MACEDONIA: Children's Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review

Summary: A compilation of extracts featuring child-rights issues from the reports submitted to the first Universal Periodic Review. There are extracts from the 'National Report', the 'Compilation of UN Information' and the 'Summary of Stakeholder's Information'. Also included is the final report and the list of accepted and rejected recommendations.

Macedonia - 5th Session - 2009
12th May 2009, 2.30pm to 5.30pm

National Report

Compilation of UN information

Summary of Stakeholder compilation

Final Report

Accepted and rejected recommendations

National Report

15. The II Periodic Report of the Republic of Macedonia on the Convention on the Rights of the Child was submitted to the relevant United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2007; the Initial Report of the Republic of Macedonia on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was submitted in January 2008; the Initial Report of the Republic of Macedonia on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on involvement of children in armed conflict was submitted in December 2008- the consideration of these reports is pending.

40. By a Decision of the Government, a National Commission for Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migration was formed in 2001. It is coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior and has prepared a National Strategy and an Action Plan for fight against trafficking in human beings. In 2004, a Sub-Group for Fight against Trafficking in Children was formed. The office of the National Mechanism for Referral of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has been functioning since September 2005.

42. A National Commission for the Rights of the Child was formed in 2007. The National Commission comprises representatives of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Macedonia competent for the rights of the child, the UNICEF and of the citizens’ associations - the First Children’s Embassy “Megjashi” and the Children’s Parliament of Macedonia.

73. Article 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia provides for special care and protection of the family. The Law on Family regulates the legal relations in marriage, family, and common law marriage. Parents have the right and obligation provide care for the supporting and upbringing of their children. The state provides for special care of children without parents and parental care. Children born in wedlock have equal rights as those born outside wedlock.

114. For the purpose of increasing the number of Roma pupils in secondary education, the Ministry of Education and Science has obliged secondary-school principals to accept the enrollment of at least one Roma pupil per class, in spite of the fact that they do not fulfill the enrollment criteria.

115. In the course of the 2008/2009 school year, the Ministry of Education and Science has introduced a special program for scholarships for Roma secondary-school pupils. 650 scholarships have been awarded to all Roma secondary-school pupils enrolled in first year in the 2008/09 school year, as a stimulating measure to increase the number of Roma pupils and for successful completion of their education. Free textbooks are provided for Roma pupils whose families receive welfare assistance. The optional subject “Language and Culture of the Roma” has been introduced and it may be taken by pupils from the third to the ninth grade. Two major projects have been initiated – construction of a secondary combined general education school and vocational school in the municipality of Shuto Orizari, where the Roma population is a majority, and establishment of a Department of Roma Studies and a group of Roma language at the pedagogical faculties.

117. Programs and activities are also realized for greater inclusion of the Roma population in the health care system and for improvement of the access to the health care services. Activities are undertaken for regular vaccination of Roma children, education about prevention of AIDS/HIV within the Roma community, control of and education about tuberculosis, free gynecological examinations for Roma women, etc.

120. The Republic of Macedonia is a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea.

Compilation of UN information

5. A 2008 UNICEF report noted the establishment in December 2007 of an inter-ministerial national commission on child rights, to provide a single mechanism responsible for the coordination and evaluation of CRC implementation. The Commission will also be responsible to ensure that the provisions and principles of the CRC are reflected, applied and enforced in State policies and administrative practices.15

18. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 2000 47 and CAT in 2008 48 noted that corporal punishment of children is not explicitly prohibited in all settings and that it is a common and accepted means of childrearing. CRC and CAT recommended that the State adopt and implement legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings, supported by the necessary awareness-raising and public education measures.

