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Doc. 9454

7 May 2002

Social measures for children of war in south-eastern Europe

Report

Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Rapporteur: Mrs Snježana Biga-Friganoviċ, Croatia, Socialist Group

Summary

The report reviews the current situation of children and their families who suffered directly or indirectly the consequences of war in South East Europe. The rapporteur visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia and took into account relevant reports and statistics concerning the situation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Kosovo.

The requirements for rebuilding a viable post-conflict society are immense and vary from physical reconstruction (housing, schools, health centres, infrastructure, demining), to re-establishing state structures and governance, to reaffirming principles of a civil society and human rights by means of education, tolerance, respect of law, community initiatives and solidarity. But most of all, there is a need to invest in the physical and mental well-being of children and generations of young people who suffered from war, as a means to invest in the well-being and stability of future societies in the region.

The Council of Europe has played and must continue to play a crucial role. The report particularly focuses on financial support through loans of the Council of Europe Development Bank, assistance with education reforms, child-related, youth and NGO activities, assistance in building up local democracy, and co-operation in the field of social cohesion.

The report invites the international community and individual donor countries to overcome “donor fatigue” and step up their support for reconstruction and humanitarian aid particularly in areas that have been most severely affected by war, and recommends that the specific needs of children are also addressed in the activities of the European Union, the World Bank and other international financial institutions involved in the region.

I       Draft recommendation

1.       The decade long conflict on the territory of former Yugoslavia has severely affected children, leaving up to 20 000 children dead (16 000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone) and many more without one or both parents. A regional refugee problem of massive proportions continues with more than 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons.

2.       The most recent outbreak of violence in the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia “ uprooted over 140 000 persons from their homes. The situation verged on a humanitarian disaster, only narrowly averted following the Framework Agreement in August 2001. Around 100 000 people have returned since, but the situation remains extremely fragile.

3.       Those tragic events have had a direct and acute impact on children’s rights as defined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), including the rights to life; to shelter; to non-discrimination; to nationality; to non-separation from parents against a child’s will; to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; to protection against unlawful attacks on family privacy; to access to free healthcare; to access to education respectful of human rights; and to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

4.       Although the countries in the region have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the extent to which each country has established mechanisms for promoting the rights of the child varies in terms of the content of their National Action Plans; the appropriate structures and mechanisms set up to implement the Plan; and the extent to which dialogue has been established with interested parties. Implementing the Convention should of course be an opportunity to develop a new, community based and child-focused approach in national policies.

5.       The creation of Ombudsman offices in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has shown first results in both bringing the acute problems of breach of the rights of the child to the attention of relevant political and administrative bodies as well as helping to resolve problems on a case-by-case basis. The National Council for Children, an advisory body to the Government of Croatia, has also been a successful example of co-ordination and dialogue between various state agencies, non-governmental organisations and experts, in view of resolving many acute problems faced by children.

6.       The impact of war on services for children has been complex. Provision of adequate schooling, healthcare, day-care service, social welfare for families, and all other factors contributing to a healthy childhood, have been seriously affected. In general terms, services have been fundamentally reduced and stretched, also affecting the quality of service provided.

7.       The standard of family allowances designed to offset the risk of social exclusion has generally deteriorated. For example in some parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, child benefits for some 100 000 children are less than 2 euros per month.

8.       While children have a legal right to free healthcare, this right is often limited in practice. This is due partly to the complexity of the insurance schemes, but from a medical point of view it results primarily from the absence of proper facilities, equipment and medication, as well as from a lack of essential funds.

9.       Psycho-social assistance to children suffering trauma was provided on an emergency basis. While many NGOs and state agencies have gathered diverse experience in this field, there has been no evaluation of the results achieved or any systematic follow up. It now remains to continue this work with a more holistic approach to mental health and to provide long-term support and assistance for more than 1 million children and young people who suffer the consequences of war.

10.       Peace education and education for citizenship, are still more present in NGO-led non-formal education than in mainstream education. The introduction of such approaches highlights the need for a wider reform of curricula in schools, in terms of both content and process of teaching and learning.

11.       The Assembly recognises the crucial role of non-governmental organisations involved in social initiatives related to children and youth, health care, humanitarian aid, human rights and those involved in community based initiatives (advocacy, solidarity, self-help, etc.).

12.       The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers :

i.        support the activities undertaken by the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in order to :

      a.        give the rights of the child a political priority and to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

b.        institute the Office of Child Ombudsman in co-operation with the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children (ENOC) and implement the recommendations made by this institution;

      c.        undertake reforms to rationalise the welfare system without jeopardising access to basic social rights as enshrined in the Council of Europe’s social protection instruments;

      d.        support the role of non-governmental organisations and establish clear national legislation defining the prerogatives and responsibilities of non-governmental organisations and mechanisms of cooperation, while maintaining the responsibility of the state to provide for social welfare and to ensure the effective implementation of the Rights of the Child;

      e.        strive to ensure access to adequate shelter, food and clothing for every child;

      f.       strive to ensure access to free healthcare for every child;

      g.       strive to ensure that welfare services for children are equitable throughout each country;

      h.       establish or recognise identity papers for every child

      i.       strive to ensure the application of anti-discrimination measures in education, health, social policy and more widely, and strengthen the corresponding inspectorates;

      j.        develop a more holistic approach to mental health and provide facilities for systematic and longer-term psycho-social counselling of children and their families who suffer the consequences of war;

