During their visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bureau of the Executive Board of UNICEF consisting of high officials form Finland, Albania, Guyana, Kenya and the Islamic Republic of Iran had the opportunity to observe the situation of children and families, especially the most vulnerable ones, and to understand how an upstream approach at the different levels of governance contributes to improve the situation of children.
In the Bilalovac Village, in Kiseljak Municipality, the Delegation was introduced to the phenomenon of schools divided along ethnic lines to see how children are growing up in parallel systems with little opportunities to learn and interact with children from other ethnic groups. The Delegation observed a workshop on communication, inter-cultural and peace education as an initiative to bring together children from different ethnic groups. These efforts complement the work at the policy and legislative level to end segregation and promote multi-ethnic and inter-cultural education.
In a village near Zepce, together with the Cantonal Ministry of Education, the Delegation visited one of UNICEF-supported municipal early childhood education programmes. These initiatives at the municipal and cantonal levels complement the work at the policy level to support the implementation of the Law and strategy on Pre-school Education and expand access to preschool.
In the city of Derventa, together with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Republika Srpska, the Mayor and other authorities, the Delegation interacted with children with disabilities and their parents who receive care and support in a Day Care centre co-founded by the Municipality, the government of Republika Srpska and UNICEF. This is one of the services that have been established as part of a broad programme to strengthen social protection and inclusion at all levels supported by the European Union.
Together with the Cantonal Ministry of Justice, the Bureau met juveniles at the disciplinary centre in Tuzla. This centre is used as an open type facility with no locks, bars or uniformed guards to host juvenile offenders as an alternative measure to detention. As part of a broad programme on justice for children supported by SIDA and SDC, this initiative complements UNICEF efforts to strengthen the juvenile justice policy and legal frameworks in accordance with international standards.
Together with the Cantonal Minister of Interior, the Delegation visited a child-friendly room at the police station of Tuzla. As part of a broader programme on juvenile justice, UNICEF has been preventing violence, promoting alternatives to detention and supporting the establishment of child friendly rooms in police stations in nine municipalities. Based on this positive practice, the country committed to establish child friendly facilities in all courts and prosecutorial offices, with UNICEF technical assistance.
Together with Cantonal Ministries of health, education and social welfare and the Federal Ministry of health, the Bureau interacted with children, mothers, and professionals in the early childhood development services which function in Tuzla health facilities. These services are an example of services mainstreamed within the health system as part of the implementation of the State and Entity Early childhood development policies. Tuzla Canton already committed to expand similar practice to the whole Canton so that over 70% of children aged 0 to 3 will have access.
The visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina ended in Prutace a very poor and disadvantaged community in Brcko District with a high number of Roma and IDPs which illustrated efforts to reduce equity gaps by working together to promote social inclusion, reduce school dropout and prevent violence.
The Delegation also had the opportunity to meet with several Ministries at all levels, the European Union and international organizations - to discuss about early childhood development, intercultural education, social protection and inclusion, child rights, justice for children, prevention of violence and child protection.
Finland’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen is the President of the UNICEF Executive Board for the year 2013 – and the first Finn to hold that position. According to him, the visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina truly demonstrated the kind of work UNICEF does, including its challenges and possibilities. “This trip gave us a possibility to discuss the work that UNICEF does with UNICEF staff as well as local authorities and children.”
Mr Viinanen noted that UNICEF’s efforts and results have developed a sustainable basis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and are integrating with local initiatives.
He says the visit broadened further his views on UNICEF’s priorities as well as their importance. “A better understanding of UNICEF’s field work makes for a better Executive Board”, Mr. Viinanen summed the experience.