UNICEF Global     TR

* Turkey has a large economy and plentiful resources and infrastructure for upholding children’s rights. Besides, the government, civil society, academia, international organisations and the private sector can contribute to child rights and youth empowerment through research, advocacy and field work. However, their contributions are not systematically sought and integrated into the predominantly State controlled system of child-related services and rights monitoring.

* Turkey is already a party to most relevant international treaties. Many of the country’s laws are in line with child rights principles. The current process of constitutional change provides an opportunity to increase guarantees of child rights in the Constitution, and subsequently to make necessary updates to those pieces of legislation which are not fully in line with child rights principles – for example with respect to child participation.

* The creation of the Ministry for the Family and Social Policies, the establishment of a Child Rights Monitoring and Assessment Board and the adoption of a First Turkey Strategy Document on the Rights of the Child may improve coordination and overall policy towards the achievement of child rights, while the establishment of an ombudsperson institution including an ombudsperson for women’s and children’s rights can be expected to improve child rights monitoring.

* However, if these new institutions and mechanisms are to have an impact, they will need to be strong, functional and well-focused. In addition, more data is needed in some areas of child rights, and allocations of public resources for children, including the most vulnerable, need to be increased and carefully monitored.

* While positive attitudes towards children predominate in society and everyday life, there remains a need to instil a culture of child rights, so that children are always perceived as individuals with rights, and never as the properties of parents or others - and so that parents, professionals, officials and policy-makers acknowledge their full obligations and work to ensure that every boy and girl everywhere benefits from a satisfactory level of well-being and protection. The stance of the mass media and the training of professionals are important in this context.

* Disasters, environmental degradation and climate change pose a substantial threat to child and youth well-being. Preventive efforts and preparedness plans in these areas need to be pursued energetically with a specific child focus.

10.1 Knowledge of child rights: Public awareness of child rights has been increasing as a result of many initiatives taken by government, non-government and international organisations and children themselves. For example, campaigns to promote girls’ education have led to wider acknowledgement of the right to education. Parenting programmes have also been instrumental in increasing knowledge of child rights. Child rights have been mainstreamed into school curricula to some extent, and members of several professions, from media workers to those working in the justice system, have received child rights training, either pre-service or in-service, albeit usually non-mandatory. Nevertheless, a culture of child rights is not widespread throughout society and parents, professionals and administrators often seem to regard them as elements of the family, the education system or society rather than as individuals in their own right. In this context, the government’s emphasis on the family as children’s natural environment needs to be balanced out with a rights-based approach. While children’s rights to education and health services are quite readily understood, their right to protection may be viewed narrowly, permitting violations such as corporal punishment and child labour. Children’s rights to family care, to an adequate standard of living and to the freedoms of opinion, expression, association, religion and assembly are not well internalized. The same is true of minority and cultural rights, the rights of the disabled child and the rights to information, privacy, leisure, participation and child-specific judicial procedures.

Besides raising awareness of child rights in society in general, and reinforcing the integration of child rights into school curricula, with a sufficient emphasis on protection, it would be beneficial to include child rights education in a wider range of professional training curricula. Such training should be compulsory for key professionals working for children – for example in the justice and child care systems. Teachers’ capacity for child rights education will be greatly enhanced if the Ministry of National Education and the Higher Education Council make full instruction in child rights a compulsory part of all teacher training programmes (pre-service education). The child rights curriculum used in several communications faculties could serve as an example for other disciplines and faculties.

10.2 International conventions, constitutional and legal framework for child rights:  The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is an integral and indisputable part of domestic law, taking priority over domestic laws in matters of fundamental rights and freedoms (Article 90 of the Constitution, as amended in 2004). Turkey has made a declaration of reservations concerning Articles 17, 29 and 30 of the Convention, which it interprets and applies subject to the letter and spirit of its Constitution and its founding treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. Turkey continues to reserve the right to interpret and apply the provisions of Articles 17, 29 and 30 of the Convention - all of which refer to language rights and/or cultural identity - according to the letter and spirit of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey and those of the Treaty of Lausanne of 24 July 1923. This means that Turkey does not acknowledge the obligation to accord any minority rights, with some exceptions for the Armenians, Greek Orthodox and Jews. Kurdish and other languages other than Turkish which are traditionally used by Turkish citizens in daily life are not used or taught in the formal education system at any level.