      k.       encourage non-formal education to respond to the specific needs of children affected by war, such as reintegration through remedial classes and psycho-social assistance, and develop links to mainstream education whenever possible;

ii.       urge the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to follow the initiatives of Croatia and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in requesting technical assistance from the Council of Europe with a view to developing their social protection systems in line with Council of Europe principles and standards;

iii.       regarding the activities of the Council of Europe :

      a.        strengthen longer-term support for the activities of the intergovernmental sector with a view to reaffirming principles of democracy, civil society, tolerance, respect of law and human rights in South Eastern Europe, by means of education, local democracy initiatives, child-related, youth and NGO activities as well as through the recently established framework for co-operation in the field of social cohesion;

      b.        use the work on promoting children’s policy in the Council of Europe as a basis for constructing a children’s agenda in South Eastern Europe in cooperation with the countries concerned, the European Union and Unicef;

c.       instruct the Pompidou Group to extend informal contacts with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in order to assist them in creating effective drug policies;

iv.        regarding the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, make efforts to :a

      a.       ensure that children’s rights are made an integral part of its work;

b.       provide funding for the coordination of social security schemes within the Social Cohesion Initiative of the Stability Pact Working Table II.

13.       The Assembly encourages member states and non-member countries having legal access to the Council of Europe Development Bank to make use of this instrument with a view to improving conditions for the return and integration of refugees and displaced persons in South Eastern Europe.

14.       The Assembly invites the international community and individual donor countries to step up their support for reconstruction and humanitarian aid in the regions of South Eastern Europe most severely affected by war.

15.       The Assembly welcomes the coordination work of the European Union and the World Bank to steer the financial support for the region of South East Europe and recommends that international organisations ensure that the specific needs of children are addressed in their activities.

II. Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Biga-Friganović

Introduction

1.       This report was initiated through a motion for a recommendation put forward by former member of the Assembly Mrs Poptodorova (Bulgaria, Soc) in the wake of the Kosovo crisis, warning of the problems faced by children of war in different countries of South East Europe. She called for political action within the Council of Europe to facilitate return of refugee and internally displaced children and their integration into "normal" life (decent housing, food and schooling).

2.       The focus of this report is on the situation of children in countries of South East Europe which have directly been affected by war: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) – the two Republics of Serbia and Montenegro and the province of Kosovo - and the fYR Macedonia. For the purposes of this report, they are referred to as South Eastern European countries or "the region".

3.       Sharing the conviction that the needs of children affected by war have to be given a higher political priority and addressed over the long-term, the Rapporteur took over this initiative and, in the course of 2001, visited three countries in the region – Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

4.       The Rapporteur is extremely grateful for the valuable contributions made by those that she met during the fact finding visits: national Parliamentarians and their staff; Ministry officials; specialised staff in social affairs, education and healthcare; many national and international non-governmental organisations, and last but not least, the Council of Europe staff involved in various activities in the region and the two UN agencies - UNHCR and Unicef (see annex for programmes of visits).

Consequences of war on children

5.       The political crisis, transition towards a free market economy, and massive instability and insecurity in the region have all contributed to erode children's welfare over the last ten years.

6.       The succession of wars in the region have left up to 20 000 children dead (16 000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone) and many more without one or both parents. A regional refugee crisis of massive proportions continues with more than 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom are children.

7.       For example in the territory of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 16 845 children were killed, froze to death, died of hunger or disappeared. 34 712 children were wounded, 2 000 children were disabled. During the war, 25 000 children lost their mother, father or both parents.

8.       Most recently, the outbreak of violence in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia uprooted over 140 000 persons from their homes. The majority of refugees and displaced persons stayed with host families in fYROM, Kosovo or southern Serbia. Some 3 400 vulnerable persons without housing were accommodated in collective centres. The situation verged a humanitarian disaster, narrowly averted following the Framework Agreement in August 2001. Around 100 000 people have returned since, but the situation remains extremely fragile.

9.       The legacy of war, physical and psychological damage, the uncertainty of peace, the rise of racism and intolerance of difference, apathy towards the future, amplified by the failure of social welfare services, growing poverty and unemployment, have a huge impact on all children and their families in the region. An increased culture of violence has led to much more physical abuse within families. Furthermore, the long-term effects of direct and indirect war damage, including the destruction of health and education institutions, ecological damage, and the dangerous legacy of millions of un-exploded landmines will have a lasting impact on children's rights.

10.       The impact of war on services for children has been complex. Provision of adequate schooling, healthcare, day-care service, social welfare for families, and all other factors contributing to a healthy childhood, have been seriously affected by war. In general terms, services have been fundamentally reduced and stretched, also affecting the quality of service provided.

Consequences of war and economic transition on families and state structures

11.       The past decade of economic transition, ethnic tension and conflict has left a region fractured economically and socially, with a legacy of inadequate growth and declining living standards. The overall economic situation has seriously worsened since the late 1980s, as the negative effects of economic transition were exacerbated by the conflict. Unemployment has risen steeply since 1991. Growth has seriously declined, increasing the gap between the region and the rest of Europe.

12.       As a result, governments today lack resources to sustain social welfare. This situation has led to a rapid erosion of the idea of the social responsibility of the state, while social needs have increased.

