The Romanian government and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) signed an action plan for a 2018-2022 country programme, through Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Minister of Labour and Social Justice Marius Budai, and UNICEF representative in Romania Pieter Bult.
"Both the country program and the action plan we have signed today include three action guidelines. First, a novelty, is sharing Romania's experience with promoting children's rights beyond the borders of the country, which is the new element of the plans. The second guideline is improving the social inclusion of all children, especially those from rural areas, Romany families and poor communities as well as children with disabilities. The third element is improving the capacity of the central administration of drawing up, implementing and assessing policies that promote respect for and the realisation of the children's rights, including strengthening key partnerships aimed at increasing national commitment to children and social reforms. The approval of an extension to the programmes conducted by UNICEF in Romania and the signing the current action plan today is further proof of the firm support the Romanian government has extended to the projects that UNICEF is conducting in the country," Melescanu told the signing ceremony hosted by the Info Europa Center.
Minister Budai expressed his hope that under this programme, UNICEF will continue to promote the Romanian experience in the field of protection and promotion of children's rights at international level.
"We also expect the new country programme to allow us to work together to improve the social inclusion of all children, but with special emphasis on those from vulnerable groups, as well as to improve the conditions that foster the realization of the children's rights by strengthening key partnerships designed to increase national commitment to children and social reforms," he said.
Pieter Bult pointed out that Romania was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, and that significant progress has since been made, such as: reducing infant mortality; increasing enrollment in schools, including in pre-schools; reducing the number of institutionalized children; and also a small decrease in the number of children living in poverty.
However, he showed that, despite these improvements, the poverty and vulnerabilities faced by children in Romania remain among the highest in Europe and that there are still major gaps between the national average and the progress made with regard to children in poor rural environments, Romany communities and people with disabilities.
He mentioned that 40 percent of the children in Romania are still in poverty or face the danger of social exclusion. About 400,000 children stay out of school and the early drop-out rate has risen to 19 percent. Of those having taken the PISA OCDE test - at the age of 15 - about 40 percent do not meet the minimum criteria of literacy or mathematical knowledge. He added that infant and maternal mortality have double values in Romania compared to the EU average. Immunization has dropped below acceptable levels. In time, he added, these challenges are being faced, the opportunities for resolving them are better than ever. There is a firm commitment from the Romanian government and other partners to promote children's rights, said Bult, mentioning that adding up to that is significant economic progress, the existence of a strong legal and policy framework for the children and the availability of significant EU structural funds for this purpose.
He pointed out that one of the guidelines in the new programme is sharing experiences from Romania and promoting the rights of the child outside the country, showing that there have already been missions on inclusive education in Portugal and Iran. Several delegations have also carried out documentary visits to Bacau, where UNICEF's Community Child Services project is being carried out.
Part of the actions of the Romanian presidency of the Council of the EU, UNICEF alongside the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Agency for the Protection of Children's Rights, organized an international conference in Bucharest, May 6-7, attended by children from over 16 countries, where the first EU Children's Declaration on Child Participation in Decision-Making at National and EU levels was adopted, Bult said.
The declaration is due to be presented on Wednesday by two Romanian children at an Education, Youth, Culture and Sport council meeting in Brussels. Bult added that children who attend high-level meetings and who have the opportunity to speak are an excellent example of how Romania and UNICEF can join sides to promote children's rights.