Address by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of UNICEF’s work in Serbia:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased that we have gathered here, on the occasion of the inauguration of an exhibition marking this important jubilee – the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Republic of Serbia. I believe that the work of UNICEF is known to everyone in Serbia, and that its involvement, both on the global and national level, is seen with sympathy and admiration. A lengthy period of time is behind us, and Yugoslavia, Serbia, has been a UNICEF partner almost since the inception of this important Organization, a proof of which is the fact that, last year, in 2016, UNICEF observed the 70th anniversary of its existence.
UNICEF was established in 1946, as a provisional body for providing assistance to children, WWII victims, and Yugoslavia was one of the first UN Member States that signed the Basic Programme of Cooperation with UNICEF in 1947, and the first state in Europe and the second in the world, after Australia, that established a UNICEF National Committee. Under a UN General Assembly decision, UNICEF became, in 1953, a permanent body of the United Nations for providing assistance to children across the world, particularly in the developing countries.
I would like to give a brief account of our 70 years-long friendship, during which UNICEF has played an important role even in the most sensitive moments in the history of our country. In the hard times following the Second World War, from 1948-1979, UNICEF provided Yugoslavia vast investment and material assistance, in the amount of 22 million dollars, for the implementation of 26 programmes catering to the basic needs of children in the areas of health, nutrition and education. Yugoslavia was not a beneficiary of UNICEF assistance from 1979-1991, because in this period, it was the first and the only developing country that became a voluntary UNICEF donor.
During the 1990s conflict, UNICEF provided the necessary assistance to children and refugees, and was there to offer relief aid after the great flooding in 2014, as well. UNICEF has been assisting mothers with children transiting Serbia in the refugee and migrant flow, ever since 2015. As a result, from last September, all migrant children of elementary-school age can attend regular classes.
We highly respect and appreciate your benevolence, openness and readiness to cooperate on encouraging continued enhancement of our prime capital – children. This work is priceless, as it vastly contributes to the progress of society, in the long run.
In addition to the engagement and assistance in emergency situations, I consider particularly important the exceptional work of the UNICEF’s Belgrade Office and the personal efforts by its Head Michel Sen-Lo aimed at advancing children’s rights in Serbia – by focusing on early development, i.e. learning in early childhood, and, in this context ensuring all children of this age group access to education, through pre-school institutions of the education system, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. This programme is designed to bring about, by way of diminishing social differences, and inclusion, more progress to the community, which is very important because the proportion of children under eight years old is low, with the tendency of becoming even lower. This was the theme of the international conference on child early development, held in Belgrade, a few days ago. Important areas to which UNICEF made its contribution in Serbia include social inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalized children, prevention of violence against and between children, de-institutionalization of children from 0 to 3 years old, where Serbia apparently achieved significant progress, which has been globally recognized.
On the international level, Serbia has been active in the area of protection and promotion of children’s rights, through the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, regular reporting to the relevant Committee, support resolutions and initiatives with themes focusing on the promotion of the rights of children, as well as through the implementation of goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
The exhibition that we are opening today reflects the continuity and importance of this cooperation ongoing from 1947 to the present. Our years-long cooperation and partner relations, developed through many successful initiatives over these 70 years, testify to the importance of the support UNICEF continues to provide today to the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Serbia in its efforts to ensure a healthy and inspiring environment for the development, education and a safe life of children, and full exercise of their rights in Serbia, in line with international instruments and the highest standards in the field of the rights of the child.
I trust and believe that the exhibition will contribute to the raising of awareness and responsibility of our people regarding the respect of children’s rights and the promotion of their status. The exhibition will be available to the public at large until the end of the year – in Belgrade and other Serbian towns including Pirot, Nis, Novi Sad, Novi Pazar, Kragujevac, and I invite you to visit it.