13.       Family structures have seriously eroded during a decade of war. Many children lost their parents and other family members; the rate of divorce and separation increased while marriages have been under strain; domestic violence, depression and apathy increased as a result of displacement, exile and deprivation.

14.       Changes in family forms and in the nature of the state, have combined to produce profound changes in the nature of the family-state relationship, so that neither the family nor the state are able to meet fully their respective and joint responsibilities towards children.

15.       Following recent political changes in many countries of the region, government coalitions are engaged in complex administrative, legal, fiscal, economic and social reforms in order to respond to the pressing need to rebuild democratic and economically viable post-conflict societies.

16.       Meanwhile, the ability of refugee, IDP and returnee families to cope, especially in the areas which have suffered war damage, is very limited. The unemployment rates in some local communities are as high as 60%, varying from 23% in Croatia to 60% in some parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The lack of funding for reconstruction and development of infrastructure has impeded the work of industry, enterprises and public services. Without targeted investments, the development of those areas will remain jeopardised, causing serious regional differences and providing a basis for future political instabilities.

17.       It is therefore worth stressing that in the long term, social protection must form part of a wider development strategy aimed at economic regeneration and employment opportunities. The goal must be for the largest possible number of refugees and internally displaced people to support themselves and their families through work or enterprise, within a dynamic and productive economy.

18.       However, the tendency to focus mainly on economic recovery and economic transition to a free market economy, may seriously undermine the social welfare system, giving children's rights low political priority. The pre-war legacy of institutional patterns of social policy - Centres for Social work with qualified and experienced staff deployed - should remain key elements in the reformed social policies, and children's policies in particular.

Social measures for children of war

19.       War trauma and poverty are world-wide enemies of children. They are key risk factors in their healthy development and affect a broad range of areas in a child's life. The physical and psychological well-being of children is almost inevitably jeopardised by the material deprivation and stress arising in traumatised and poor household environments.

Access to social welfare

20.       The majority of refugee and IDP families are living independently or with relatives, host families and friends. But some remain in collective centres with minimum standards to provide decent shelter, heating, cooking or sanitary facilities. Most of the refugee and IDP population are unemployed or involved in sporadic grey economy activities. In the absence of immediate prospects for stable employment, reliance on humanitarian aid or social welfare remains crucial to sustaining a minimum standard of living in the medium and long-term.

21.       Since access to state welfare requires legal identification, this sometimes causes problems for refugee and displaced populations. In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for example, thousands of individuals, particularly members of minority ethnic groups, still lack proper legal identification and citizenship papers, which limits their access to welfare services. More generally across the region, some very young children face legal and welfare barriers for lack of birth certificates and/or identity papers. It also occurs that these documents are not recognised, if issued on the territory outside the national jurisdiction. This represents a serious breach of the Rights of the Child.

22.       The systems of family allowances designed to offset the risk of poverty and deprivation have generally failed to keep pace with minimum living standards in the region. For example in some parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, some 100 000 children receive less than 2 euros per month.

23.       In addition, patterns of responsibility for children's welfare between local and central government vary across the region. As a result, in Bosnia and Herzegovina for example child benefits vary from 2 euros per month in Republika Srpska to 5 to 50 euros per month in the Federation depending on the level of the cantonal budget.

24.       The Rapporteur considers that the decentralisation process in the region should not jeopardise the level of child benefits and other social benefits. Central governments should provide the overall coordination of social welfare to prevent such discrepancies and guarantee that welfare services are equitable, effective and rights-based.

25.       Furthermore, there has been erosion in what might be called "in kind" benefits to families such as day care facilities. Public childcare facilities have also been dramatically affected by war, although in some parts new local non-governmental organisations in partnership with international non-governmental organisations have set up alternative childcare programmes which have reduced the impact of stress on some of the more vulnerable families.

26.       Together with the erosion of traditional pillars of family support, there has been little development of what might be called "intermediate support and prevention services", counselling services and other supports, which would strengthen families and increase the capacity of women to prevent or cope with risk situations in the household.

Access to healthcare

27.       While children have a legal right to free healthcare in all countries of the region, this right is sometimes limited in practice. When examining the healthcare system from a medical perspective, it becomes apparent that adequate medical care is often not available. This is due partly to the complexity of the insurance schemes, but from a medical point of view it results primarily from the absence of proper facilities, equipment and medication, as well as from a lack of essential funds.

28.       The most recent example is the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where last year’s outbreak of violence has put additional strain on an already weak health infrastructure. It is estimated1 that at least 29 health clinics in the conflict area were completely destroyed. The World Health Organisation and Unicef have both been working to ensure that vulnerable families have access to health care including trauma services. However, containing humanitarian disaster through provision of services by the humanitarian community depends on sustained financial commitments by the donor governments.

Access to psycho-social assistance

29.       Mobilisation to provide psycho-social assistance to children suffering trauma occurred in emergency, recognising for the first time the psycho-social needs as part of a rights-based approach to children. However, in the state of emergency, there may have been in some programmes, strengthening of medical models at the expense of a concern with the wider social context of a given child. Many international non-governmental organisations' interventions were of a relatively short-term nature as the amount of funding for work on trauma decreased. However, it has to be said that the attempt to place psycho-social needs at the centre of emergency response was a major innovation.

30.       It now remains for the state authorities to build upon past experience and follow up this work with a comprehensive strategy aiming to provide long-term assistance to young generations and their families who suffered trauma.