23. In 2000, CRC was concerned that there are still children who are not registered at birth and at the fact that a large proportion of unregistered births are of Roma children. It recommended making every effort to enforce birth registration and to facilitate the registration process with regard to the children of parents, or other responsible persons, who may have particular difficulties in providing the necessary documentation.64

35. A 2008 UNICEF report mentioned that access to any form of organized early childhood education (pre-school education for 3-6 year old) is extremely low. This impacts on later learning achievements and has broad ranging ramifications for the country’s social development in general. Access to both primary and secondary education also tapers off markedly in relation to wealth quintiles, the education levels of parents and for ethnic minority populations.84

36. While aware of the State’s efforts to integrate children with disabilities into formal education and regular recreation programmes, CRC in 2000 was concerned that children with disabilities remain excluded from many of such activities. It recommended that the State continue with its programmes to improve the physical access of children with disabilities to public service buildings, including schools; review the facilities and assistance available to children with disabilities and in need of special services; and improve these services in accordance with the provisions and spirit of the Convention.85

Summary of Stakeholder compilation

4. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia (HC) noted that since the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), there has not been an appropriate review of all laws and bylaws and this has not led to significant changes in the reality children are facing. In the 2000 - 2007 period, the country has undertaken but a few activities in response to the recommendations issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.7 The Coalition ‘Macedonia Without Discrimination ‘(MWD) reported that in various laws there are five different definitions of a child and there is a lack of unified terminology.8

22. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACP) made reference to the Committee on the Rights of the Child concluding observations in 2000 and the CAT’ ones in 2008, expressing concern at corporal punishment of children in all contexts and recommending its prohibition by law.42 The GIEACP also indicated that provisions against violence and abuse in the Law on Protection of Children Act, the Criminal Code, the Family Law and the Constitution are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment in childrearing.43

38. The Commissioner/COE was encouraged to learn that during the 2005/2006 school year, 95 percent of children of primary school age (ages 7-14) were attending primary school, with little noticeable difference between rural/urban populations or between male/female. This is indeed a commendable achievement and demonstrates a determination to ensure all children receive at least primary education.68 However, he also indicated that retention rates between primary and secondary school cycle illustrate a problem. While in principle education is free, in reality there are many associated costs which may inhibit parents’ ability to send their children for continued education.69

39. AI reported that while under the law primary education is said to be free, in practice Roma children may be excluded from education because their parents cannot afford school books or because transportation to school is unavailable. Roma girls may also be discouraged from attending school because of their teachers’ low expectations of them.70 The Commissioner/COE reported on a low level of education among the Roma community, particularly in the rural areas and on the practice of segregation of Roma students from others.71 MWD indicated that there have been instances where Roma children with learning difficulties were transferred to special institutions for children with mental disorders, thus raising concerns about segregation and unlawful discrimination.72

Final Report

13. Among the national priorities in the human rights area, the Minister emphasized the full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, including the principle of equitable representation, further reform of the penitentiary system , implementation of the Roma strategy and action plan, advancement of the rights of women, children and the disabled, adoption of the anti-discrimination law and continued cooperation with civil society on the advancement of human rights. Freedom of expression and the independence of the media are of particular importance.

17. In reply to the advance questions by the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom relating to the Roma, in 2004 the national strategy and action plan for the 2005-2015 Decade of Roma Inclusion were adoped and are being implemented (education, employment, housing and health). One of the priority areas in both documents is education. Pre-school education is a key factor for inclusion of Roma children in schools.The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, in cooperation with 16 municipalities, is implementing the project on inclusion of Roma children in pre-schools. As a result, 720 Roma children attended pre-school. Additional objectives of this project are to raise awareness of schools and teaching staff about Roma issues and to increase the number of Roma teachers. The Government allocated 400,000 euros for implementation of the project.

20. In reply to the United Kingdom, the day care centres for children with disabilities (21 operating) are designed to accommodate 20 to 25 persons. The size of groups is projected as to provide the high quality care, individual treatment, group work and creation friendly and family like atmosphere. One of the priority objectives of the Government is to continue opening new centres at local level, where necessary. The number of professional of different specialization is compatible with the prescribed standards by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, that is to say one professional covering four beneficiaries. The employees of these centres have continuing in-service training in the area of their expertise.

