, between 1989 and 1998. In 10
countries, the recorded rate for 1998, or the last year where figures
are available, is below 90%. There is a significant drop-out rate
amongst children going on to secondary education. There are growing
numbers of steet, neglected, and homeless children throughout the
region, and increases in child labour in some areas, all factors
which can contribute to children being denied an education. In
addition, non-formal education, an essential component of educational
processes, is insufficiently developed.

27. Public expenditures on education, expressed as a percentage of
GDP, has fallen in 11 of the 22 countries. Given that some of the
other countries for which data are not available have been affected
by violent conflicts over the period, the true regional picture is
probably even worse. In some countries which have experienced massive
economic decline, the figures are so bad as to suggest a collapse in
the education system as a whole. The impacts of falling salaries for
teachers, often not paid for months on end, serious shortages of
learning materials and teaching aids, disprepair of existing, and
lack of new, school buildings, throughout the region, has placed
strains on educational systems which have sometimes been resolved by
cuts in the years of compulsory education, shorter hours of
schooling, double shifts, and so on. In addition, the price of text-
books and learning materials are too high in comparison to the
average family income. Consequently many families cannot afford to
buy these.

28. Inequalities in access and attainment appear to have increased in
much of the region, with marked disparities associated with level of
parental education; income; and place of residence, with urban-rural
differences growing sharply5. There are important issues of access
and attainment for children with disabilities, for minorities, and
for girls. Decline in access for Roma appears to have been “deeper
than for the rest of the population”6. The interruptions to education
caused by wars and associated mass forced migrations has also been a
major factor limiting access in part of the region in the last

Necessary actions:
29. There is an urgent need for increased public investment in
education throughout the region, combined with redistribution of
funds to poorer areas where access is lower. Targetted support for
particular groups at key moments of their school career, such as
scholarships for disadvantaged pupils to enter secondary and higher
education, can make a big difference and should be more widely
available. In addition, given high drop out rates for particular
groups, there must be more attention to providing a „second-chance‟
for access to quality education. The right to diverse educational
provision should be guaranteed. There is a need to develop innovative
approaches to working, street and homeless children, through outreach
programmes and legislation protecting vulnerable children. There is a
need to promote and develop non-formal education through the creation
of safe and friendly spaces where children and young people can spend
their time creatively, learn new life skills, and have access to new

30. Universal access, and high rates of completion, of primary
education should be a goal throughout the region, with efforts to
increase significantly the proportion of children educated up tp
school leaving age in the next decade. NGOs have a vital role to play
as a link between home and school, particualrly for those children at
risk of not completing primary education.

31. Access to education for children from low income families, from
rural areas, from minorities, for girls, and for those with
disabilities, should be priorities for action plans, based on clear
anti-discriminatory    approaches.  Above    all,   non-governmental
organisations have to be encouraged to act as advocates for
disadvantaged children in terms of access to the educational system,
and rights based organisations must be allowed to act as an „early
warning‟ when access rates decline.

ii.   Educational quality and processes
Issues and themes:
32. Beyond access to education, there are major concerns regarding
the nature and type of education offered, its purpose, the quality of
the curriculum and the wider learning process, as well as the
relationship between schools, families, and communities, which
constitute the basis for an educational reform programme for the
region. Much work remains to be done for education to change from
being a mirror of tensions and divisions in society, to being a force
for their elimination.

33. Education remains based, in much of the region, on „talk and
chalk‟ or „factology‟, in which teachers talk and pupils learn by
rote with little attention to active participatory learning processes
which would develop communications, problem-solving, personality and
life skills and values. The formal curriculum remains narrow and
largely unrelated to the skills needed for active participation in
the new social, economic and political environment. Changes in the
curriculum, especially relating to the teaching of history, have
sometimes been tools in the service of exclusionary ethnicised
nationalist projects. Teaching remains inflexible, with little
attention to children's rights or wider social issues, including
environmental protection. Approaches based on collective identities
continue to be emphasised at the expense of the needs of individual

34. Many schools remain detached from local communities, with
resource constraints leading to a reduction in after school
activities. It is still not the norm for parents and pupils to be
involved actively and meaningfully in school governance. Moreover
non-formal  education,  and   after-school  activities,   have  been
curtailed in much of the region. Cuts in extra-curricular activities
have increased risks for children to be on the streets, and to be

35. Many aspects of the organisation of teaching and learning,
including examinations, streaming and selection processes, are
inappropriate, inefficient, and may be discriminatory. Education
based on diversity, including teaching in minority languages, is not
yet the norm in some regions. In addition, there is continued
corporal punishment, use of verabl insults, psychological violence,
and   over-use  of  exclusion   from  schools  for   those  labelled

Necessary actions:
36. Curriculum reform programmes need to be established, implemented,
and monitored, based on wide participation of pupils, families, and
communities, which prioritise interactive learning methods, peace and
tolerance education, life skills, and new technologies. Civil society
organisations, pioneers in linking the educational processes with
peace building, should be supported and lessons learnt integrated
into mainstream educational provision.

37. The concept of the „child-friendly‟ school needs to be more
widely understood and implemented, aimed at establishing a healthy,
safe   and  protective   school  environment,   free   from  corporal
punishment, violence and discriminatory practice. Barriers to equal
opportunity such as inappropriate testing and streaming, should be
discontinued, and every effort made to promote education which
reflects and responds to the diversity of local communities. The
training of all those working with children    needs to be made more
flexible and more focused on the needs of individual pupils.

