Formal conclusions and recommendations on the report of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be published in writing towards the end of the Committee's three-week session which concludes on 28 January.
Discussion over the course of the afternoon focused on the family environment and alternative care; basic health and welfare; education, leisure and cultural activities; and special protection measures.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is one of 191 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and as such it is obligated to submit periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to improve the promotion and protection of the rights of children.
The 13-member Macedonian delegation was led by Igor Dzundev, Political Director at the Multilateral Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and included representatives from the Ministries of Education, Interior, Health, Labour and Social Policy, and Justice, as well as members of the Permanent Mission of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, a professor at the Medical Faculty and an interpreter.
When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 January, it will first hold a private meeting before meeting with High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson at 12 o'clock.
In response to a number of questions raised this morning, the members of the Macedonian delegation said that positive discrimination of school enrolment of children belonging to minorities had been effective and had resulted in more students being admitted in higher educational institutions. Among the high school students of the country, 14 per cent were Albanian while their number in universities had grown from 10.61 per cent in the 1994-1995 school year to more than 17 per cent at present.
With regard to registration of child birth, the delegation said that there were 245 local offices in the country engaged in the registration of births and deaths. In addition, the general public was informed from time to time on how to register newly born children. However, because of the lack of communications, children born at home were not registered on time. This phenomenon mainly concerned the Roma people who sometimes failed to register their newly born children, particularly if they lived in remote areas. The rate of home-delivered children was 4 per cent.
Asked about the status of the Convention under domestic law, the delegation said the provisions of the Convention were directly implemented and were part of the country's law.
Since the Constitution was based on the principle of prevention of statelessness, there were very few cases of stateless persons in the country, the delegation said. According to official records, there were about 9,760 stateless persons in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Inter-country adoption was legal in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and only minors could be adopted by foreign parents, the delegation said. A child over 10 years could express the wish to be adopted besides the wish of his or her parents. A person who was at least 18 years older than the adopted child could become an adoptive parent. Any adoptive procedure was supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
A juvenile who at the time of perpetrating a crime had already attained 14 years of age, but was younger than 16 years of age at the time of his court case, could only be sentenced to correctional measures, the delegation said. Older juveniles who at the time of perpetrating the crime had already attained 16 years of age, but had not attained 18 years of age at the time of their court case, might be sentenced to juvenile prison, which could last up to 10 years.
A question was asked whether children were allowed to create associations to which the delegation said that children could be members and managers of registered non-governmental organizations in collaboration with adults. In addition, in 1998, a Children's Parliament of Macedonia was established in Skopje whose function was based on the principles of the United Nations and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Parliament had several activities in the primary and secondary schools in which priority was given to the education of children about their rights.
Additional questions were asked by Committee members on whether the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had adopted the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption and the number of children so far adopted by foreigners; about the practice of corporal punishment; about the high rate of abortion; about breast feeding; about school dropouts; and about the situation of children of refugees born in camps or on the territory, among other things.
On the question of breast feeding, the Government continued to encourage mothers to breast feed their children at least up to four months, the delegation said.
Contraceptive pills were distributed free of charge upon recommendation from a medical doctors, and the number of cases of abortion had decreased in recent years, the delegation said. In addition, education on primary health and family planning was provided to adolescents in order to prevent teenage pregnancy. Efforts were also made to raise awareness on sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents.
There were few cases of HIV/AIDS in the country and children were particularly not affected by the virus, the delegation said. Between 1998 and 1999, a total number of 26 persons suffering from AIDS had been registered, out of whom 2 persons were in the age group from 0 to 4 years, and 5 in the age group from 15 to 24 years. Nevertheless, in the last four years, the number of persons suffering from AIDS had gradually decreased.
Macedonian law prohibited any form of corporal and psychological mistreatment in the field of education, the delegation said. The physical integrity of the person was inviolable, and any form of torture, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment was prohibited, including forced labour.
Preliminary Observations and Recommendations
In preliminary conclusions and recommendations, the Committee said the delegation had attempted to answer all the questions raised by its members. Had the delegation been allowed to continue the dialogue, all the problems raised during the meeting might have been resolved. However, the dialogue was constructive and fruitful.
The Committee said that the Government should make more efforts to close the disparity existing between urban and rural areas. The active participation of the Macedonian non-governmental organizations in promoting the rights of children was to be appreciated. Special emphasise had to be made on professional training of persons involved in the promotion and protection of children.
The Committee said that education for minorities such as the Roma had to be intensified. The Government was also encouraged to continue to implement further measures designed to promote the rights of children.