The child’s rights concept, whose introduction into the normative system of Serbia began after 2000, either through total or partial elaboration in most laws concerning children, was confirmed with the new Constitution adopted in 2006. As regards its institutional establishment, the concept was implemented by setting up the Child’s Rights Council within the Government of the Republic of Serbia (2002) and by developing the Working Group for Child Rights of the National Assembly (2009) that will, in accordance with the new Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, become a permanent body as of the next parliamentary convocation. The progress was also the establishment of the Protector of Citizens’ institution and the Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child’s Rights in October 2008. Thus, the state of Serbia implemented the recommendation given by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2008.
The violation of child’s rights in Serbia is especially expressed among certain social categories: poor children, children with disabilities and children with developmental challenges, children without parental care, particularly institutionalized children, children living on the streets, working children. Within most categories of especially vulnerable children, the rights of Roma children are most often violated. Violence against children continues to be very present – from neglecting and different forms of exploitation, to physical and sexual abuse, both in the family, which is least visible, and among peers, but also by other unknown adults.
Inclusive education has become mandatory as of academic year 2010/2011, while social inclusion as a principle, also becomes practice in the social protection system, through the initiated process of de-institutionalization and institutionalization of children only in exceptional cases. The Protector of Citizens strongly supports these processes.
The Protector of Citizens formed an Expert Group in September 2009 with the task to draft a comprehensive law on child’s rights and submit it to the National Assembly for adoption. Once the Protector of Citizens has completed several rounds of consultations with competent state bodies, civil society representatives and other relevant experts and representatives of children, the draft law will be submitted to the National Assembly by mid-2011.
The Protector of Citizens acts upon citizens’ and children’s complaints in cases of violation of child’s rights in different areas, or acts at his/her own initiative when aware or informed about possible violation of child’s rights. In all the procedures of overseeing the work of administration bodies, the Protector of Citizens is guided by the principle of child’s best interest.
Respecting and promoting the concept of child’s rights, established by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), that came into force on 20 November 1990, the Protector of Citizens strongly supports one of the basic principles of the Convention, which has not been sufficiently respected – the principle of participation: listening to the child’s opinion regarding the matters of his/her concern, and paying due attention to that opinion. In order to apply the principle of child’s participation in practice, the Protector of Citizens has initiated the process of establishing the Young Advisors Panel as a permanent form of participation of children and youth in the activities of this institution.