Turkey ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2002 and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2004. In September 2012, it signed the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure, which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention and its first two optional protocols.

Turkey is a party (with a few reservations) to most other global and European conventions related to human and child rights, such as: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the European Convention on Human Rights; the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the European Social Charter; the European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children; the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights, and the The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. These too have become an integral and indisputable part of domestic law, taking priority over domestic laws in matters of fundamental rights and freedoms. In 2011, Parliament ratified the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Turkey was also the first State to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) in 2011. There are some exceptions: For example, Turkey is not a party to the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, or to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education.

Constitution: The Constitution enshrines most basic rights and freedoms – although the recognition of these rights and freedoms for children is not made explicit – while at the same time warning against abuse of such rights and indicating the ways in which they may be circumscribed by law. Amendments made to the Constitution in September 2010 strengthened constitutional safeguards for children, introducing the term “child rights” for the first time. The title of article 41 was amended to read: Protection of the Family and Children’s Rights. This article previously made the State responsible for taking the necessary measures and making the necessary organizational arrangements to protect the peace and welfare of the family, especially mothers and children. Now it also states that every child has the right to adequate protection and care, and the right to have and maintain a personal and direct  contact with his/her parents unless this is explicitly contrary to his/her best interests. Article 41 also now gives the state the duty of taking measures for the protection of the child against any kind of abuse and violence. Separately, under article 61, the state is to take all kinds of measures to “support children dependent on protection over for society”. This article expresses an obligation of the state to support children in difficult circumstances and to ensure that they grow up to make a positive contribution to society. All in all, while focusing on the good of the family and society, the Constitution underscores the child’s right to protection and contact wıth his/her parents, but does not detail children’s other rights.

Children and child rights NGOs have taken part in the consultative process held by the all-party committee drafting the new Constitution under the chairmanship of the speaker of Parliament. It is therefore hoped that the new Constitution will treat the child as an individual in his/her own right, incorporate all the basic principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and refer specifically to children in all relevant articles, making clear the duties of the state in upholding these rights.

National law: Numerous Turkish laws contain provisions for the protection of children and upholding their rights. The relevant provisions of the Turkish Civil Code, updated in 2002, and the Child Protection Law of 2005, closely parallel the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Code deals with several critical issues: marriage; parental responsibilities, duties and rights; the naming of children; adoption, and custody. It gives the state and parents joint responsibility for the development of children. It also specifies that while exercising their custodial rights parents should give their children the right to organise their own lives, depending on their level of maturity. The Law on Population Services gives parents an obligation to have their children registered and the State the obligation to step in where parents do not fulfil their obligation. The Law on Turkish Citizenship is inclusive, according Turkish citizenship from birth to children born in Turkey and unable to acquire citizenship from their parents. In other respects, however, Turkish legislation - which has been drawn up and amended at various times - is less favourable to children and inconsistent in upholding their rights. Relevant laws, such as the Civil Code, the Code of Criminal Procedures and the Law on the Practice of Medicine, for example, do not safeguard the right of the child to participate in decisions on important issues concerning himself/herself, in line with his or her cognitive capacity. The Code of Civil Procedures allows a judge the discretion to hear a parent instead of a child up to the age of 16. Children cannot apply to court without parental consent. The Law on Associations makes children’s membership of associations dependent on parental permission, limits memberships of children only to child associations, and also limits the fields of activity of child associations. Meanwhile, harmful practices like corporal punishment or the payment of bride price are not explicitly banned. Laws which set out the duties of state agencies to provide services and support to families and children in areas like education, health, social security, leisure or information, may not mandate universality of access or equality of opportunity. Budget laws and regulations do not set out any rules concerning the use of resources for children.

Further legislative change would therefore be beneficial to expand the scope of the protection envisaged for children, make proscriptions and the duties of the State more explicit, close loopholes and ensure that the best interests of the child and children’s own opinions are taken into account. One way of achieving this would be to enact a child rights law following changes in the Constitution. In this respect, use may be made of the review of legislation “A Comparative Analysis on UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Turkish Legislation” conducted by the government, UNICEF and the  Union of Turkish Bar Associations in 2008. The Child Rights Monitoring Committee of Parliament could take an active role.