38. Schools need to be seen as community resources, in which pupils
and parents play key decision-making roles, and successful pilot
projects, often involving local NGOs, which have demonstrated the
importance of community participation, should be widely adapted and
implemented.   The  restoration  of   after-school  facilities,   in
partnership with the community and community-based organisations, is
a major priority.

39. More widely, access and quality of education need to be seen as
rights especially for those living in conditions of poverty, crisis,
violence and instability. The work of international agencies, in
partnership with Governments and local NGOs, is particularly
important in supporting education in emergencies, and the rights of
refugees and displaced children to be educated.

c. Adolescents and Young People
    “A decade of transition … may change the belief that young people
    are passive recipients of social values, public services, economic
    goods, and political priorities. It may promote the understanding
    that … the … members of the “youth nation” in the region form an
    immense asset     … in this time of rapid economic and social

Our vision:
40. “Adolescents have opportunities to fully develop their individual
capacities in safe and enabling environments and participate in and
contribute fully to their societies.”

i. From ‘youth at risk’to youth-friendly services?
Issues and themes:
41. Young people, which here we refer to as between 15 and 24 years
old8, are „the children of the transition‟, having spent most of
their lives in the new social, political and economic environment.
The transition exposes them to both opportunities and hazards, with
an increase in real risk factors as well as an increase in a „moral
panic‟ about youth which has seen significant numbers targetted for
social control and punitive intervention. This is compounded by
general societal attidues which are often indifferent to young
people. The need for „youth-friendly‟ services is only just beginning
to be recognised as a key index of social development as a whole and
of the future of this most crucial generation.

42. Recorded crimes committed by or with the participation of
juveniles (usually 15-17 year olds; in some instances 13-17 year
olds) have increased between 1989 and 1998 for 13 of the 20 countries
for which statistics are available, in some cases dramatically,
albeit with massive variations in rates in different countries.
Throughout the region, “young people under 18 are now at greater risk
of coming into contact with the law than they were before the
transition began”9, combined with a lack of awareness of legal rights
on the part of young people. With juvenile justice and welfare
systems slow to develop, it is relatively easy for young persons in
conflict with the law to become labelled, and face harsh intervention
and social control, whether through custodial sentences or special
„educational‟ measures. Penal institutions for juveniles offer little
in the way of education and developmental care, with the danger that
social values are replaced by anti-social ones in these environments.
In addition, there is little attention to rehabilitation, life
skills or employment for those leaving instituions.

43. Overall, there has been an increase in youth mortality in the
region, with about 30% more young people (in numerical terms 15,000
more young men and 4,000 more young women), dying in 1998 than in
1989. There is a „silent emergency‟ of preventible, accidental, and
violent deaths, including large increases in adolescent suicide
rates, particularly among males, in much of the region. The mental
health of young people is affected by the pressures of changing
values, high unemployment, the „exclusion‟ of young people from
social life, homelessness, and poverty. Young people‟s social
problems are sometimes misinterpreted within a medical model.

44. In a region which was, until recently, one of the least affected
in the world, there has been a significant increase in those living
with HIV/AIDS, from 170,000 at the end of 1997 to 700,000 by the end
of 2000, many of whom are under 25 10. There is a strong argument that
inaction to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDs has also been based on a
perception that it is a problem largely of young intravenous drug
users. While drug misuse, like that of alcohol and tobacco, have been
increasing, there is also a specific lack of understanding in many
communities of the link between drug misuse and HIV/AIDS.

Necessary actions:
45. There is an urgent need, throughout the region, for comprehensive
review and reform of juvenile justice systems in line with best

practices and international standards. There is a need to ensure fair
judicial   processes   with   adequate  monitoring   and   complaints
procedures;     end police coercion, violence and torture; end
uneccesary deprivations of liberty, institute fairer judicial
process, end uneccessary deprivations of liberty, and reduce maximum
sentences; and develop more positive sentencing options based on a
range of non-custodial and rehabilitative options. Training of the
judiciary, police, social welfare professionals, NGOs and citizens‟
groups, must be a central part of this, seeking to work with
communities to prevent juvenile crime, to change public attitudes to
juveniles who offend, to provide support to victims and offenders, to
rehabilite those who offend, and to carry out educational work with
children in care, and re-integrate those leaving care.

46. A policy focus on „youth-friendly services‟, delivered in more
appropriate, non-stigmatising ways, responsive to the demands of
young people themselves, needs to replace the current, more reactive,
focus on „youth at risk‟. The latter reinforces stereotypes of young
people as a problem group. The role of community-based services and
local NGOs, involved in street-level youth work, harm reduction
programmes, and, crucially, peer-based youth-to-youth work, should be
more widely recognised and adopted. The need for an integrated
approach to young people as well as for the formation of positvie
public opinion in relation to young people, must involve NGOs as key

47. Within this, there is an urgent need to increase the
accessibility and quality of health, and mental health, services,
going beyond existing socio-medical models, for adolescents and young
people, including sexual and reproductive health, remedy from the use
of   drugs,   tobacco   and  alcohol,   confidential   HIV   testing,
opportunities for counselling, and integration programmes for those
living with disabilities. Support for interventions to reduce stress,
youth depression and suicide should be strengthened throughout the
region. Young people leaving care, and those who are homeless, should
be major targets of adequately funded programmes involving local

48. As drugs are widespread and quite accessible in the region,
effective forms of education, prevention and remedy from te use of
drugs need to be developed. It is important to stop criminalising and
stigmatising those children and young people who use drugs, and to
work more on remedy and rehabilitation. More child-friendly
procedures need to be established and the issue should be appraoched
from the perspective of the best interetss of the child and not from
a punitive approach. There is an important role for Governments in
combating drug-trafficking and ensuring that the police do not use
drugs as a means of intimidating or falsely accusing young people.