31.       The strategy should be a vehicle to determine standards of services in healthcare, education and social welfare sectors; to allocate financial and human resources; to provide for training of staff; and to help create local conditions for adequate assistance to all population at risk. The strategy should also establish mechanisms to co-ordinate activities between different state agencies themselves, and non-governmental organisations already involved in this sector.

32.       School is recognised to be a key institution within which psychosocial assistance could reach most children and their parents. A very fortunate legacy from the past education system of the former Yugoslavia, is that highly qualified staff of "pedagogues" and psychologists are still employed in primary and secondary schools. However, this resource is in many cases underused as staff have often been involved in administrative work to assist school management.

33.       The Rapporteur would therefore like to highlight a few successful initiatives which may serve as examples when developing more comprehensive national strategies for children who suffer trauma in connection to war, exile and/or displacement.

34.       In 1992 during the siege of Sarajevo, Unicef launched a small pilot project which has since developed into a nationwide programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina to train educators and "pedagogues" to recognise signs of trauma and to develop counselling skills in the school environment. Training seminars took place in primary and secondary schools including workshops with professionals such as medical staff from the local community clinics who supported the work of "pedagogues" and school psychologists.

35.       The non-governmental sector has also developed a whole range of services attending the special needs of children who suffer war trauma or negative effects of displacement. During her visit to the region, the Rapporteur met with some of them – SOS Kinderdorf (Sarajevo), Wings of Hope (Sarajevo), Save the children (Belgrade), “Nasa Djeca" (Sarajevo), Children Embassy "Medjasi" (Sarajevo), and Centre For Peace, Non-Violence And Human Rights (Osijek).

36.       Many of them rely on volunteers supporting children to structure their leisure time as part of trauma therapy. The activities involve informal teaching, games, sports, music, dance, drama, drawing, model making as well as organised trips for most deprived children.

37.       The association “Wings of Hope”, for example, focused its work more specifically on support programmes for children who suffered war trauma. From June 1996 to June 1999, approximately 1 200 children and young people took part in the programmes. The organisation has developed a list of war trauma indicators in cooperation with psychologists, “pedagogues” and psychiatrists. The therapy work involved activities for both pre-school and school children. The association also focused on assistance and reintegration of returnee children in the Canton of Sarajevo, by providing informal teaching and leisure activities to complement school curricula.

38.       However, few non-governmental organisations have professional staff able to provide more sophisticated services from emotional support to children in distress to counselling, individual and family therapy. Nevertheless, such initiatives could be a great asset when developing a more comprehensive work in cooperation with state agencies and teaching staff.

Access to education

39.       Peace education, including civil education and education for citizenship, is still more present in NGO-led non-formal education than in schools throughout South Eastern Europe, although some sporadic attempts have been made to integrate it into the formal curriculum. The introduction of such approaches highlights the need for a wider reform of curricula in schools, both in terms of the content and process of teaching and learning.

40.       In war-torn areas, the imbalance between resources and needs, such as additional training programmes to promote mine awareness and trauma counselling, are of course particularly acute.

41.       The Rapporteur welcomes the contribution of the Council of Europe to the working tables I and II of the Stability Pact and its initiative to provide opportunities for informal meetings between Education Ministers from the countries concerned in order to resolve some of the outstanding issues such as recognition of school certificates for the refugee children.

Anti-discriminatory measures

42.       When discrimination is understood by decision-makers in the region, this tends to be only in terms of the most overt, explicit, direct acts of discrimination. Notions of indirect discrimination, routine discrimination, and institutional discrimination are much less understood. Hence there is little explicit focus on the need for anti-discriminatory measures to be developed in education, health, social policy and more widely. The Rapporteur welcomes the efforts made by the Council of Europe to reverse these trends.

43.       In the framework of the Stability Pact for South East Europe and in connection to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Council of Europe launched the non-discrimination review project in all countries concerned by this report. The project consists of an analysis of legislation, policies and practices and their conformity with international and European non-discrimination and equality standards. The analysis is to be complemented by the development and implementation of special measures to ensure full and effective equality. The Rapporteur congratulates the Swiss Government for supporting this initiative and would encourage other member states to follow this example and support the activity by means of voluntary financial contributions.

Ways forward

Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

44.       The 1991 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been ratified by 191 countries in the world with the exception of the United States and Somalia. The context of its 10 year progress review in spring 2002, provides an opportunity to assess the use of this important instrument in the countries of South East Europe concerned by this report.

45.       All the countries in the region have signed and ratified the convention, but the extent to which countries have established mechanisms for promoting the rights of the child and the CRC vary: absence of appropriate structures; absence of National Action Plans; and lack of dialogue with interested parties. In South Eastern Europe, with the crisis of war and economic transition, a rights-based agenda has not achieved the hold on policy which it might have done in more stable conditions.

46.       Implementing the CRC should of course be an opportunity to develop a new, community based and child-focused approach in national policies.

47.       Enhanced by its nearly universal ratification, the Convention has already been accepted as a valid framework for analysing the overall situation of children and developing appropriate policy and action. One of the basic though implicit principles that it sets out in this regard is the requirement that action undertaken "in the best interest of the child" must always respect the rights of the child.

48.       It has inspired or taken account of other more detailed international standards and treaties facilitating the implementation of certain provisions (e.g. the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Intercountry Adoption) that set out very precise guidelines and procedures for ensuring compliance with children's rights.