Non-discrimination: The Constitution and other important laws prohibit discrimination and prescribe equal treatment for all citizens regardless of race, gender etc. The Constitution also specifies that positive discrimination is not to be regarded as contrary to this prohibition. However, some of the laws do not encompass all types of discrimination mentioned in the Convention. Moreover, discrimination is only addressed within the context of relations between the state and the individual, and generally without specific reference to children. The definition of discrimination does not extend to acts which, while not specifically discriminatory, lead to discrimination in practice. Cases of discrimination are difficult to prove as the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, and the acts which constitute discrimination have not been spelt out in law.

Definition of the child: With respect to the definition of the child, Turkish law and practice is broadly in line with the Convention. The Civil Code, the Child Protection Law and the Turkish Penal Code identify all boys and girls up to the age of 18 as children. The minimum age to vote is also 18. Labour laws and the justice system make special arrangements for under-eighteens. Despite the provisions of the Civil Code and other laws, children who are old enough to have completed compulsory primary education are not always regarded as children by parents and other adults in society – for example, when it comes to their responsibilities and capacities to work, undertake responsibilities in the family, meet their own psychological needs or be held responsible for their actions. The justice system differentiates between children up to the age of 15 and children older than 15, providing much more protection to the former than to the latter.

10.3 Institutions, coordination and planning for child rights: There has been a lack of continuity in overall child rights policy development and implementation. The institutions responsible have also suffered from limited influence and capacity constraints. Implementable strategies and plans have not been developed. However, there have been some recent developments in this area.

Following the establishment of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies (MFSP) in 2011, this Ministry and its General Directorate for Child Services have inherited responsibilities for child rights coordination, monitoring and reporting on child rights as well as for providing and supervising some child services. The Ministry intends to establish a dedicated child rights monitoring unit to take responsibility for reporting obligations to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In April 2012, a new inter-sectoral Child Rights Monitoring and Assessment Board was established which has a potential to improve strategic planning and coordination for child rights. Details of the Board were set out in a Prime Ministry circular published in the Official Gazette on April 4. The circular began with references to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on the Implementation of Child Rights and arrangements previously made by Turkey for the implementation of these documents, including the Child Protection law of 2005. The Board is to be chaired by the minister or undersecretary of the MFSP. The General Directorate for Child Services will act as secretariat to the Board and follow up on the implementation of its decisions. The Board is to work on administrative and legal arrangements related to the preservation, use and development of children’s rights, to evaluate work done to inform public opinion on progress made in this area, to recommend measures to be taken on children’s rights, to commission and approve strategic documents and action plans, and to ensure cooperation and coordination between public bodies. The ministries of Justice, Family & Social Policies, Labour & Social Security, Environment & Urbanisation, Foreign Affairs, Youth and Sports, the Interior, Development, National Education, Health and Transport, Shipping and Communications are to be represented on the Board, together with the Department of Religious Affairs, the Radio & Television High Board, the Information Technologies & Communications Board, the Higher Education Board, the Union of Bar Associations, the Prime Ministry Human Rights Presidency and institutions and NGOs working with children. The national coordinators of the children’s provincial child rights committees established in the provinces are also to take part in the meetings of the Board, ensuring child participation. The Board will have the authority to establish sub-committees, advisory groups or working groups. Universities, professional associations and the private sector may be invited to take part in the activities of the Board or of these committees and groups. Provincial and district bodies may be established to ensure that Board decisions are implemented at local level.

Under the umbrella of the General Directorate of Child Services, a First Turkey Strategy Document on the Rights of the Child has been drawn up to cover the period of 2012-2016. This document was developed in 2010-11 mainly by the Çocuk Vakfı (Child Foundation), an NGO, which held a series of consultations, surveys and workshops, culminating in a First Children’s Rights Congress held in Istanbul in February 2011 under the auspices of the Speaker of Parliament. According to the MFSP, the document was approved by the Child Rights Monitoring and Assessment Board at its first meeting in May 2012. The Strategy Document incorporates the general principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child although it is not solely inspired by the Convention. Its main headings are “culture of respect for the child”, “child participation”, “civil rights and freedoms”, “teaching of children’s rights and science, art and sports education”, “health and social security of the child”, “special protection services for the family and the child”, “the juvenile justice system”, “child-friendly media” and “an efficient supervision, monitoring and evaluation system”. Under each are listed a series of aims and areas for action. Some relevant bodies, academics and NGOs felt that the process of consultation by which the document was drawn up was largely symbolic and that children’s participation was closely controlled. An Action Plan related to the Strategy Document was to be developed under the leadership of the General Directorate in 2012.