ii. Young People´s participation and inclusion
Issues and themes:
49. The right to participation and to have one‟s views heard,
respected, and acted upon, is a key principle for children throughout
the life-cycle, enshrined in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child. Insofar as the CRC refers to participation and
inclusion throughout the life-cycle according to children and young
people's 'evolving capacities', the building blocks of particpation,
in place earlier, must be completed during this period of transition
from 'childhood' to 'adulthood'. Existing paternalistic attitudes
still form a barrier to real participation throughout the region.
This is compounded by the social exclusion of a significant number of

young people, existing in a limbo between school and work, or forced
to leave their countries and, indeed, the region, in order to realise
their rights and preserve their dignity and well-being. Innovative
programmes led by young people themselves, active in civil society,
are the crucial building block for the realisation of the right to
participate associated with active citizenship and a viable

50. Throughout the region, there are large, and increasing, numbers
of young people who are neither studying nor working - an estimated
18 million young people throughout the region (a staggering 27% of
all 15-24 year olds). Youth unemployment is far higher than that for
the rest of the population, and exceeded 20% in 13 of the 18
countries for which 1998 figures are available (exceeding 30% in
seven of these), much of it long-term in nature.

51. There is a significant „missing generation‟, with 1.5 million
fewer 15 to 24 year olds in the region in 1999, compared to the 5 to
14 population of 1989. The smallest part of this is traceable to what
might be termed 'expected deaths‟, with a much greater impact being
as a result of violent conflicts in the region. An estimated one
million young people appear to have moved out of the region
altogether, and the „brain drain‟ of talented young people, itself a
reflection of globalisation and educational and labour mobility,
could have serious long-term implications for social and economic
development in the region.

52. As older mass movement youth organisations give way to newer
NGOs, there is a slow erosion of paternalistic attitudes towards
youth participation, although this is less pronounced in employment,
in education, and in the political process. More worrying, but
difficult to measure, is an emerging „participation gap‟ in which
those who are less articulate, disadvantaged, in poverty, living with
disabilities, members of minorities, or in rural areas, are less
included in new initiatives, groups, and movements, than their peers.
This often extends to marked divergences in participation on the
basis of gender, as well as many other sources of potential

Necessary actions:
53. Systematic, sustained, coherent action in further and continuing
education and in the labour market is needed to improve the
transition from education to employment for young people. There is a
need to safeguard the rights of young employees, implement more
flexible approaches to education and labour market participation, end
exploited labour, and promote schemes to improve the life skills of
adolsecents, and increase the „youth-friendliness‟ of employers, in
both the public and private sector, through establishing incentives
such as tax exemptions, for example.

54. In addition to wider „youth-friendly‟ services outlined above,
there is a need to end the participation of young people in armed
conflicts, promote the right to civil service rather than compulsory
military service, and to ensure young people‟s safety as civilians.
Ensuring that human capital remains high in the region involves a
renewed need to invest in higher education, to expand grants and
other incentives for high quality training inside and outside the
region which address the need for those trained to make a
contribution „at home‟.

55. Programmes which allow young people to participate in decisions
which affect, or will affect, their lives, and be involved in turning
these decisions into action, should be a priority, strengthening
existing youth organisations and encouraging new, innovative, and
diverse forms of expression. Particular attention should be paid to
the right of disadvantaged young people to participate in civil
society, and to be active in social and political life. There is a
need for training and advice to adults to ensure their commitment and
ability to promote enhanced youth participation.

III.    An Anti-Discriminatory Approach
56. Non-discrimination is one of the four fundamental principles
enshrined within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since
the Convention was adopted in November 1989, a great deal of
practical and theoretical effort has gone into defining and
elaborating what an anti-discriminatory approach is, and how it can
best   be   developed.   There   is   increasing   recognition   that
discrimination on the basis of “race, colour, sex, religion, economic
status, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin
or disability” as well as other grounds, is at the root of a “vicious
cycle of social and economic exclusion”11 and needs to be tackled by
an inclusive, proactive, approach.

57. In addition, discrimination is far more than the sum of
individual prejudices and intended actions, and is often built into
legislative and institutional structures, requiring systematic
attention to disparities in all aspects of the lives of children and
young people. For this reason, anti-discrimination is often referred
to as a „cross-cutting approach‟ since the needs and interests of
particular groups of the population may not be adequately met in all
phases of the life-cycle. There are clear inter-linkages between
diverse forms of oppression and discrimination, associated with a
general rise of intolerance throughout the region of all forms of
difference and diversity. Our concern here is with three broad groups
in the population in the region whose needs must be at the forefront
of an anti-discriminatory approach to children‟s rights: children and
young people with disabilities; children and young people from ethnic
and national minorities; and girls and young women.

a. Children and young people with disabilities
       “Children with physical, intellectual and other developmental
       disabilities have the same human rights as all other children. The
       voices of children with disabilities and their families are not
       being adequately heard. These children are victims of growing
       poverty, government cutbacks, segregated education, (and) social
Our vision:
58. “Children and young people with disabilities are treated with
dignity and respect as equal members of society, and enabled to
access appropriate services which, whilst tailored to specific needs,
serve to promote greater integration, throughout the life-cycle.”