49.       The Convention now constitutes an agreed basis on which to found training, education, awareness-raising schemes designed to bring about better practice and change of attitudes. Many professional associations have adopted the CRC as the basis for their work, and many non-governmental organisations have taken it upon themselves to make the purpose and content of the Convention known as widely as possible, including to the children themselves.

50.       Directly or indirectly, the Convention has already spurred and guided a number of initiatives in certain countries of the region, ranging from review and revision of legislation and policy to the creation of organs and structures to oversee implementation. For example, the National Council for Children, an advisory body to the government, was set up in Croatia in 1998. It brings together representatives of different state agencies, non-governmental organisations and experts with a mandate to coordinate and monitor the work related to the national program of action for children and to propose initiatives that would advance the protection of the rights of the child.

51.       The creation of Ombudsman offices in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation and state level) has shown first results in both bringing the acute problems of breach of the rights of the child to the attention of relevant political and administrative bodies as well as helping to resolve problems on a case-by-case basis. However, government authorities are often slow in implementing the recommendations made by the Ombudsman.

Role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

52.       The Rapporteur recognises the crucial role of non-governmental organisations involved in social initiatives related to children and youth, health care, humanitarian aid, human rights and those involved in community based initiatives (advocacy, solidarity, self-help, etc.).

53.       In terms of institutional patterns, one of the key issues in social policy, throughout South Eastern Europe, with considerable relevance in terms of children's rights and children's policies, concerns the extent to which a "welfare mix" will be in place, based on a plurality of welfare provision and new partnerships between governmental structures, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, and local communities.

54.       However, caution is needed as governments sometimes view non-governmental organisations as practical, inexpensive way to privatise social services.

55.       It would be therefore crucial to establish clear legislation defining the prerogatives and responsibilities of non-governmental organisations and mechanisms of cooperation with state authorities while maintaining the responsibility of state authorities to provide for social welfare and to ensure the effective implementation of the Rights of the Child.

56.       Such legislation should also establish different categories of non-governmental organisations in order to distinguish non governmental, non-profit organisations involved in social initiatives from non-governmental entities which might include public interest groups, civic associations, trade unions, political parties and movements, officially recognised churches and religious communities, foundations, state funds, or organisations financed strictly through government budgets.

European Social Charter and European Code of Social Security: instruments to strengthen social cohesion

57.       While the social principles covered by the European Social Charter and the revised Social Charter will need to be interpreted within the economic realities of the SEE countries, the Charter presents the social rights that SEE countries ought strive towards in order to assure and strengthen social cohesion in the region. In addition to the rights enshrined in the European Social Charter, the European Code of Social Security guarantees a minimum level of social security protection and lays out a common framework of social standards. The Rapporteur welcomes the fact that Croatia and fYR Macedonia have asked for assistance from the Council of Europe to develop their social protection systems towards these standards and would encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina and the FR Yugoslavia to do the same, in parallel to the process of accession to the Council of Europe.

58.       The "South East Europe Strategic Review on Social Cohesion" is being undertaken by the Council of Europe within the Social Cohesion Initiative of the Stability Pact Working Table II, having so far established health and employment networks. The Rapporteur welcomes the decision of the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) to start the activity on strengthening the coordination of social security schemes in the South East European region in 2002.

59.       The activity will focus on the following objectives: to strengthen the role of the ministries with responsibilities to promote social cohesion (employment, health, housing, social protection, education) by improving their processes of policy development and priority setting; to foster regional co-operation through the development and exchange of information, experience and good practice; to upgrade the legislative and policy framework of the participating states in line with mainstream European standards.

60.       The Rapporteur congratulates the Belgian Federal Ministry of Employment and Labour for playing an active part in this initiative and would encourage other member states to follow this example and support the activity by means of participation and voluntary financial contributions.

Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB)

61.       The Bank's activity within the framework of the Stability Pact for South East Europe represents the continuation of its long-standing commitment to the region's social and economic development. On 28 June 2001, the CEB formally became a facilitator of the Stability Pact, together with its partner institutions. The CEB is an active member of the Donors' Network and participates in the meetings of all Working Tables, with a particular focus on financing and promoting return of refugees and social cohesion projects.

62.       At the Brussels Funding Conference, the CEB pledged a total financial envelope of € 300 million. By December 2001, the total amount of projects approved in the region was € 317.6 million for 26 projects, including projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina (refugee housing, emergency medical aid programme), Croatia (education and health facilities for refugees) and fYR Macedonia (social housing and investment in SMEs). Furthermore, the Bank has donated € 5.3 million for humanitarian intervention assistance and has granted through the Selective Trust Account a total of € 19.2 million in the form of interest rate subsidies on its loans for important social projects (€ 17.3 million). After the political changes in the FR Yugoslavia, progress has been accomplished in regulating the interventions of the CEB in this country from the legal and financial points of view.

63.       In March 2001, the Bank took a decision to grant 1 million € to the fYROM to finance the purchase of basic primary goods and medication, as well as the reconstruction of damaged housing and infrastructure. It also approved a donation of € 300 000 for the purchase of shelter equipment and humanitarian aid for refugees of diverse ethnic origins in Kosovo.