10.4 Budgeting for children and young people: Public social expenditure has been increasing, including in education and health. However, public spending for children is still not high by international standards. For example, public spending on education, including higher education, has not yet surpassed 4 per cent of GDP, and there are no major social support programmes for families. World Bank estimates (World Bank Europe and Central Asia Region Human Development Report “Turkey: Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation – A report on life chances”, February 2010) suggest that spending on children of pre-school age is particularly low. Besides education and early child development, additional resources are one of the preconditions for improvements in other areas like social protection for families, child protection, public health and youth services.

Public financial systems do not generate information on amounts allocated or spent for children, families or young people, and there is no regular, detailed monitoring by universities or NGOs. It is also unclear to what extent budgetary allocations in favour of children, families or young people benefit the most vulnerable groups. Expert, detailed, regular monitoring of the amounts and impact of public spending for children at various levels (national, local, sectoral), using all available and obtainable information, would significantly enhance policy debate and decision-making. Responsibilities in this respect may fall to the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Finance, the Budget & Planning Committee of Parliament, the Child Rights Monitoring Committee of Parliament and/or think tanks, universities or civil society organisations. This would also facilitate the role of the newly established Ministry for the Family and Social Policies.

10.5 Child rights monitoring: Regular monitoring is essential to ensure that child rights violations and issues are noticed, recognised and addressed. The legislature, judiciary, academia, non-government and professional organisations, the children’s child rights committees established in the provinces, and the media are all involved in monitoring the implementation of child rights in a broad sense and drawing attention to deficiencies, insofar as their priorities, their power or influence, their independence, their resources and their capacities permit. Numerous non-government organisations and platforms regularly monitor or report child rights violations, along with individual lawyers, journalists, parents and others. The Turkish Bar Association and provincial bar associations are working to set up complaints mechanisms for children which will contribute to making child rights violations and issues more visible, as well as to ensuring that grievances are addressed. In general, however, independent child rights monitoring in Turkey is limited.

Ombudsperson for women’s and children’s rights: The establishment of an ombudsperson institution under legislation approved by Parliament in June 2012 may help to ensure that child rights are systematically monitored. Following years of debate, one of the constitutional amendments of September 2010 made possible the establishment of an ombudsperson institution - and hence also, by implication, of a child ombudsperson institution which could fulfil the role of independent child rights monitor. A law establishing an ombudsperson institution was then submitted to Parliament and eventually approved in June 2012. Answerable to the speaker of Parliament, the institution is to investigate complaints about the legality and fairness of the acts, procedures, attitudes and behaviour of the public administration within a human rights-based concept of justice, and to make recommendations to the public administration accordingly. The chief ombudsperson is to be elected by Parliament and will be responsible - inter alia – for the preparation of annual reports and reports on specific issues and for making these public. The chief ombudsperson is to be assisted by five ombudspersons, one of whom is to be specifically responsible for women’s and child rights. In many respects, these arrangements are broadly in line with best international practice (Over 60 countries - almost half of them in Europe - have found it desirable to set up child ombudspersons or child commissioners). Ideally, however, there would have been separate ombudspersons for women’s rights and for children’s rights, to ensure that each receive specific attention. The political independence of the chief ombudsperson and the five ombudspersons whom s/he will appoint, will be important for the credibility of the institution. It is also important that the ombudsperson for women’s and child rights should maintain close contact with children themselves, who know best what is happening in their own lives and worlds. It is to be hoped that this ombudsperson will maintain relations with child ombudspersons in other countries and that, while acting on individual complaints, also conducts the necessary research and makes recommendations for the creation of a positive climate for children’s rights in Turkey and for the full implementation of all children’s rights in law, policy and practice.

Parliamentary committee: Pending the establishment of a child ombudsperson, a Child Rights Monitoring Committee was set up in Parliament at the end of 2008. The multi-party committee of eight Members of Parliament aims to ensure that Parliament, through its key roles of law-making, budgeting, oversight and representation, effectively reflects the rights of children. The Committee has served as the central resource/space for children’s issues within Parliament, and acted as a bridge between Parliament and key external actors such as the children’s child rights committees, other children, professionals working with children and civil society. A web portal and other forms of communication have been developed with UNICEF support to ensure that the Committee is in touch with children across the country. The Committee will continue to receive all kinds of communication from the public, especially children, even after the establishment of an ombudsman institution and an ombudsperson for children’s and women’s rights.