Issues and themes:
59. Children and young people with disabilities, already facing some
of the most appalling conditions in many countries in the region
before transition, have faced added problems as economic conditions
have squeezed resources even more. Very rarely has disability rights
become a major theme in the last ten years, and old attitudes have
been slow to erode, underpinned by the continued dominance of
inappropriate   medical   models   based  on   the   discipline   of

„defectology‟, in which those labelled „invalids‟ are classified in
terms of their divergence from a supposed „norm‟. Real rates of
disability have risen, and provision has struggled to keep pace, with
much of it paternalistic and a threat to development and equal
opportunity. The participation of children and young people with
disabilities in quality schooling and in the labour market has also
been problematic.

60. Figures on disability in the region are affected by trends in
classificatory systems, as well as by the link such a label has to
entitlement to benefits for children and their families. The MONEE
Project noted an increase in those officially recognized as disabled
in 5 countries in the region between 1990 and 1995. There are also
clear links between disabilities and deteriorations in maternal and
child health, and in rises in levels and seriousness of environmental
pollution, as well as with specific local environmental factors and

61. As a result of the influence of defectology, early classification
of children has hardened into labels which are hard to shake off, and
given the dominance of separate, special provision, often in
institutions, many of these labels become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Whilst there have been moves towards deinstitutionalisation, in part
for economic reasons, some of these have been more „successful‟ than
parallel attempts to integrate children with disabilities into
regular schools and classes, so that increasing numbers of children
with disabilities receive no education at all. Meanwhile, those who
remain in special institutions, and the figure is still unacceptably
high, sometimes receive worse care than before. The mislabelling of
some groups in the population, particularly Roma, as having mental
disabilities and therefore segregated into special schools, is
particularly worrying13.

62. The needs of young people with disabilities appear to have been
neglected. Access of young people with disabilities to quality higher
and vocational education, and to good jobs, appears particularly

Necessary actions:
63. Perhaps more than any other issue dealt with in this report,
there is an urgent need for more in-depth analyses of the situation
of children and young people with disabilities incorporating, in a
central place, the views of children and their families. This must be
combined with increased awareness of disability issues, within a
rights framework, within the media, in professional education, and
amongst policy makers. There needs to be a shift in attention from a
medical model of „disability‟ towards a social model of „disabling
environments‟, recognising that both social and medical aspects are

64. There is a need to develop, as a priority, services for children
with disabilities which support and strengthen family-based care,
combined with respite care, and an adequate level of benefits. Access
to good quality education for children with disabilities, within a
free public education system, should be a priority, combined with
rights to additional tuition and assistance where appropriate and

65. Incentives for young people with disabilities to enter higher and
vocational education, and incentives for employers to employ young
people with disabilites in meaningful jobs, should be a major

priority. Beyond this, support for rights based disability civil
society organisations, particularly those led by people with
disabilities themselves, is vital in promoting change through
improved services as well as advocacy and lobbying.

b. ‘Ethnic’, national and other minorities
Our vision:
66. “Equality of opportunity and inclusion of all throughout the
life-cycle, regardless of religion, national or ethnic origin, or
citizenship status.”

Issues and themes:
67. The process of 8 nation states becoming 27 in the region can be
seen as both a response to complex ethnicised power relations between
majority and minority groups, and a contributor to new forms of
ethnicised exclusion and intolerance of difference. Most of the
conflicts in the region in the last ten years have been intimately
related to felt or ascribed notions of „ethnic‟ difference, reaching
an extreme in forms of „ethnic cleansing‟ likely to leave a lasting
legacy of hatred. Children and young people have not been spared this
logic of ethnicised exclusion and violence, being direct victims of
war, often forced to flee from their homes in massive numbers, being
subject to torture, abuse and exploitation, and being denied rights
throughout the region. In addition, the region‟s Roma population have
found their rights, also heavily constrained under the previous
system, further eroded, particularly in relation to the right to
education. Systematic action at all levels, from international
treaties and state legislation, through to education for peace and
tolerance, are needed to begin to challenge ethnicised discrimination
and reduce the risks of conflicts being perpetuated in future

68. Rights for the Roma population, who may number as many as 6
million across the region14, are of particular concern, in terms of
mass poverty, absence of citizenship rights, and being the targets of
rising violence and hostility. There is evidence in some countries
that Roma children and young people are over-represented in
institutional care and in the juvenile justice system, in some cases
alarmingly so. The right to education for Roma children in the region
is particularly limited in terms of access, quality, and choice. Work
in progress by Save the Children points to a general picture of low
enrolment, high drop out, and discriminatory treatment of Roma
children in the region‟s educational systems15. There is evidence of
inapproporiate segregation of Roma children in special schools.
Minority rights issues are a major priority, albeit in different ways
in different places, for much of the region. The problems are
exacerbated by the fact that majority populations in one country may
be the minority population in another.

69. Armed conflict in a third of the countries of the region in the
last decade has killed many thousands of children, left hundreds of
thousands without one or both parents, and led to millions seeking
refuge as refugees or internally displaced persons. Children have
been targetted for belonging to the „wrong‟ ethnic or national group,
imprisoned, tortured, abused, or expelled. Even where conflict has
ended, children continue to be victims of the millions of land mines
left throughout the region. Issues of immediate safety should not
deflect attention from the wider need for children fleeing conflict
to have their developmental, health and educational needs met, and in

particular the long-term need for support to overcome the traumas of

70. Shifts in majority-minority relations throughout the region,
including the establishment of previous minorities as governing
majorities in new nation states or entities, have often been played
out in the educational system, with access and curricula, especially
history teaching, biased on ethnicised grounds. In some parts of the
region, discriminatory residence and citizenship requirements are a
major obastacle to access. There is, often, a lack of understanding
of the need for minorities to receive instruction in minority
languages, much less of the wider value of all pupils learning those
languages. Whilst there has been increasing attention to „civic‟ and
„peace education‟, incorporating non-violent conflict resolution
methods and approaches, many initiatives remain outside the
mainstream of educational provision.

