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With the onset of armed conflict between government forces and ethnic Albanian groups in 2001, the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia experienced a severe political, economic and social crisis. Throughout the crisis, UNICEF maintained close contact with government counterparts. The office increased its cooperation with NGO counterparts (from 25 to 44 local NGOs), reflecting the expansion of UNICEF activities, such as youth centres and community services, and also the existence of a widening network of organisations focusing on the protection of child rights. Collaboration with the National Child Rights Commission and the Ombudsperson for Children has been a useful tool to maintain a high level of advocacy for child rights, even during the crisis. In 2000, the Ombudsperson for Children and the 30 NGOs formed a national NGO Coalition for Child Protection. UNICEF continues to support capacity-building activities for the Ombudsperson for Children’s office. In June 2000, FYR Macedonia became a member of the European Network for Ombudspersons, which is based in Brussels.
For more information www.ombudsnet.org 

The emergence of a Mayors’ Association, which represents all mayors in the country, is a good opportunity to put children first on the political agenda. UNICEF initiated contact with the Association in the context of developing “child-friendly” cities. Activities involved presentation of the work of UNICEF to the standing committee of the Association, which led to the public adoption of a declaration for children. UNICEF introduced and distributed the CRC to the Association, resulting in the insertion of a paragraph expressing the rights of children (written by the Ombudsperson for Children with UNICEF input) in its 5-year strategy plan. UNICEF also advocated for youth participation in government; as a direct result the mayor of the municipality of Veles now includes a youth representative in citizen and council meetings. The President of the Association also agreed to establish a sub-committee on children’s issues and this should be finalised in 2002. Tremendous opportunity exists for institutionalising child rights in local government and for youth leadership initiatives. Specific goals decided at the end of 2001 to begin in 2002 include: collaboration on a youth leadership in government pilot project in municipalities where there are active mayors, information exchange with mayors in priority municipalities about UNICEF activities and potential areas of assistance, and formalisation of the collaboration between UNICEF and the Association.

Contact

UNICEF Skopje
P.O. Box 491
91000 Skopje
Former Yugoslavia Republic
of Macedonia (FYROM)
Telephone: (389) 91 46.49.11
Fax: (389) 91 46.49.12
Email: office@unicef.org.mk
Web site: www.unicef.org/macedonia