UNICEF, German Embassy join efforts to improve monitoring of child rights violations in residential care institutions of Armenia

UNICEF and Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany signed today a cooperation agreement whereby German Embassy will allocate 65,000 EURO to strengthen  capacities of Independent Public Group for Monitoring of Residential Care Institutions in Armenia.

“Children living in orphanages and night-care centres as well as those attending special schools may be at higher risk of being abused and neglected. Recent cases of abuse and violations revealed in some of those residential institutions necessitate taking immediate action on proper independent monitoring of child rights violations in orphanages, night-care centres and special schools, as well as on the status of children placed in those institutions,” UNICEF Representative in Armenia Henriette Ahrens emphasized.

Independent Public Group for Monitoring of Residential Care Institutions was established in 2010 by the Minister of Education and Science, following notorious cases of abuse and violence in the Nubarashen boarding school for children with intellectual disabilities. Supported by the Open Society Institute over the last two years the Independent Public Monitoring Group has a mandate to monitor special educational institutions of the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia. During the past two years the Independent Public Monitoring group conducted visits to 32 special institutions and produced two reports, which, however do not provide detailed information on child rights violations in those institutions.

The objective of the current project funded by the German Embassy in Armenia and the Open Society Instituteis to improve the situation with the child rights protection in special institutions. It is expected that the Independent Public Monitoring group will also improve its internal regulations, supervisory structures, monitoring methodology, mechanisms and tools to exercise better control over monitoring and reporting of the results. The transparency of the Independent Public Monitoring Group’s work will be ensured through regular public presentations of the results of the monitoring with participation of all stakeholders, including media.

Apart from special educational institutions placed under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Science, the Public Monitoring Group will also exercise monitoring over residential care institutions (orphanages, night care centres) that are administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, by establishing cooperation with the latter as well as with the Ministry of Territorial Administration.

“The protection of human rights all over the world is a policy priority of the German government. The German Embassy in Yerevan is working closely with the Armenian government, the Ombudsman’s office, NGOs and international organisations in order to meet the challenges for the safeguard of human rights in Armenia. Children are an especially vulnerable group who need our careful attention in order to avoid any abuse or violence and insure an appropriate care and education. We trust that our joined efforts in this project will have a tangible impact on the protection of children\’s rights in Armenia”, Reiner Morell, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Armenia, explained.

In Armenia there are approximately 4500 children living in residential care institutions. The adverse impacts of institutionalization on children have long been proven by researchers around the world. There is no independent and periodic monitoring of those institutions and the status of children placed there. Ad hoc investigations and monitoring are carried out exclusively when cases of abuse, violence or child death become public. The placement of children in institutions often ignores the principle of the best interest of the child, assessment shows.  Yet after the placement in an institution the majority of children spend their childhood there due to the lack of follow up, regular assessments of changing needs of the child and the family and limited support provided to families and children by social protection services.

“The Independent Public Monitoring Group should not be seen as a response to critical situations in which children living in residential care institutions find themselves, but rather should serve as a preventive mechanism to stop cases of violence and abuse against children and ensure the rights to education and to a family” UNICEF Representative in Armenia stressed.

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