Nowadays the government of Azerbaijan is ready to accept all desirable instruments for cooperation that can help to the future development of society and protect freedom of individual and human rights. In this regard Azerbaijan traditionally attaches great importance to the protection of the rights of children.
The Republic of Azerbaijan ratified Convention on the Rights of the Child on 21 July 1992. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed two Optional Protocols of the Convention – “Involvement of children in armed conflicts” and “Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography” of the CRC at the UN Millennium Summit held on 6-8 September 2000.
In 1993 the Republic of Azerbaijan signed Universal Declaration on “Survival, protection and development of children” that was adopted at the high level meeting which was held on 30 September 1990.
In 2004 Milli Mejlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan ratified the Convention №182 on “Elimination of the worst forms of child labour” and Recommendation №190 of the International Labour Organization and the Hague Convention on International adoption of children.
In our Republic the issues concerning social and legal protection of children are regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and number of laws. The main document in this sphere is the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Child Rights adopted on 19 May 1998. The law was prepared in accordance with international documents such as Universal Declaration on “Human Rights”(1989), Declaration on Child Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Universal Declaration on “Survival, protection and development of children”(1990) and reflects rights of children approved at the international level and obligations of the state to realize these rights.
The main executive body of the Republic of Azerbaijan implementing state child policy is the State Committee for Family, Woman and Child Issues. The Committee was established by the Decree of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 6 February 2006. The Committee is responsible for protection of children, improvement their welfare, provision of their rights and freedoms and also coordination of state policy in this sphere.
Till the establishment of the State Committee there was acting Republic Coordination Council on Child issues under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Tourism (now the Ministry of Youth and Sports). The Council was considering issues relating to the protection of child rights and giving relevant recommendations. The main focus of the Council were such issues as problems of street children, establishment of alternative care system for orphanages, proper organization of spare time of children.
It has to be noted that protection of child rights has not limited by adoption of relevant legislative acts, but also is realized through taking concrete measures. The Government took important measures for social protection of children. Social protection of children, realization of their rights in the spheres of education and health was reflected in “The State Strategy on Poverty Reduction and Economic Development”. In the framework of this program students of the secondary schools under 10th class were provided by manuals free of charge, educational programs were improved, new school facilities were built and health services were improved. It is intended to continue this work in the framework of new State Program on Poverty Reduction and Social Development.
Plan of measures on the implementation of Universal Declaration on survival, protection and development of children, as well as an international legal document – “Beijing Rules” on institution proceedings against teenagers were translated into Azeri language and distributed among population. There was conducted a propaganda campaign and distribution of 10 main principles of UN General Assembly’s resolution “The World fit for Children”. During this campaign there were carried out arrangements with an active participation of children (express inquiries). In one of the first events, there were participated the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and sportsmen, the representatives of National Olympic Committee.
In line with these measures, state educational facilities and NGOs conduct awareness campaigns among children about their rights and inadmissibility of violence and degrading treatment. “Development Center” NGO prepared a particular performance under the name of “A Life Free of Violence”. This performance was demonstrated in districts of Azerbaijan with the support of UNICEF.
The Government of Azerbaijan takes important measures for the protection of vulnerable children with the support of international organizations. Children without parental care are under the special protection of the state. The law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on “Social protection of orphan children and children deprived from parental care” defines the measures of protection of children of this category during their secondary and higher education. One of the most important measures in the sphere of protection of children deprived from parental care is the adoption of the “State Program on de-institutionalization or alternative care (2006-2015)”. The program was approved by the Presidential Order # 1386 dated 29 Mart 2006. In the framework of the program several children were given to the families, most of them were returned to their biological families. In order to effectively implement this program a seminar “From orphanages to families (de-institutionalization)” was held on 19-20 September 2006 with the participation of experts of UNICEF and Italian EducAid. The main aim of the seminar was the understanding of the child care mechanism, increasing knowledge and capabilities in this sphere, exchange of practices and strengthening efforts of the government representatives.
Measures also have been taken for the rehabilitation of the street children. 16 experts passed training on working with “street children” by the assistance of UNICEF. There were prepared special methods for conducting rehabilitation measures directly in street in 2003. These children were got involved to sports sections and art studios.
There are the other group of vulnerable children in our country - refugee and IDP children who are victims of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. Today, 1/5 of territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan are under occupation of Armenia and more than 1 million people became refugees and IDPs (40% of them are children). There was grown up a whole generation of children in tent camps and compact settlements who are not familiar with their native homes and who are deprived of all conditions necessary for the implementation of all legislative acts concerning child rights. In the occupied territories of Azerbaijan 616 schools where more than 100 thousand children were getting education were destroyed. In general 242 infant schools, 4 technical schools, 11 vocational schools and 1 institution of higher education, which were covering more than 12000 children, stopped their work. During the armed conflict 4566 persons (including 53 children) have been missing, 1389 persons out of them (including 169 children) were released from hostage, 783 persons (including 18 children) are in hostage in Armenia until today.
During the last 14 years the President of the Republic has signed 45 decrees and orders, the Parliament has passed 23 laws, and the Cabinet of Ministers has signed 200 orders in order to improve situation of refugees and IDPs. State Program on the Problems of Refugees and IDPs was adopted in 1998 according to the Presidential Order in order to improve their living conditions and strengthen their social protection. There are also several orders of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan which include measures directed at comprehensively ameliorating situation of refugee and internally displaced children who left their homes as a result of the conflict: building temporary secondary and infant schools, paying compensations and pensions and simultaneously rendering material aid.
It’s being observed an activation of organizations, which work with disabled children. About 10 multi-field centers render rehabilitation services to children of this category. Among them we can distinguish puppet show of dauns and autists.
