Director of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, participated as the invited plenary speaker and panel moderator at the conference “Children’s Access to Justice”, on February 25-27, 2020 in Sarajevo. The conference was co-organized by the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, the UNICEF Office for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Council of Ministers of BiH (Ministry of Justice).

During the plenary lecture at the Panel on Victims and Witnesses – Strengthening the Relationship between the Judiciary and Social Welfare, the Director presented an example of the good practice of Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center in dealing with children who have been sexually abused and how a child-friendly approach can prevent the child’s retraumatization, while at the same time helping the judicial system obtain forensically relevant information. In her presentation, she emphasized the importance of justice, social care and health co-operation in the protection of child victims of crime, and was supported by a quote from Judge Ernest Ryder. He told a children’s rights forum in Brussels in 2012 that judges not need to be expert in all areas, but they need to know where the experts are and how to get them. She also quoted psychologist William Friedrich, her late teacher from the Mayo Clinic, who used to say, “Working with every sexual abused child involves at least 4 phone calls” to emphasize the importance of co-operation of all systems in protecting sexual abused children.

“Today, I would erase two words from that sentence – sexual and abuse – because working with every child requires a lot of phone calls, literally and symbolically,” said professor Gordana Buljan Flander during her presentation in Sarajevo.

After the presentation, the Director moderated the panel “Experiences of developing countries and providing integrated services for child victims and witnesses and their families”, where experts from Bulgaria and Serbia spoke about the progress made in these countries regarding the rights of child victims and witnesses criminal offenses, but also opportunities for further improvement. The panel also discussed challenges when it comes to protecting child victims, and the sustainability of projects started and finding funding sources were the biggest challenges.

The conference brought together more than 180 child and justice professionals from 21 countries. Best practices and challenges were discussed as well as strengthening a child-friendly justice system. The aim of the conference was to exchange best practices, to encourage as many countries as possible to follow the Council of Europe’s guidelines on child-friendly justice and judicial cooperation, police welfare, health, education … the right of the child to hear in his or her actions both his / her voice and the abuse of that right. They also discussed the protection of child victims and witnesses of crime and equal access to justice for the most vulnerable, including children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, and children living in poverty. Part of the conference was dedicated to adequate access to children in conflict with the law.

During the three days of the conference, participants actively worked on the exchange of good practices and necessary improvements to child-friendly justice and child access to justice, identifying the shortcomings and ways to strengthen interventions and access to children in contact with the justice system, especially victims and witnesses and migrant children.

More information about the Conference is available at: https://wcmsprod.unicef.org/eca/child-protection/access-justice

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