24. Algeria noted that the Ombudsman had been found by the Human Rights Committee not to be fully in accordance with the Paris Principles and asked what measures were envisaged to remedy this. It also noted concerns expressed by several treaty-monitoring bodies and UNICEF over the high school dropout rates in rural areas and among Roma children, refugees and girls, It further noted efforts made and policies adopted to foster the integration of Roma, Albanian, and other minorities in different sectors of society.

42. Morocco commended the Government for its judicial reform strategy facilitating access to justice and asked about measures to address the lack of confidence in the judicial system. Morocco applauded the national plan of action on children’s rights It further commended the adoption of the action plan to prevent sexual violence against children and encouraged the Government to continue to implement measures according to its national and international priorities.

47. Concerning trafficking in persons (Ukraine, France, Sweden), a National Commission against Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migration was formed in 2001. In 2004, a Sub- Group for Fight against Trafficking in Children was formed. The Office of the National Mechanism for Referral of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has been functioning since September 2005. The National Commission prepared a National Action Plan for Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migration in the country for the period 2006-2008. In January 2009, the preparation of a new national action plan commenced. At present, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is drafting amendments to the Law on Social Protection which envisage non-institutional protection of victims of trafficking in human beings and establishment of a Centre for Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings. In 2007, the standard operating procedures for treatment of victims of trafficking in human beings were endorsed by the Government. The procedures were introduced with the aim of providing assistance and protection to all victims of trafficking in human beings through single comprehensive approach based on the human rights of the victims.

71. Belgium welcomed the positive measures adopted by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the area of the rights of the child, particularly concerning access to education. It, however, noted concerns by treaty-monitoring bodies regarding high levels of absenteeism in primary and secondary schooling and low levels of school enrolment for certain population groups such as the Roma and asked how the Government assesses the current situation. Since the national plan on the rights of the child was foreseen for a nine year period, Belgium asked how the Government plans to conduct regular evaluations and adapt to changes on the ground.

Accepted and Rejected Recommendations

The following recommendations were accepted by Macedonia:

77 A - 4. Conduct a comprehensive review of the conformity of internal law with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Poland); continue harmonization of the national legislation with international standards in the field of human rights (Ukraine);

A - 7. Consider the possibility to conduct a mid-term evaluation of the Action Plan on the rights of the child (Morocco);

A - 8. Put in place a national comprehensive plan for civil status registration and the right to identity, which includes awareness raising-campaigns for parents, guardians and other responsible persons, which will help to speed up the registration of births (Argentina);

A - 23. Adopt and implement legislation prohibiting corporal punishment under all circumstances and accompany this with a public awareness-raising campaign (Austria); adopt appropriate measures, consistent with international standards, to avoid corporal punishment of children in all areas and to carry out education and awareness-raising campaigns in schools and in society at large (Argentina);

A - 24. Increase the level of protection of minors, particularly those who find themselves in a situation of lack of protection and outside of the compulsory schooling system (Spain);

A - 25. Continue and increase its efforts with a view to fully combating trafficking and prostitution, and continue efforts to help women who have been victims of trafficking (Sweden); step up measures to combat the scourge of prostitution and trafficking in women and girls, including by conducting more nationwide awareness campaigns and training for law enforcement officials, migration officials and border police (Malaysia);

A - 33. Review conditions in prisons, places of detention and other facilities falling within the scope of CAT-OP with a view to ensuring their full compliance with international standards, in particular as to the use of restraints and with regard to juveniles (Czech Republic);

A - 40. Adopt provisions to address the phenomenon of school dropouts particularly among Roma children and children living in rural areas, especially girls (Algeria); continue its efforts to guarantee free education at the primary level for all children, giving special attention to minority groups (Holy See); continue to pay special attention to access to education for all children regardless of their ethnic origin and at all education levels, preschool, primary and secondary (Belgium);

Macedonia did not reject any recommendations

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