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Director of Child Protection Center invited to speak on Council of Europe Round Table „Combatting Violence Against Children in Albania“ in Tirana

Council of Europe’s State Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights (SAPCR) organized a round table on „Combatting Violence Against Children in Albania“, which was held on 26 March 2015 in Tirana, Albania. Direction of Child Protection Center, Assoc. Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, was invited to make a presentation on the topic of sexual violence against children and to give her point of view on what kind of strategies and mechanisms states need to put in place to support child victims, how to conduct child friendly interviewing of victims, need to collect data and preventive strategies to protect children from sexual violence. Following the Roundtable, she was also invited to give specific recommendations for the development of a future project on children`s rights in Albania.

The main objective

The main objective of the round table was to obtain an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in the existing child protection system from violence in Albania and to identify the main needs, as well as to raise awareness on the Council of Europe standards in the three main areas: integrated strategy for child protection, strengthening child protection from sexual violence and child friendly justice. All of the aforementioned key areas were discussed in separate sessions.

In session one, Annika Lai (Head of Department, Department of Children and Families, Ministry of Social Affairs, Chair of the CDSS Expert Group for Cooperation on Children at Risk) presented the Estonian experience in the field of integrated strategies for child protection. She discussed forms of support for member states in developing and implementing a holistic national framework to safeguard the rights of the child and eradicate violence against children by increasing institutional capacities. Furthermore, she gave her point of view on ways of ensuring that such strategies remain unaffected by political and economic changes, on ways of supporting intersectoral, inter-institutional coordination and finding the best ways of implementing such mechanisms in order to create an integrated national strategy which follows the Council of Europe Policy Guidelines principles.

Director introduced Croatian experience

In session two, Assoc. Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD (Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Director of Child Protection Centre of Zagreb) introduced Croatian experience in the area of strengthening child protection from sexual violence. She discussed forms of strategies and mechanisms which states need to put in order to support child abuse victims, conduct child friendly interviews on victims of sexual abuse, prevent sexual violence on children, collect data on victims of sexual violence, as well as to support child and family friendly social and medical services. She tried to bridge the distance between violence, corporal punishment and positive parenting. She also presented the work of Child Protection Center of Zagreb, it’s multidisciplinary work which was recognized as an example of good practice in Europe.

In session three, Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard (Professor of Children’s Rights, UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights, Leiden University, Law School) discussed the issues of child friendly justice using the Council of Europe Guidelines, especially the Dutch experience in that area. He tried to answer a series of important questions, such as how to make justice system accessible to children of different age groups, how to adopt it to children’s needs and rights, as well as how to improve and develop child-friendly mechanism through the adoption of specific policies and programs. The main emphasis was made on criminal proceedings including children, especially the issues of respecting children’s private and family life, their integrity and dignity as well as trying to make it easier for them to participate in court proceedings and assist them in law procedures by protecting them from harm, intimidation, reprisals and secondary victimization and hardship during judical procedures.

On Albanian current position in discussed areas

In each session, the Albanian authorities – law enforcement (Police, Prosecutor for minors), representatives of Parliament of Albania, Social Services and NGO representatives gave their view on Albanian current position in discussed areas. Gaps and priorities for the future were discussed. The final aim of the Roundtable was to determine the needs for support to be provided to Albania, through the elaboration of a comprehensive, two years long, project on Children’s Rights.

In line with Council of Europe standards, this event provided an excellent opportunity for Albanian authorities, key stakeholders and Council of Europe to work together in identifying the country’s needs to be addressed in order to strengthen the child protection system’s capacity at national and local levels, protect and promote children’s rights, support the implementation of integrated strategies to protect children from violence, as well as to ensure access to child-friendly services.