The Government of Azerbaijan has also taken important measures in the sphere of juvenile justice with the support of international organizations. Living conditions of juveniles offended against law have become better during last years. There were held competitions and tournaments of juveniles in conflict with the law and students of secondary schools with the support of public patrons’ councils acting in prisons for juveniles. Different art-circles (chorus, dance, theatre) also participate in rehabilitation process of juvenile offenders. Juvenile offenders have being regularly included to the Presidential pardons. “Perspectives of Juvenile Justice Development in Azerbaijan”, a national conference on juvenile justice organized jointly by the Government of Azerbaijan, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), British Embassy and the NGO Alliance for Child Rights took place on April 13-14, 2006 in Baku. The conference brought together governmental officials and non-governmental agencies who work with children in conflict with the law, aiming to increase their understanding of domestic and international standards of juvenile justice and to identify practical ways for the improvement of the juvenile justice system in Azerbaijan. On September 9-16, 2006 UNICEF and University of Essex organized study visit for the representatives of relevant state bodies of Azerbaijan to United Kingdom with the aim of acquainting them with justice system of this country.
The Government has also taken important steps for the protection of talented children. The State program on “Solving economic and social problems of talented children and youth, and development of their talent” adopted on August 4, 2000 by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan has promoted development of creative potential of children and youth, and helps to solve their employment and recruitment problems. Another important step taken in this sphere was the adoption of “State Program on development of creative potential of talented children (2006-2010)”. The main purpose of the Program is to discover talented children at secondary schools and take special measures in order to provide their development, to attract public attention to the solution of this important issue, to strengthen state support to the development of talented children and youth.
The Republic of Azerbaijan cooperates with several international organizations, especially with UNICEF in the sphere of child protection. UNICEF began its activity in Azerbaijan in October of 1993. This organization donated to Azerbaijan 9,5 mln USD in 1994-1996, 2,2 mln USD in 1997 and 2 mln USD in 1998 and 1999 as humanitarian aid. The cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and UNICEF is carried out in accordance to the 5 year country program signed between Elchin Efendiyev, the Deputy Prime Minister and H.Singer, the Representative of UNICEF in Azerbaijan. The current country program for 2005-2009 is carried out in the spheres of child protection, children’s health and nutrition, children’s education and youth health, their development and participation. In addition, UNİCEF supports the Government in advancing juvenile justice system, creating alternative care system and awareness-raising of youth about HIV/AIDS. On 6-7 February 2006 UNICEF organized conference on “Creating brighter future for the youth in Azerbaijan” with the Ministries of Youth and sports, Education and Economic development. Youth, high level officials, parliamentarians, local authorities and NGOs participated in the event. The main aim of the conference was to identify problems of youth in Azerbaijan and the ways of their solution. It was decided to include the results of the Conference to the State Program on Poverty Elimination and Sustainable Development.
As a proof of the fruitful cooperation between our country and UNICEF the Director of UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic States, Ms. Maria Calivis visited Azerbaijan on 11-15 March 2007. The main aim of the visit was to get acquainted with the problems of children in Azerbaijan and works done by UNICEF and Azerbaijan to solve them and also to contribute to the process of building “world fit for children” in our country.
The Government of Azerbaijan takes active part in the international and regional initiatives for child protection. On 5-9 July 2005 the high level delegation from Azerbaijan actively participated in the conferences on “Stop violence against children” and “Yokohama review for Europe and Central Asia: combating sexual exploitation of children” held in Ljubljana. It was held public discussions in the country with the participation of members of delegation, local child NGOs and representatives of UNICEF in order to implement Ljubljana declaration.
The Government of Azerbaijan pays special attention to the honoring obligations on child protection taken in international level. In February of 2006 the Government of Azerbaijan presented its second report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In 2007 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated to celebrate 5th anniversary of the UN General Assembly 27th Special Session on children. The initiative was supported by UNICEF and on 6 July 2007 it was held a national conference on “Reforms of child protection system in Azerbaijan” dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the implementation of “World fit for children” Declaration and Plan of Action, the final document of the UN General Assembly 27th Special Session on children. The conference has a special importance as the way of attracting broader public attention to the children’s problem in the country and identifying current problems in this sphere.
The Government of Azerbaijan works on the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and “World fit for children” Declaration and Plan of Action, the final document of the UN General Assembly 27th Special Session on children and cooperates with international organizations in this sphere.
Azerbaijan closely cooperates with UNICEF in the field of education, health and other social issues (children with disabilities, street children, preventing violence against children, early marriages, child mortality, preschool education) with regard to children. UNICEF Regional Director on Central and Eastern Europe/CIS countries Stevene Allen paid a visit to Azerbaijan in May 2010. He had meetings and discussions with officials, as well as with the Minister of Foreign Affairs E.Mammadyarov on the situation of children in Azerbaijan and works done by Azerbaijan and UNICEF in this field.
Following the expire of previous Country Program on 8 September 2010 UNICEF Steering Committee adopted new Country Program on Azerbaijan for 2011-2015 years.
Projects implemented with UNICEF in 2010:
- Analysis of the situation of street children in Azerbaijan;
- Awareness raising campaign on changes of attitutes toward early marriages;
- Research on “Analysis of the situation on the registration of new born children in Azerbaijan”;
In order to investigating situation on current healthcare services and birth\death registration, head of Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) (IGME consists of UNICEF, WHO, WB and UN DESA), Kenneth Hill paid a visit to Azerbaijan on 11-14 June 2012. During his visit he had meetings with the representatives of MFA, MoH, MoJ and State Statistical Committee, as well as visited some medical institutions and Registration Departments. As a result of this visit Report “Toward improving statistics on child mortality in the Republic of Azerbaijan” was prepared. Current situation and statistical indicators on child mortality in Azerbaijan and recommendations of delegation were reflected in the report.