Opinion by George Bogdanov regarding the Report Card for Kosovo

Opinion by George Bogdanov regarding the Report Card for Kosovo

External Opinion from George Bogdanov, Executive Director of the Bulgarian National Network for Children, regarding the first Kosovan Report Card on the situation of children’s rights in the country issued by the Coalition of NGOs for the Protection of Children – KOMF

Children on the Balkans often live in poverty, with difficulties and challenges within their families and communities, and are negatively affected by issues stemming from the unreformed systems of education, health care, juvenile justice and social inclusion. Today, more than ever, a strong political will is needed for the children in our societies to live better and have a happier childhood. A childhood where they grow up to be self-reliant and independent adults, capable of developing their fullest potential.

The role of civil society and children’s organizations is crucial in challenging politicians and political parties in reforming the education, social services, healthcare, children’s justice and welfare systems. The first “Report Card 2024 – What is the Overall Assessment of the State of Kosovo on Childcare?” comes at an extremely important moment for Kosovo and for the whole Kosovan society, which is striving for European integration and a more sustainable cohesion of all its policies.

This is also a moment when all of us in Europe, on the Balkans and in Kosovo are facing serious difficulties caused by the pandemic, wars, inflation, and political processes that weaken the democratic foundations of our societies (incl. hybrid warfare targeting the civil sector and children’s rights). Children are the most affected, and that is why it is utterly important that this Kosovan Report Card has presented an elaborate overview of the full picture of major systemic issues facing children, families, civil organizations and countries, which affect the growth and development of children.

The first edition of the annual monitoring report of the Coalition of NGOs for the Protection of Children – KOMF on the situation of children and the implementation of the Act on Child Protection is a great instrument to enrich and rationalize the political and public discourse on children’s issues. The presented problems are many and largely overlap with the Report Card, which we in Bulgaria have been publishing for more than 10 years. Despite the progressive steps taken by state institutions and political parties in Bulgaria, much more energetic actions need to be taken to change the lives of children, especially children from marginalized and underserved communities beyond the large urban centers. This is precisely the role of the civil society – both to highlight non-working practices and to present solutions for what specifically ought to be improved for children and families.

In addition to the rich statistical information and the in-depth analysis of children’s policies, this first “Report Card 2024 – What is the Overall Assessment of the State of Kosovo on Childcare?” renders over 100 recommendations to the state institutions and to politicians in Kosovo. The civil sector in Kosovo, which works with children and families deserves not merely to be heard, but to be proactively and meaningfully consulted in all relevant law and policy making, along with the subsequent monitoring and evaluation of the latter. Bringing together the expertise of this many professionals and highlighting problem areas for state reform and action is a huge effort on behalf of the involved civil society organizations in Kosovo.

This monitoring report on the children’s polices in Kosovo undoubtedly needs to develop and become an annual practice with vast institutional dissemination, so that every professional in the field eagerly awaits the second, third and all subsequent editions of the Report Card.

I hereby strongly encourage you, for subsequent editions of the annual report, to integrate, following the example of the Bulgarian Report Card, authentic materials prepared by children and youth, inc. data from analyses and surveying amongst children from marginalized communities, children in residential and foster care, child victims, children in conflict with the law, children with special needs. Let children and young people, authors in the Report Card, also have a key role in the presentation of the report before institutions and the larger public.

Henceforth, experts and professionals from the Coalition of NGOs for the Protection of Children – KOMF shall be facing the challenge of upgrading the Report Card every year and making it more and more accessible and recognizable not only for politicians, MPs, and institutions, but also for the entire Kosovan society. Undoubtedly, the beginning is difficult, yet it is important to lay down the foundations for a constructive and critical discussion of the real problems which are facing the children and families of Kosovo – a task, which the Coalition has handled excellently.

It is imperative that we jointly attempt to leave a better society for our children and not be ashamed of our mistakes and inactions tomorrow! I wholeheartedly wish good luck to all my Kosovan colleagues who have embraced the mission of protecting children’s rights.

Let us be brave and decisive!