The preliminary session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of the United Nations took place in Geneva on October 8. The Committee members discussed the child rights situation in Bulgaria. In early July this year, the National Network for Children (NNC) sent an alternative report, which supplements the report issued by the Bulgarian state and includes examples of specific violations of children’s rights, which were collected by calls and cases sent by parents, community members and member’s organizations of the National Network for Children. The alternative report on children’s rights in Bulgaria compiled by NNC also included recommendations made by children and young people.
One of the main principles of the Child’s Rights Convention and a guiding principle of the work of the National Network for Children is child participation. Therefore in developing of the report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, NNC included not only experts but held a consultation with children and young people to seek their opinion.
The two children who took part in the session of the United Nations in Geneva – Eva and Valeria are 16 and 17 years old and are from Pavlikeni and Veliko Tarnovo, supported respectively by “SOS – Children’s Villages – Bulgaria” and the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance “Amalipe”. The topic which two girls choose to present to the 18 independent members of the Committee was child abuse and violence.
Dani Koleva, Program Director of the National Network for Children also participated in the preliminary session of the UN Committee and presented the main issues that civil society organizations working with children and families in Bulgaria face:
- The lack of an independent authority that has the mandate, expertise and resources needed for effective protection and ensuring children’s rights in practice;
- The need to improve the capacity of the child protection system by developing standards for competence and workload of social workers and provide adequate training, supervision and support;
- The need to change the criteria and the definition of “abortion” and “birth” in the standard “Obstetrics and Gynecology” which contradicts the international standards and article 24 of the CRC;
- The lack of targeted family policy and family-oriented approach in all sectoral policies and the way of implementation of the process of deinstitutionalization. At present the focus is on projects rather than on the rights of children; lack of stability and regulation of created innovative services, there is confusion about what the next steps will be and not least – civil society organizations are excluded from the process of consultation and decision-making.
- Various ministries and state institutions provide a number of services focused on the development of young children, however the approach is fragmentary. There’s need for better coordination in encouraging the overall child development by adopting an integrated framework for early childhood development in the form of a comprehensive inter-sectoral strategy and a plan for its implementation.
- Removing the two-shift system of education. The current organization of the educational process makes the impossible efforts to create a modern educational environment for learning and development of the whole school community. Two shifts of school attendance make pointless day organization of teaching process and limits the ability of schools to develop new forms of extra curriculum and free time occupations in the school.
- The need to guarantee mother- and baby-friendly healthcare system by changing existing practices before and after the birth of a child, which does not comply with modern trends such as the separation of mothers and babies, the lack of support for breastfeeding, non-companion during birth and others.
- The lack of effective action to introduce a system of juvenile justice in full compliance with the Convention and international standards.
As a result of the meeting, representatives of the UN Committee will submit list of issues and questions to the Bulgarian government and the responsible institutions whose answers will be discussed together with the report of the state in June 2016.
Participation of two girls in the session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva is implemented with the financial support of the Bulgarian-Swiss Program for Cooperation.