Sofia, December 3, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s policies on children set an example for the countries of the wider Balkan region, head of state President Rossen Plevneliev said at a meeting with UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake, who was on a December 3 2015 visit to Sofia.
Lake also had talks with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, with a subsequent government media statement saying that Bulgaria had been praised by UNICEF for the country’s progress in the de-institutionalisation of children.
Plevneliev told Lake of Bulgaria’s achievements in child care, emphasising that the country was determined that by 2025, the process of de-institutionalisation of children would be completed, all institution for children closed and replaced with a network of services that match the individual needs of each child.
He and Lake exchanged views on the Bulgarian experience and the role of the organisation in the implementation of policies for children, including the development of alternative social services, a media statement by the President’s office said.
Bulgaria highly appreciates the contribution of UNICEF to the efforts of the international community to achieve sustainable development of the process of de-institutionalisation. The Bulgarian experience in childcare could serve as an example of good practice and inspiration for other countries in their path to successful de-institutionalisation, Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev said that childcare would be included in the future National Programme for the Development of Bulgaria to 2030. Civil society will actively take part in the drafting of this strategic document, he said.
Bulgaria has a growing significance as a UNICEF partner in the drafting and implementation of policies and programmes for child protection in the region. Plevneliev said that Bulgaria has the ambition to place policies for children on the region’s agenda by using the mechanisms of the Bulgarian Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP). Within its SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office, Bulgaria will host the forum where the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 will be presented, he said.
Lake said that he was convinced that the model of UNICEF’s work here in Bulgaria could be used as a model in other countries in the region, the President’s office said. He said that UNICEF will continue working with with the Bulgarian authorities in pilot projects and in support of policies at national level.
At their meeting, Borissov told Lake that Bulgaria highly appreciates the contribution of UNICEF in implementing reform of child care.
“Our country accepts greater responsibility with our membership in the Executive Board of UNICEF,” Borissov said, adding that Bulgaria is making every effort to actively participate and bring added value to the work of the governing body of the UN Children’s Fund.
Lake said that Bulgaria was leading the de-institutionalisation of children, and today 10 000 fewer children are in institutions for social or medical care, the government statement said.
He said that it was scientifically proven that the placement of children in such institutions affects their psyche for life and restricts development and their abilities. “This is bad for the children and the society in which they live,” Lake said. He said that UNICEF is committed to continue its support for the government by working in family-counseling centres and the provision of services for early childhood development for all children, especially those most disadvantaged.