The UN Council for Human Rights with 35 recommendations for improving the rights of children in Bulgaria

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the groun of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is reviewed every 4.5 years. The result of each review is reflected in an “outcome report” listing the recommendations the State under review will have to implement before the next review.

This is a second UPR for Bulgaria, the first one took place in 2011. It is also a second report on the UPR for the National Network for Cildren. So it is well worth it to make an attempt for a short analysis on topics and numbers of recommendations, on what has been highlighted in the present review and what has dropped from the previous one.

In the review of 2015 the number of recommendations related to children and families are 83 out of a total 182. 35 of these are directly related to children’s rights.

National Network for Children (NNC) gave recommendations for 8 of the fields that are examined in the review including migrants, Child rights/Non-violence/Non-discrimination/Ombudsman, Minorities/People with disabilities/Poverty, Fight against racism, xenophobia and hate speech, Trafficking and Sexual exploitation, Family and alternative care, Education and Juvenile justice.

The main aim of the document provided as feedback from the NNC and the views of civil society organizations working with children and families in Bulgaria on the State’s achievements, challenges and deficits related to the implementation of accepted UPR recommendations since the second review held on May 2015. The document provides a detailed input on recommendations progress from NNC-Bulgaria point of view and suggestions for emerging issues to be considered during the forthcoming UPR cycle. One of the concrete objectives of the document is also to assess how many of the concerns, recommendations and suggestions put forward by the National Network for Children in Bulgaria were taken as issues to be considered during the 2015 UPR by member states and then accepted as recommendations by the Bulgarian government.

Of these all, NNC has chosen those that are related to children and families as this is our field of working and advocacy. Some of the recommendations are grouped based on similar topics and even almost the same wording. The others are given feedback separately.

Some of the recommendations are new, for example non-violent methods of child-rearing and education and fight against racism, xenophobia and hate speech. Non-violent methods of child-rearing and education has been one of the media campaigns carried out by the NNC in Bulgaria – to promote awareness of child rights, particularly the right to protection from violence and child participation.

Other topics as Education are well known and the CHR has 8 recommendations in this field. The topic is associated with dropping out of school, where Bulgaria still lags behind the set in the National Reform Programme 2012-2020 goal of 11%. Data on the share of early school leavers have shown a steady increase from 2013 as it rose from 12.5% to 13.4% in 2015.

In the part of the report on minorities, people with disabilities and poverty, UN Member States made a total of 23 recommendations to Bulgaria. Of these, only a few marked partial progress. What we focus on the independent report of the National Network for Children is that child poverty marked record levels in the country in recent years. In 2013, nearly 32% of children live in poverty, which means 377,300 children. This affects not only the Roma population. Many children are separated from their families and placed in institutions or other types of care because of the inability of families to cope with poverty.

Recommendations related to the family and alternative care are 5 and most of them are partially implemented due to the ongoing process of deinstitutionalization in the country, but the report of the National Network for Children says that the number of children in care out of the family continues to be very high and there is still growing number of poor families. Most affected are single parents, large families and those with disabled children. The organization welcomes the recommendation of the UK, which is aimed at developing separate family policy with clear objectives, measures and activities.

National Network for Children proposed as part of its independent report two new topics to be included in the next Universal Periodic Report and justify their importance. These are children’s mental health and early child development.

You can download the full NNC report here.