64.       The CEB participates actively in the Steering Committee for the "Regional Return Initiative" aiming to facilitate and coordinate the return and integration of refugees and displaced persons in the region. Furthermore, the CEB participates in Working Table 2, which launched the Initiative for Social Cohesion and prepared a complex action plan to serve as a framework within which projects aiming at strengthening social cohesion will be considered for financing.

65.       The Rapporteur highlights the German initiative taking a CEB loan to finance social housing projects for returnee population in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and would encourage other member states to follow this example in support of the refugee return process.

Other activities of the Council of Europe in the region

66.       While the Council of Europe has undertaken a panoply of activities in the region of South Eastern Europe (political cooperation towards principles of democracy and human rights; legal assistance; assistance in education reforms; assistance with minority rights, minority languages; media, etc.), the Rapporteur here highlights some, which are most related to children affected by war.

67.       The European Youth Centre assisted many projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina such as training of youth leaders; establishment of youth centres; recreation activities in orphanage institutions; theatre workshops for children suffering from war-trauma; youth radio and other creative workshops for multi-ethnic groups; etc. From July 1999 till end of 2000, the Council of Europe was engaged in a joint programme for children in Kosovo together with Unicef and UNMIK2 Department of Youth. The work under this programme has shown that trauma-related work orientated towards social integration is of major importance for reconciliation and reduction of prejudice. Moreover, during year 2000, Council of Europe experts assisted the UNMIK Health and Social Welfare Department in design, operation and management of social work services concerning families and children.

68.       Ten Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs) were established in Croatia (Vukovar/Osijek, Sisak, Istria), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Tuzla, Prijedor, Zavidovici), FR Yugoslavia (Subotica, Nis, Niksic) and fYR Macedonia (Ohrid). Their mission is to regroup cities, towns, regions, non-governmental organisations and associations from the Council of Europe member states with a view to co-operate locally on strengthening local democracy and a pluralistic, multicultural and multi-religious society.

69.       A number of NGO and LDA projects, aiming at integration of children from ethnic minorities in areas most affected by the conflict, have been supported in recent years by the Confidence-Building Measures Programme of the Council of Europe. In the Banovina area near Sisak (Croatia) for

example, the project objectives were to provide psycho-social assistance for children in order to improve their ability to confront difficulties, to decrease their psychological problems and to help them integrate socially. Other projects focused on assistance to teaching staff.

70.       The Rapporteur recognises the value of such small-scale "soft" initiatives to assist children of war and to provide long-term support to build civil society and tolerance. Their benefits are perhaps not immediately visible in material terms, but instead will be strongly felt over time. The investments made in the well-being of children and youth today, will inevitably mean the investments in the well-being of the future societies in this region. The Rapporteur therefore underlines the importance of continuing activities in this field over a longer-term period.

Investment requirements for rebuilding viable post-war societies

71.       The Rapporteur welcomes the emerging coordination of financial support provided to the region of South East Europe.

72.       The World Bank (WB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with support from the European Union, have taken leading roles in infrastructure development, economic restructuring and the private sector development in general.

73.       The European Commission, bilateral EU member state programmes, the Council of Europe and its Development Bank and OSCE have tended to lead on softer measures relating to reconciliation, refugee return, good governance, democratisation and institution building.

74.       In the 1990s, the European Union's assistance focused on crisis management and reconstruction, reflecting the countries' emergency needs at the time. The assistance programmes totalled some 5.5 billion euros. Emergency measures will continue to play their role in alleviating the current crisis in fYR Macedonia. As the rest of the region emerges from the most difficult period, a longer-term approach to its development is clearly required. To this end, the EU launched the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAp) in 1999. The preparation, negotiation and implementation of SAp are supported by the CARDS assistance programme3 foreseeing some 4.65 billion for this purpose in the period of 2000 to 2006. Priorities in the CARDS strategies focus to a significant extent on institution building in order to develop a capacity to sustain long-term reform based on European models.

75.       While infrastructure development, economic restructuring and private sector development are essential to the region's economic recovery, the Rapporteur would like to stress the importance of measures to be taken to guarantee social cohesion, social justice and child welfare.

76.       All international organisations involved in provision, regulation, distribution and empowerment in South East Europe ought to ensure that the specific needs of children are addressed in all aspects of their activities. In particular, organisations involved in economic policy advice and lending, governance, and peace-keeping, should ensure that their policies are child-friendly, and that they operate with transparency and accountability in terms of their impact on children and their rights.

Conclusions

77.       A 10 year war on the territory of former Yugoslavia spread from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Kosovo and surrounding regions in Serbia and Montenegro and most recently to fYR Macedonia. Consequently, the humanitarian crisis, refugee and IDP movement were strongly felt in the whole region of South East Europe.

78.       Children and their families have suffered and continue to carry deeply the consequences of war trauma and displacement. Family structures have eroded due to loss of parents in war, strained marriages, family violence, depression and apathy as long-term effects of exile, displacement and deprivation.

79.       The requirements for rebuilding a viable post-conflict society are immense and vary from physical reconstruction (housing, schools, health centres, infrastructure, demining), to re-establishing state structures and governance, to reaffirming principles of a civil society and human rights by means of education, tolerance, respect of law, community initiatives and solidarity. But most of all, there is a need to invest in the physical and mental well-being of children and generations of young people who suffered directly or indirectly from war, as a means to invest in the well-being and stability of future societies in the region.

