There are around 4,500 children in residential institutions in Armenia – this number has been relatively stable over the last years despite the decline in child population.
In child protection UNICEF is cooperating with a number of key ministries, including Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education to support the latter in implementation of the ongoing child welfare reforms as well as in meeting the provisions of international legal instruments. De-institutionalisation and transformation of residential care institutions, juvenile justice, strengthening of national child protection bodies are among essential elements of the programme which aims at creating an overall protective environment for children in Armenia.
TRANSFORMATION OF INSTITUTIONS
There are around 4,500 children in residential institutions in Armenia – this number has been relatively stable over the last years despite the decline in child population. There is an intensive dialogue with the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) about the need to transform special schools. Reduction of the number of special schools alongside the expansion of inclusive schools is stated as an aim in the State Programme on Education Development 2011-2015. Current legislative amendments in the Parliament that the Ministry of Education and Science initiated stipulate the transformation of at least one special school in each region into a pedagogical support centre. UNICEF is currently working on the transformation plans of two special schools in Syunik region, but the MoES is also interested to expand to other schools.
Discussions are on-going with the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues (MoLSI) to support the process of transformation of residential care institutions under MoLSI and establishment of community-based services. UNICEF has already supported MoLSI and MoES to conduct an assessment of special educational institutions. A concept note describing the process of transformation of institutions has been developed and shared with the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues. It is expected that the Ministry will adopt a document outlining Ministry's plans related to transformation of institutions and establishment of alternative services in April.
COOPERATION WITH OMBUDSPERSON’s OFFICE AND THE PARLIAMENT
UNICEF has been providing continuous support to the Human Rights Defender's Office in capacity development of the newly established Child Protection Department and development of institutional framework to better respond to the violations of the rights of children. A complaint mechanism to receive reports and address violations of children’s rights as well as HRDO strategy on Child Protection will be developed in 2013.
A multi-partisan parliamentary working group on child rights held several hearings on child rights, with the recent one focusing on the rights and entitlements of children with disabilities.
JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN
The cooperation with the Ministry of Justice has been brought to a qualitatively new level through signing a Rolling Work Plan 2012-2013 (for the first time). UNICEF actively supported legislative reform initiatives of the Ministry. Several recommendations on Criminal Procedure Code, Criminal Code and Law on Arrestees and Detainees have been provided by UNICEF experts. Strong cooperation has been established with the Police Academy, Judiciary School and Prosecutors School. Training packages for law enforcement professionals have been prepared with direct support of UNICEF RO. UNICEF in collaboration with the Police and Project Harmony International supports Community Justice Centres (CJC) hosted and operated by local NGOs. These CJCs pursue programming that is deeply rooted in alternative justice theory. While most approaches to juvenile justice focus on punishing or treating delinquent youth, this theory emphasizes restorative justice and seeks to involve the entire community in rehabilitating offenders and holding them accountable for their behavior. CJCs have reported 86% of successful youth rehabilitation records – they have proven to be fully functioning and highly appreciated assets for community-based restorative justice.