SOCIAL PROTECTION FOR CHILDREN: Investing in an efficient and effective social protection system for all children in poverty
A three-day conference "Social Welfare for Children - Exchange of Good Practices" is taking place from 16 to 18 October in Sarajevo, organized by UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina in cooperation with the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Republika Srpska. The conference brought together decision-makers, influencers and experts working in the field of social protection from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, Georgia and Moldova to discuss innovations in social protection, as well as to exchange experiences and enhance cooperation in this area.
"Social protection plays a key role in strengthening the resilience of children, families and communities, it also achieves greater equity and supports the human and economic development of the state. The relevant institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina have made significant progress in reforming the current social protection system to better manage the coverage of financial support and social services for the most vulnerable children and families. UNICEF remains committed to supporting them in these efforts.” said Geeta Narayan, UNICEF Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the inauguration of the conference.
Minister of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Adil Osmanović, emphasized at the opening of the Conference that Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, obliging them to undertake everything in their power to realize the best interests of the child in all areas of their rights. "Children are the most vulnerable but at the same time the most promising group of people. This Conference is in favor of our efforts to continuously work on improving the system of social protection and inclusion, including through the exchange of experiences with the countries of the region, especially in light of the ongoing process of joining the European Union, leading to the strategic goals set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy. The strategy is aimed at reducing the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion within the European Union, as well as the European Union recommendation on investing in children”, Osmanović said at the opening of the Conference.
Republika Srpska Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dragan Bogdanić, said that one of the basic goals is to equalize the conditions to meet the developmental needs of children and to create a favorable environment for each child to gain the same opportunity through the system of health, education and social protection.
"Investing in children is an investment in the future, and therefore we all need to take responsibility. Everything that we are investing today in the fight against poverty and exclusion of children will be repaid in the future in multiple ways. A just and well organized social protection policy is the best tool to achieve this." Bogdanić said.
Federal Minister of Labor and Social Policy, Vesko Drljača, said that the Conference is of great importance for both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region as a whole.
"In modern legal systems, children are the right holders, not just the subject of protection of these rights. All our activities, all material and non-material benefits that are directed at children should be seen as a long-term investment in the community and society, and society should be created according to the needs of the child. All the individual goals we are working on are ultimately leading towards a single goal, which is to solve the problem of child poverty.", said Drljaca at the opening of the Conference.
Melvin Asin, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressed the importance of social protection for the EU agenda.
"Unfortunately, children who grow up in poverty are more often encountered with social exclusion, lack access to quality services, and lack the ability to achieve the necessary skills and knowledge for the future. In such circumstances, most of these children will not be able to develop their full potential, and from our perspective - this is absolutely unacceptable for a number of reasons," Melvin Asin said, stressing that all children are entitled to equal opportunities and that adequate social protection and care is the key to ensuring that children become healthy, educated adult community members.
Associate Regional Director (Partnerships and Resource Mobilization) in the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Hanaa Singer, said that every society loves its children, but that it is very important that everyday life for children has a loving, caring and supportive environment in which a child can achieve his/her full potential.
"It is very important that every day you get equal opportunities to learn, be healthy, grow and develop. No child should grow up in poverty because his mother has lost a job or his father cannot be employed because of discrimination, "said Hanaa Singer.
During the first day of the conference, experts from Maastricht University, Oxford Policy Management, UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, World Bank and International Policy Center Brazil presented a number of arguments about the importance of social protection for children, identifying fiscal space for investing in children, linking cash and social services and coverage and adequacy of cash benefits in the Region.
The conference will result in a Call for Action and further confirm the commitment of the countries in the region to improve the social protection system in which children take an important place. Participants of the conference will exchange the lessons learned in this area, point out innovative approaches and discuss advocacy of social protection that will help families to cope with the difficulties of a difficult material situation.
Strengthening the social protection of children is in the interest of all countries in the region, because the most effective way to combat child poverty and social exclusion is to enable children to have at least minimum living conditions. By addressing the problem of poverty and social exclusion of children, social protection can help children to enjoy the minimum living conditions they need in order to exercise their rights to survive, progress, learn, and fully and equitably participate in society.