80.       In cooperation with other organisations, the Council of Europe has been assisting the countries in South Eastern Europe in many ways. The political context of accession to the Council of Europe and monitoring of commitments to the principles of human rights, legal assistance, financial support through loans of the Council of Europe Development Bank, assistance with education reforms, child-related, youth and NGO activities, assistance in building up of local democracy, and most recently through the establishment of a framework for co-operation in the field of social cohesion.

81.       The Rapporteur welcomes the panoply of activities undertaken by the Council of Europe in the region, and recommends that the Committee of Ministers continue to support these initiatives in the longer term. Moreover, the work on promoting children's policy in the Council of Europe could be the basis for constructing a children's agenda in cooperation with the countries concerned, the European Union and Unicef as part of the process of mobilisation for a children's rights platform throughout South Eastern Europe.

APPENDIX

Programmes of visits to:

1.       Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 11-13 June 2001

2.       Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10-14 September 2001

3.       Croatia, 6-7 November, 2001

Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Visit of the Parliamentary delegation of the Council of Europe

to FR Yugoslavia, 11-13 June, 2001

Delegation:

Mrs. Snjezana Biga-Friganovic, Member of Parliament, Croatia

Mrs. Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, Member of Parliament, Switzerland

Mrs. Dana Karanjac, Secretariat of the Council of Europe

      

Programme

Monday, 11 June 2001

9.00        Meeting with Ms Dina Haynes at the office of OSCE in Belgrade

11.00        Meeting with Seska Stankovic, Helsinski Committee for Human Rights

12.00        Meeting with Ms Ivana Stevanovic and Ms Stanislava Vidovic, Yugoslav Center for the Rights of the Child.

14.00        Meeting with Ms Anka Djordjevic, UNICEF

16.00        Meeting with Mr Nenad Bosiljcic, save the children UK

17.00       Meeting with Mr Gert Westervein and Mrs Olivera Vukotic, UNHCR

Tuesday, 12 June 2001

9.00        Meeting with Ms Gordana Petrović, Deputy Mayor and member of the executive council in charge of social affairs, Municipality of Belgrade

10.30        Visit of the orphanage "Zvečanska ulica"

12.00        Visit of the refugee center "Krnjača"

15.00        Exchange of views with the Committee on Labour, Health and Living Environment (Federal Parliament, Chamber of Citizens) and Chamber of Republics

16.30        Exchange of views with a delegation of the Parliament of Serbia

18.00       Meeting with Ms Ljiljana Lučić, Deputy Minister for Social Affairs in Serbia

19.30       Dinner with the Delegation of the Federal Parliament

Wednesday, 13 June 2001

9.00        Meeting with Mrs Tunde Kovač-Cerović, Assistant Minister of Education in Serbia

10.30        Meeting with Mr Vladimir Mirovanović, Assistant to the Commissioner for Refugees in Serbia

12.00        Visit of the Centre for Social Welfare in Inđija

16.00        Visit of the refugee centre in Smederevo

Thursday, 14 June 2001

Departure of the Delegation

Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Visit of the Parliamentary delegation of the Council of Europe

to Bosnia and Herzegovina, 09-14 September, 2001

Delegation:

Mrs. Snjezana Biga-Friganovic, Member of Parliament, Croatia

Mrs Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, Member of Parliament, Switzerland

Mrs Dana Karanjac, Secretariat of the Council of Europe

Programme

Monday, 10 September 2001

08.15-09.15       Meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Social affairs, Displaced persons and Refugees

09.30-12.45        International conference "Children-Victims of the War & Peace"

13.00-15.00       Visit to "S.O.S. KINDERDORF"children village, Nedzarici

15.30-16.30       Visit to "Nasa Djeca" (Our Children's)

16.30-18.30       Children Ambassy "Medjasi", Mr Dusko Tomic, secretary general

Tuesday, 11 September 2001

09.00-11.00       Embassy of Switzerland

11.00-11.45       Meeting with Representatives of the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, Mrs Kadrija HARACIC-SABIC, Deputy Minister (Trg BiH)

12.00-12.45        Meeting with President's of the Human Rights Commission and Constitutional Commission of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, House of the People (Trg BiH)

13.00-14.30       Lunch, hosted by BiH Parliamentary Delegation at Council of Europe

14.30-15.30        Meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Health, Federation BiH - Mrs Snjezana BODNEKUR, Assistant Minister

16.00-17.00        Meeting with representatives of the UNICEF BiH " Electrotehnicka" secondary school, Sarajevo Trauma counseling project

Wednesday, 12 September 2001

07.15       Departure to Mostar (Arrival – 09h45)

10.00-10.45        Ombudsman assistants for the Children issue

11.00-12.30       Joint meeting with representatives of the Ministry for Health and Social Affairs of HN Canton FBiH:

      - Mr Halil TULE, Deputy Minister

12.30-13.30       Visit to "Djeciji dom"(Children's home)

14.45-16.00       Visit to "Majcino selo"(Mother village)

16.00       Departure for Sarajevo ( Arrival at18h30)

19.00-22.00       Meeting with Mrs MEMISEVIC, Society for Threatened Peoples, Section B&H and members of the Association of the Concentration Camp Inmates, Canton Sarajevo

Thursday, 13 September 2001

07.15       Departure to Zavidovici-Vozuca-Tuzla (Arrival at Vozuca 09h30)

09.30-11.00       Visit to "Children playroom" refugees from Srebrenica (CoE LDA – Sladjan Ilic), Vozuca