Necessary actions:
71. All countries in the region need to adopt comprehensive and
workable anti-discriminatory legislation and machinery. Systematic
action to promote accessible and good quality education for
minorities is needed throughout the region. This must be based on
wide co-operation with representatives of minority groups, including
children and young people themselves. Ensuring family-based care and
decreased rates of minorities in public care and in the juvenile
justice system, must be priorities for the next decade.

72.   Beyond  protection   of  children   in  conflict  and   complex
emergencies, there is a need to work on conflict prevention, and to
see formal and informal education as major arenas for the promotion
of peace, tolerance and respect for diversity, based on principles
equality for all. Education should develop respect for a child‟s
identity, language, values and heritage, and for cultures different
from his or her own. The right to primary education in minority
languages, and for refugees and displaced persons and others who may
lack citizenship, is particularly important. Reform of discriminatory
registration systems is needed urgently. Moreover the need for the
reunification of separated children, including those exposed to
trafficking, forced prostitution, or otherwise held as prisoners,
must be a priority. Networks of NGOs must be supported to play a
crucial role here.

c. Girls and young women
Our vision:
73. “Gender equality throughout the life-cycle, with girls and young
women protected from all forms of exploitation, abuse and violence.”

Issues and themes:
74. Gender relations have a huge impact on the lives of all children
and young people given women‟s dual role in the family and the labour
market. Formal gender equality under state socialism, never fully
attained or secured, has been eroded by what can best be termed a
„repatriarchalization‟ of social relations, in which male authority
in the family, in the labour market, and in political life, has been
reasserted, having a serious detrimental impact on women‟s security,
livelihoood, and developmental potential.

75.   Inevitably,   these   patterns,   together   with   traditional
discriminatory practices, have also affected the treatment of girls
and young women particularly in terms of access to the labour market.

Pronounced declines in rates of female employment and earning power
have also affected young women, even though in many countries in the
region they continue to show better educational results.

76. Gender-based violence is on the increase, with innovative
responses by diverse women‟s organisations in civil society only
slowly, and unevenly, beginning to influence the stance of official
agencies. Adopting a life-cycle approach to gender-based violence
shows the various risks which girls and young women face, through
long-standing violence such as that in the family and new forms of
violence, notably those associated with armed conflict. The rise of
reported sexual abuse of girls and young women, exploitation and
trafficking, in part a reflection of increased awareness and
willingness to report, needs urgent attention. Problems of the
commercial explotiation of children and young people through the
internet is a growing cause for concern.

77. The sexual and related exploitation of girls and young women
within national borders, itself on the increase, has been accompanied
by the rise of trafficking across borders. The scale of the problem
is difficult to estimate, although the OSCE suggests that, in 1997
alone, 175,000 women and girls were trafficked from the region,
mainly to other OSCE countries16. The report notes an increasing
relationship between trafficking and other forms of organised crime.
The trafficking of boys is also on the increase.

Necessary actions:
78. Systematic attention to promoting gender equality in all aspects
of social, economic and family life, including awareness raising and
challenging gender stereotypes in schools and in the media, must be
at the forefront of action plans for children‟s rights in the next
decade. The mainstreming of gender initiatives, involving civil
society organisations in a key role, must be properly monitored and
evaluated. Particular attention needs to be paid to the transition
from school to work and to family responsibilites for young women and
men, to challenge the discrimination young women currently face.
Specific attention should be paid to gender awareness and challenging
stereotypes amongst boys, in the media, and in the educational

79. Advocacy and awareness raising regarding all forms of violence
and sexual abuse and exploitation needs to be a major priority,
including training of social welfare professionals, law enforcement
officials, and social workers. Support for grassroots initiatives
offering safe spaces for girls and young women, for the victims of
all forms of violence and abuse, and also acting as advocates to
change inappropriate laws and practices, must be a priority.

80. National Action Plans to counter trafficking need to be developed
alongside a commitment from Governments to support trans-border and
wider   international  co-operation.   It  is   important  to   adopt
legislation which, whilst criminalising those responsible, considers
trafficked persons as victims not as criminals. Beyond this, an
urgent need is to focus on the prevention of trafficking and to
understand, and remove, the major social and economic causes of

IV.    A Systems Intervention Approach
81. Without an explicit focus on the social systems which structure
children‟s lives in the region, there is a danger that the specific
action proposals detailed above will have only a limited impact.
Indeed, there is increasing recognition, based on experience, that a
focus on a single element of a complex system can have unintended,
and negative, consequences elsewhere. In this section we focus on two
broad levels of systems intervention which are both necessary to
secure children‟s rights in the region in the next decade. The first
refers to social policy interventions in their widest sense, linked
to macro-economic policy, to challenge poverty and inequality which,
as themes, cut across much of the discussion thus far. However,
without the second level of interventions, the development of child
care, child protection and family oriented services to challenge
child abuse and institutionalisation, change at the macro-level will
not guarantee more positive outcomes for children and young people in
the region.

a. Social Policy Challenging Poverty and Inequality
      “(T)he high social costs of … reforms can endanger the entire
      transition process, rip apart the social fabric and undermine the
      popular consensus on which these new, and still weak, democracies
      are based. The strengthening of social policies is, therefore, not
      only an ethical and moral imperative, but also a useful intervention
      for ensuring political stability.”17

Our vision:
82. “Social policies and social sector reforms in place, based on a
human development paradigm, which free children and young people from
poverty and reduce unacceptably high levels of inequality.”

