UN children rights expert gives Ukraine mixed report on a new protection model
Ukraine needs to substantially revamp its approach to protecting children or face serious negative consequences for future generations, an independent United Nations children’s rights expert said in a statement after a six-day visit at the month’s end.
UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Juan Miguel Petit, said the country needs “to build a new model of protection for children’s rights,” one that allows a greater role for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector initiatives, to make up for diminished state capabilities.
One key institutional gap is the “absence of a separate juvenile justice system” to deal with child prostitution, trafficking and street children, Mr. Petit said.
While expressing high regard for particular police units, including anti-trafficking and the Interpol brigades, Mr. Petit also said he was concerned at the low rate of successful prosecutions and sentencing of traffickers and child pornographers which was “due in part to a disturbing level of corruption affecting all sectors of Government but particularly the law enforcement and judicial systems.”
“In a young and fragile democracy such as Ukraine this is quite preoccupying and jeopardizes the capacity of the State to address the challenges it is facing,” he added.
Mr. Petit noted that while “everyone agrees that the model of full State control and funding of social and family matters has collapsed” a replacement system is still evolving and the Government needs to do more to facilitate, rather than bureaucratically obstruct, its emergence.
Based on his visit he said he found that “private organizations working for the protection of children face enormous difficulties and challenges that jeopardize their capacities to reach those who need it, when on the contrary the State should encourage and help these initiatives since all should be working for the same goals.”
Mr. Petit’s visits to numerous orphanages and boarding facilities for orphans or abandoned children yielded a mixed review. On the one hand Mr. Petit praised the state for ensuring protection for the most vulnerable persons in society, but he also said the size of these institutions should be reduced to a more natural size.
“I have doubts that institutions where 100 to 200 children grow and live together is the best form, since nobody has so many brothers and sisters,” he said.
Special Rapporteurs are unpaid independent advisory experts with a mandate from the Human Rights Council who also make periodic reports to the General Assembly.