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SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON SALE OF CHILDREN, CHILD PROSTITUTION AND CHILD PORNOGRAPHY ENDS VISIT TO ALBANIA

8 November 2005


The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Juan Miguel Petit, issued the following statement on 7 November:

In my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, I carried out an official visit in Albania from 31 October to 7 November 2005. I visited Tirana, Korca and Elbasan. I had over 40 meetings and interacted with over 100 persons.

The invitation of the Government to visit the country is very much appreciated considering how new this government is. It is a promising sign of openness and commitment to address human rights and social matters as the one we are discussing today. I thank the Government and in particular the Minister of Foreign Affairs for having opened its doors and given me the possibility to meet all relevant public authorities. I also wish to express my warmest gratitude to the UNICEF Office in Albania, which facilitated the visit and prepared an intense and comprehensive agenda.

During the visit, I had the honour to meet the Chairperson of the Parliament, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and the Minister of Education and Science. I met representatives of the local authorities, the police, the judiciary and prosecutors. I had meetings with international organizations, donors, NGOs, and media. I visited shelters, schools and programmes delivering social services to children.

This visit will be followed by a visit to Greece, which will start tomorrow and will last another week. This will enable me to better understand the trans-national elements of phenomena like child trafficking and migration flows of unaccompanied children.

This is the first remark I want to make. Child trafficking is not a problem of Albania only. It is a global problem. Countries of destination have their responsibilities as well. It is time they assume them. Albanian victims of trafficking are exploited in Greece, Italy, and other European states. These countries have legal obligations and duties vis-à-vis these victims and victims have rights that too often are not respected.

Albania is a country in transition. Somebody told me that it is a painful transition. This is true. At the same time, it is a time of opportunities, a time when the decisions taken today will shape the future of the next years.

In the area of child trafficking, Albania has several achievements to report: the legislative and policy frameworks are in place; there is more awareness in society; the police is better trained to deal and investigate this crime; border control improved; the establishment of the court of serious crimes and the prosecutors’ office for serious crimes increased the prosecution capacity; NGOs gained a valuable expertise in delivering rehabilitation programmes for victims of trafficking and in providing social services to communities.

All this did not exist 5 years ago. They are important achievements.

I was pleased to learn that the present government expressed a commitment to promote children’s rights and indicate child trafficking and education as priorities of this government.

Nevertheless, we all know there is a long way to go.

Child trafficking is not an isolated social phenomenon. It is an expression, an alarming symptom of unsolved socio-economic problems. It is not enough to treat the symptom to cure the disease. And the disease is poverty, families without opportunities for development, communities lacking social services, stigmatised minorities, persistent discriminatory practices against women, an educational system inadequate for today’s challenges. This is what makes children leaving their communities, in most cases in dangerous conditions. This is what puts them at risk of exploitation and trafficking. This is the disease we have to treat.

Prevention is the best treatment. A strong child protection system needs to be put in place, with a firm investment in education and social services, together with strengthened child protection component of police, health and justice. NGOs have been providing a good range of social programmes in these areas, almost exclusively through international aid. It is time for the state to take up responsibilities in social matters, capitalising on the experiences of NGOs and supporting their activities and programmes.

In my report on the visit, I will elaborate more on the concrete recommendations I suggest in order to achieve the overarching objective of a functioning child protection system. Some preliminary recommendations are:
· Give priority to the implementation of the national strategy on children and the one on combating child trafficking. Adequate resources are to be allocated to that end and a monitoring system established
· Ensure that children’s rights are protected through an adequate national institutional set up (a functioning and high profile Committee on Children’s Rights within the government with focal points in regions)
· Focus action against trafficking on prevention in communities with social work, community centres and family support
· Prioritise the creation of services for trafficked children with specially trained staff to provide protection and long-term reintegration support
· Strengthen the role of local social services in: 1) proactively identifying and referring children at risk; and 2) monitoring standards of care
· Sign and implement the bilateral agreement between Greece and Albania on the return of unaccompanied children
· Introduce community based care services, such as foster care systems
· Take measures to address domestic child abuse and violence
· Establish procedures and protocols so that key professionals in contact with children, e.g. teachers, health practitioners and social workers, know how to identify, report and refer cases of suspected abuse and a follow up procedure is in place
· Facilitate procedures for birth registration
· Research the phenomenon of child sexual exploitation in Albania and take measures to address it, including measures to avoid a black market of child prostitution

I want to conclude these preliminary comments with a call to the media. Being a journalist myself, I am aware of the impact that media can have in society. In a positive and negative way. I call my media colleagues in Albania to report on children not only in a way that is fully respectful of their rights, but which is also instrumental for the protection and promotion of children’s rights. Many experiences in this area already exist in the world and can be replicated in Albania. New ones can be developed creatively.