Issues and themes:
83. If the goal of the transition is to more effectively meet human
developmental needs, it has singularly failed throughout the region.
The social impact of reforms has been catastrophic and particularly
felt by children and families. A smaller cake is now being shared
less equally, and “the slice of the cake for children is in danger of
getting smaller”18. Children living in poverty has increased
throughout the region, as a consequence of an economic recession
comparable to the worst in modern history19, and as a direct result
of reforms which explicitly reduce public expenditures. Without a
strengthening of social security systems, underpinned by a much
greater prioritisation of social rights, the legacy of this will be
felt for decades to come. New social policies are needed, combining a
renewed commitment to universal public provision with innovative
programmes mobilising local communities and new social actors.

84. Using income poverty lines, a generally accepted measure, a
recent report from the European Children’s Trust, itself utilising
UNDP and UNICEF/MONEE data in the main, estimates that, by the mid-
1990s, some 160 million people, or 40% of the total population, were
living in poverty, of which some 50 million were children, 38 million
of whom were living in the Western Former Soviet Union and the
Central Asian Republics20. Most of these were in families living on
less than 4 USD per day. In some countries in the region, such
poverty is endemic reaching levels of over 70% of the population 21
Levels of inequality have increased across the region, and are in
many cases „remarkably‟ high22, so that relative poverty, an accepted
index in more developed societies, has also risen even in those parts
of the region which have recently experienced more stable economic

conditions. Increasingly, throughout the region, having children is
one of the key risk factors connected with poverty overall, and is
most    pronounced    for groups   already   facing    discrimination,
particularly minorities, single parent families, and people with
disabilities. A policy consensus that poverty is not particularly
deep   in   the   region, compared  to   the   developing   countries,
increasingly has to be revised.

85. In much of the region, for most of the past decade, explicit
reforms have been introduced, often based on advice from a range of
international financial institutions and agencies, which have focused
on economic development at the expense of social development and
justice, and have been child-hostile rather than child-friendly23.
Reforms led to increased demand for social assistance programmes
whilst, at the same time, policies limiting the extent of this
assistance were put in place. Increasingly, even in the most
impoverished parts of the region, there is a recognition that a
fundamentalist belief in the need for reductions in public
expenditure, and the narrow targeting of services to the „poorest of
the poor‟, has been counter-productive.

86. Overall, the proportion of public expenditure on family and
child-support of one form or another has declined considerably
throughout the region. Indeed, it has been argued that “faced with
the dilemma of tighter available resources, countries have tended to
make the wrong compromises”24 both in terms of the balance of social
expenditures and the balance between social and other expenditures,
particularly those on defence, law and order, and internal security.
The absence of child-specific information, budgets, and policy
planning   also   poses  major   problems   for   the  planning  and
implementation of social policy for children‟s rights.

Necessary actions:
87. There is an urgent need for concerted action throughout the
region to eliminate poverty affecting children and young people. As a
first step, poverty should be halved throughout the region in the
next decade. This must combine increased social sector spending and
increased attention to equity, with a mobilisation of community
resources and initiatives. Decentralisation of some services is
highly desirable, providing adequate funds are available and overall
inequalities are reduced. Combining social solidarity, social justice
and social innovation is the key to a renewed human development
perspective and a new model of social welfare. Above all, there
should be a recognition by major international financial institutions
of the depth and chronic nature of the crisis, requiring more
flexible and less ideological approaches, more investment, and a
significant reduction in the debt burden faced by countries
throughout the region.

88. Children‟s budgets should be drawn up throughout the region, as
part of national action plans to devote more resources to children
and families25, and as a tool for raising awareness of the impact of
macro-economic policies on the lives of children. Within this, there
is a need to invest more resources in children from disadvantaged and
marginalised groups in the population. Throughout the region, a
significant share of resources currently devoted to defence and law
and order, should be channelled into social welfare, with increasing
attention to the reduction of disparities.

89. Specific anti-poverty programmes, in which poverty affecting
children, young people, and families is given specific attention,

must be implemented, based on new partnerships between governments
and NGOs. Only by mobilising community resources can the debilitating
effects of poverty be ameliorated throughout the region.

c. Child Care, Child Protection and Family Services
    “All children have the right to grow up in a family. We are
    effectively denying them that right when we focus only on picking up
    the pieces once families fall apart. There is a growing appreciation
    of the need for a comprehensive system of assistance, incentives and
    supportive services for families …”.26

Our vision:
90. “Appropriate and well-funded child care, child protection and
family support services in place, ensuring that families have the
support they need to nurture and raise their children, with
deinstitutionalisation and a renewed focus on family support. In the
few cases where children do not or cannot receive the care they need
within their family, alternatives that are family- and community-
based must be found. Placement in residential institutions,
themselves transformed to be more developmentally stimulating, is
used only as a last resort.”

Issues and themes:
91. As already noted in this report, there are growing numbers of
children in public care, now numbering well over one million. Most of
these children, perhaps as many as 85%, have a living parent and
many, despite all the efforts of recent years, continue to live in
large-scale institutions. Their growing numbers are a clear symptom
of the increased social stress beyond the walls of their
institutions, linked to poverty, exclusion and resulting in at risk
behaviours or situations, and of large numbers of families that are
simply unable to cope. The continued institutionalisation of such
vast numbers of children is contrary to every stated policy intention
and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child27.