11.00       Departure to Tuzla (Arrival 12h00)

12.00-13.00       Meeting with representatives of Tuzla

13.00-13.30       Visit to "Zavod za djecu ometenu u psihofizickom razvoju"

13.30-14.00       Visit to "Dom za djecu bez roditelja"

14.00-14.30       Visit to "Majka i dijete"- Simin Han

14.30-16.00       Lunch, hosted by Tuzla officials

16.00       Departure to Banja Luka (Arrival at 19h00)

Friday, 14 September 2001

09.00-10.00       Meeting with:Mr Gojko SAVANOVIC, Minister of Education, Republika Srpska

10.00-11.00       Mr Milorad BALABAN, Minister of Health and Social Protection, Republika Srpska

11.00-12.00       Meeting with delegation of the National Assembly of RS

12.00-13.30        Visit to children house "Rada Vranjesevic"

13.30-16.00        Visit to refugees centre outside Banja Luka

16.00       Departure for Zagreb

18.00       Arrival at Zagreb

Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Visit of the Parliamentary delegation of the Council of Europe

to the Republic of Croatia

Delegation:

Mrs Snjezana Biga-Friganovic, Member of Parliament, Croatia

Programme

Tuesday 6 November 2001

9.00 – 10.30       Meeting of the Committee For Labour, Social Policy And Health of The Croatian Parliament

10.30-12.00        Session to mark the fifth anniversary of the admission of the Republic of Croatia into the Council of Europe

13.30-15.30        Meeting with representatives of the OSCE (Mr. Ondrej Havlin, Head of the Human Dimension Office) and UNHCR (Mrs. Biserka Sirovica)

15.30-16.30        -       The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare – the Social Welfare Department (Dr. Nino Žganec, Assistant Minister)

17.15-18.15        Visit to centre for displaced persons – Pupils' residence – Vjećeslava Holjevca 3, Siget, led by Marko Aralica.

19.00       Approximate time of departure for Vukovar.

Wednesday 7 November 2001

Vukovar

8.30-9.30        first meeting in the Town Local Government with the Mayor, Mr. Vladimir Štengl, Mrs. Antonija Kukuljica and the Displaced Persons Office – Mr. Ante Drmić – overview of the situation in Vukovar.

9.45-10.30        OCSE, the Democratization of Society Department, Mrs. Julia Gilbert

11.00-12.30       visit to displaced persons' settlement – Dom Nuštar – accompanied by Mr. Ante Drmić

Osijek

13.30-14.30        lunch with the Mayor of Osijek

14.30-15.15       briefing with a representative of UNHCR, Hossein Kheradmand, the Head of the regional office, Osijek,

15.15-16.15        Office for Displaced Persons – Nada Arbanas,

16.30-17.30        NGO "Centre For Peace, Non-Violence And Human Rights", Mrs Katarina Kruhonja, who is working on educational programs for children,

18.10-19.30        Displaced persons' settlement "Naselje prijateljstva" (Friendship Settlement) - Čepin – Ilija Šteko

20.00       Departure for Zagreb

Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Reference to committee: Doc 8227 and Reference No. 2326 of 4 November 1998

Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 23 April 2002.

Members of the committee: Mrs Ragnarsdóttir (Chairman), Mr Hegyi, Mrs Gatterer, Mr Christodoulides (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Alís Font, Arnau, Mrs Belohorská, Mr Berzinš, Mrs Biga-Friganović, Mr Bilovol, Mrs Björnemalm, Mrs Bolognesi (alternate: Mr Oliverio), MM. Brînzan, Brunhart, Cerrahoğlu, Cesário, Cox, Dees, Dhaille, Evin, Floros, Flynn, Ms Gamzatova, MM. Giertych, Glesener, Goldberg, Gönül, Gregory (alternate: Mr Kiely), Gusenbauer (alternate: Mrs Schicker), Gustafsson, Haack (alternate: Mrs Onur), Herrera, Hřie, Hörster (alternate: Mr Hornung), Ms Jäger, Mrs Jirousová, Baroness Knight, MM. Kontogiannopoulos, Lomakin-Rumiantsev, Ms Lotz (alternate: Mrs Rupprecht), Ms Luhtanen, MM. Makhachev, Małachowski, Manukyan, Mrs Markovska (alternate: Mr Polložhani), MM. Marmazov, Marty (alternate: Mr Schmied), Mattei, Mrs Milotinova, MM. Mladenov, Monfils (alternate: Mr Timmermans), Ms Nowiak (alternate: Mr Wikiński), MM. Olekas, Ouzký (alternate: Ms Palečková), Padilla, Podobnik, Popa, Poroshenko, Poty, Provera, Rigoni, Rizzi, Seyidov, Mrs Shakhtakhtinskaya, MM. Slutsky, Surján, Telek, Ms Tevdoradze, Mrs Troncho, MM. Truu, Tudor, Vella, Mrs Vermot-Mangold, MM. Vesselbo, Vis, Vos, Mrs Zafferani, Mr Zidu.

NB : The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: Mr. Newman, Ms Meunier and Ms Karanjac


1 UNHCR , South Eastern Europe Bureau, report on the humanitarian situation in fYROM, January 2002

2 United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)

3 European Commission paper for the Second Regional Conference on South East Europe, "The Stabilisation and Association Process and CARDS Assistance 2000 to 2006"