92. There is an urgent need to assist those children in public care
and, more generally, to protect families at risk. Beyond this, there
is increasing recognition of the need to prevent abuse and protect
children from violence and abuse within the family, be it emotional,
physical, or sexual abuse. Social work and related services,
themselves under-developed in much of the region before 1989, need to
be supported in their assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation
roles. Strengthening of professional expertise will, however,
contribute little without an increasing emphasis on participation by
children and young people themselves, their families, and local

Necessary actions:
93. Throughout the region, there is an urgent need for the
establishment of child care services within a „continuum of care‟
approach, based on long-term developmental needs, rather than
reacting to particular crises. The best interests of the child must
be at the centre of such a system. Much more work on the setting of
standards based on children‟s rights, and more accountable monitoring
of these, is urgently needed if institutional mandates are to be
transformed to be more child- and family-centred. A system based on
clearer lines of communication, including innovative local NGO-led
projects, with children at its centre, should be established. Good
practice and systems interventions which have had positive results,

should be analysed and replicated elsewhere      with   much   greater
exchange of experience on this vital issue.

94. The entire child care system must be based on a programme of
deinstutitionalisation  and   a  strengthening  of   family  support
services. The institutional care of young children, and placement of
children in institutions as a result of poverty, should be ended, as
should the mis-labelling of children, especially minorities, as
„disabled‟, all of which deny large number of children opportunities
for development.

95. A charter of rights for children and young people in
institutional care should be drawn up, involving the right to
participate in decisions; the right to placement close to family and
community, the right to periodic review, rehabilitation, or placement
in a substitute family wherever possible; the right to support
services after care; and so on. Special attention should be paid to
the rights of minorities and children and young people with
disabilities. There should be clear targets for a significant
reduction of children in public care in the next decade.

96. National norms and standards for childcare services require a
stronger role for local authorities in the planning, co-ordination
and provision of social services. To ensure provision of quality
services, a range of government agencies and NGO networks need to
work jointly and inter-sectorally in support of families. National as
well as local budgets and their allocations should prioritise family-
centred care and community-based social services. The transformation
of residential care into family-like and family-friendly services
must be accompanied by the establishment of family-based care
alternatives.   Within  this   process,  existing   residential  care
institutions and their staff must be acknowledged and enabled to act
as agents of change. The work begun in the region through the
Budapest Conference on ‘Protecting the Rights of Children Deprived or
At Risk of Being Deprived of Parental Care‟ must be built on and
progress on this most important of issues carefully monitored.

97. Programmes which seek to reform the approach to violence, abuse
and neglect within families, including physical, emotional and sexual
abuse, should be instituted, based on a comprehensive approach to
information   gathering,  education,   prevention,  legislative   and
judicial reform, and the promotion of therapeutic resources.
Collaboration between countries in and outside the region, based on
exchanges of experience and the development of best practice
guidelines, should be a key element of this.

V.   Partnerships for Children’s Rights
98. This document has sought to outline a number of crucial actions
to promote children‟s rights in Central and Eastern Europe, the
Baltics, and the CIS, for the next decade, based on continued
adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC). The Convention places clear responsibilities on Governments
(or States Parties) as signatories, to meet their obligations of
reporting, consulting, and acting, in order to make a reality of
children‟s rights. However, the Convention is very clear that
responsibility for children‟s rights rests with everyone, and must be
based on new kinds of partnerships and mobilisations. This is
particularly important in a region where, in the past, it could be
argued that many of the problems stem from the state‟s monopoly over
significant aspects of people‟s lives.

99. There is a need for Governments to promote the work of NGOs
through permissive legislation, funding, and other kinds of support.
Above all, NGOs are not a substitute for Governments in children‟s
rights, but a partner which can and must play a monitoring and watch-
dog function. Indeed, nothing in this document shoud be tken to
suggest that NGOs are obliged to play any particular role, nor to
detract from the responsibilities of Governments in the provision of
adequate services, but should ratehr be seen as restating the urgent
need for Goveernments to respect and promote NGOs' work in defence of
children's rights. The development of civil society across the region
has been uneven, and not always directly correlated with levels of
economic development, with broad sustainability of the sector having
declined in South-Eastern Europe and Eurasia28. In some parts of the
region, there has been from Governments, at best, a reluctance and a
level of ignorance of the contribution of NGOs to public policy for
children‟s rights and, at worst, an open hostility to groups seen as
„anti-governmental‟. The positive portrayal of NGOs‟ work by the
media is also crucial. The next ten years must see a greater
incorporation of NGOs and CBOs into policy making within a rights-
based framework. Moreover, such NGOs should be consulted routinely,
and involved in the monitoring and evaluation of progress in securing
the rights of children and young people.

100. A strengthening of the role and voice of civil society must be
developed at four levels. At the local level, decentralised service
provision, properly funded, must involve the mobilisation of local
NGOs and CSOs who are most responsive to local needs and priorities.
At the national level, the role of civil society must be
institutionalised in all aspects of children‟s rights, in drawing up,
implementing and monitoring National Plans of Actions, delivering
well-funded services, and actinig as advocates and lobbyists for
children‟s rights. At the regional and sub-regional level, the
establishemnt of a stong voice of civil society is vital in promoting
regional solutions for regional problems, building on best practices
and exchange of information. At the global level, civil society is
increasingly involved in structures for developing children‟s rights
and, within this, the specificities of this region must not be
forgotten. To promote fuller attention to and implementation of the
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which provides the
vision and tools to improve the human rights of all children
worldwide, the attention of the Donor Agencies should be more focused
on a child rights agenda. Implementation and monitoring of the CRC
depends on commitment of the industrialized nations and donor
community, as well as on the governments of the states parties.

101. A wider coalition for children‟s rights involving the media,
politicians, sports, culture, and entertainment personalities,
private entrepreneurs, and so on, is also important. Above all, more
open models of participation of children and young people themselves
in all aspects of the agenda will be the most important index of
achievement. In a region in which a private sector is emerging, the
possibilty of innovative public/private partnerships, within a clear
regulatory framework, could offer new ways forward to realise
children‟s rights. In addition, tapping community potential and
promoting volunteering, alongside an increasing professionalisation,
should be a major priority. Innovative schemes for encouraging those
unemployed, and those undertaking civil service, to participate in
NGOs, should also be implemented.

102.   In the changing context of globalisation, these partnerships
will, inevitably, increasingly involve a wide range of international,
regional, and supra-national bodies, including the United Nations and
its agencies. In particular, for this region, the role of the
Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, and the process of accession
of states to the European Union, neither of which thus far pay
sufficient attention to children‟s rights29, is likely to become
increasingly important. The way in which youth issues, and the issue
of trafficking, have become important elements of the rights agenda
of the Stability Pact, should promote greater involvement of child
rights based NGOs in all of its processes. Similarly, tying accession
to the European Union to progress on child rights, as has been noted
in the case of Romania, can be more developed if NGOs become key
actors in all of these processes. In many ways, the main message of
this paper is that policy is never changed on the basis of good
advice and information alone, although both are important. Only wider
mobilisation and commitment across society can ensure a brighter
future for children in the next decade.


CBO                    Community Based Organisation
CEE                    Central and Eastern Europe
CIS                    Commonwealth of Independent States
CRC                    Convention on the Rights of the Child
GDP                    Gross Domestic Product
NGO                    Non Governmental Organisation
OSCE                   Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe
SEECRAN                South East Europe Child Rights Action Network
UN                     United Nations
UNDP                   United Nations Development Programme
UNICEF                 United Nations Children’s Fund
USAID                  United States Agency for International Development
USD                    United States Dollars


   Unless otherwise stated, figures in the text derive from the MONEE Project of the UNICEF
International Child Development Centre, either from annual Regional Monitoring Reports or the
TransMONEE 2000 database. Web Page –
   Save the Children (1995) Towards a Children’s Agenda: new challenges for social development.
SCF, March; p. 29.
  UNICEF MONEE Regional Monitoring Report no 4 (1997) Children at Risk; p. 71.
  UNICEF Monee (1999) After the Fall: the human impact of ten years of transition; p. 6.
  UNICEF MONEE Regional Monitoring Report no 5 (1998) Education for All?; p. 47.
   Ringold, D. (2000) Roma and the Transition in Central and Eastern Europe: trends and challenges.
Washington: The World Bank; p. 17.
  Fajth G. (2000) Preface to UNICEF MONEE Regional Monitoring Report no 7 (2000), Young People
in Changing Societies; p. x.
   Different official documents use different ages for the beginning and end of this phase of the life-
cycle. This document takes 15-24 because of the difficulties faced by those over 18 in the transition
from school to work.
  UNICEF MONEE Regional Monitoring Report no 7 (2000); p.85.
   Figures are from UNAIDS.
   A World Fit For Children; para. 12.
   Child Rights Caucus (2000) A Child Rights Agenda for the Coming Decade; October; p. 8.
    European Roma Rights Center (1999) A Special Remedy: Roma and schools for the mentally
handicapped in the Czech Republic. Budapest: ERRC; June.
    Census figures based on ‘ethnicity’ seriously underestimate the number of Roma. The figure of 6
million is derived from figures quoted by Ringold, D. (2000); pp. 3-4.
    Save the Children (2000) Denied a Future? The right to education of Roma, Gypsy and Traveller
children; First draft, March.
   OSCE (1999) Proposed Action Plan 2000 for Activities to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings.
    Cornia, G. and Sipos, S. (1991) Children and the Transition to the Market Economy. Summary
Document; ICDC: Florence, p. 33.
   After the Fall, p. 3.
   cf. Zuoev A. (ed.) (1999) Generation in Jeopardy: Children in Central and Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union; New York/London: ME Sharpe; pp 12-14, drawing historical parallels with the
Great Depression in the United States in the 1930s, and the structural crisis in Latin America in the
    Carter, R. (2000) The Silent Crisis: the impact of poverty on children in Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. London: The European Children’s Trust; pp. 19-20, esp. Table 2; p. 20.
   UNDP (1999) Human Development Report for Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS. New York:
UNDP; p. iv.
   UNDP (1999) ibid; p. 19.
    de Vylder, S. (1999) The Link Between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and
Macroeconomics. In Save the Children (ed.) Making the Link: a report from the International Seminar
on Macroeconomics and Children’s Rights. p. 19.
   UNICEF MONEE Regional Monitoring Report no 4; p. 101.
   For a useful discussion and example see Robinson, S. and Bierstaker L. (eds.) (1999) First Call: the
South African Children’s Budget. Cape Town: idasa.
   O’Brien, P. (2000) Statement to Regional Conference on Children Deprived of Parental Care,
Budapest, October.
   Report of the Regional Conference on Children Deprived of Parental Care, Budapest, October 2000.
   USAID (2000) The 1999 NGO Sustainability Index; p. 8.
    Save the Children/SEECRAN (2001) Rights in Crisis and Transition; EURONET (1999) A
Children’s Policy for 21st Century Europe.


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