The Child Rights Committee of Parliament operates as an informal sub-committee of the Health, Family and Social Affairs Commission. The possibility of institutionalising it as a permanent committee with its own budget and its own resources has been discussed. This would make the Committee much more powerful, and it could also be accorded the mandate and capacity to review all draft laws to ensure their compatibility with children’s rights and other policies for children, and to ensure sufficient resources for children in annual government budgets.

UN Committee: States which are signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols are obliged to report periodically (every five years) on their implementation to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee is made up of experts from all over the world elected by the signatory states themselves. It reviews the reports through a transparent and participatory process and records its concerns and recommendations in the form of Concluding Observations”, which serve as guidance for further action. The Committee discussed Turkey’s combined second and third periodic report on its implementation of the Convention in Geneva in June 2012. This was followed by the publication of its Concluding Observations (See http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/crcs60.htm for the Concluding Observations and other related documents. More information including Turkish translations has been published by the International Children’s Centre, a Turkish NGO, at http://www.cocukhaklariizleme.org/turkiyenin-ikinci-periodik-raporu). Turkey was represented in Geneva by a large multi-sectoral delegation headed by Minister for the Family and Social Policies Fatma Sahin. Through its General Directorate for Child Services, the Ministry for the Family and Social Policies (MFSP) has plans to follow up on the recommendations but it remains to be seen how widely these are distributed in Turkey and how far they influence future policies and actions.

National Human Rights Institution: A law of June 2012 establishes a Human Rights Institution of Turkey. This will be an autonomous institution under the Prime Ministry with responsibilities which include investigations of alleged human rights violations. This Institution is expected to serve as a broad-based independent national human rights institution in the sense envisaged by the UN Paris Principles and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with close links to UN treaty bodies.  It will replace the existing Prime Ministry Human Rights Presidency, which does not meet the UN criteria.

10.6 Civil society, the private sector and international organisations: In addition to the capacity of the government, there are many institutions and organisations in Turkey which aim to improve the well-being of children and young people and uphold their rights - either in general or in specific areas - and/or which command resources that can be mobilised to these ends. Turkey’s universities and research centres have substantial research, education/training and implementation capacities, which are only just starting to be tapped for purposes of child rights and child and youth well-being. According to the Higher Education Council, Turkey has 103 state universities, 65 private (foundation) universities, 7 private (foundation) vocational colleges and 13 other institutions of higher education. Innumerable research institutes in various specialisms operate within the universities or are attached to other public and private sector organisations. There are also some significant private research foundations or “think tanks”, as well as private companies providing services such as field surveys and data analysis. Turkey’s non-government organisations, mostly national rather than international, display great variety in their aims and their organisational structures. They include: foundations and charities; business, labour and professional organisations; NGOs engaged in advocacy, service provision, research and/or education; and community-based organisations. Education and human rights are among the most prominent fields of civil society activity. Most non-government organisations are affected by issues such as low membership, resource/capacity constraints, reliance on EU projects, close political or ideological affiliations and official, public or mutual distrust. Nevertheless, many organisations – especially but not exclusively the more deep-rooted with the wealthiest sponsors - are playing a significant role in advocacy for child rights and youth engagement, as well as in areas like social mobilisation, training programmes and service delivery. The Turkish National Committee for UNICEF raises funds for children, and the private sector has demonstrated its willingness to contribute in cash and kind to efforts for children and young people, often within the context of corporate social responsibility. The potential of the media for raising awareness and disseminating information is not yet fully realised.

Turkey is also a member and/or partner of numerous international organisations (G-20, OECD, Council of Europe, Islamic Conference etc.). As Turkey is involved in an EU accession process, the EU is influential in almost all areas of governance and development. Under the accession process, Turkey aims to meet the EU’s membership requirements (stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for minorities; a functioning market economy, and the adjustment of legislation and practices in line with the body of EU legislation known as the acquis communautaire) and receives Pre-Accession funding. The EU is paying more and more attention to children and child rights, and monitors progress in this area through its annual progress reports on Turkey’s performance in achieving the membership criteria and adopting the acquis. The World Bank is effective in Turkey both as a major lender, with new commitments of about US$500m each year, and as a source of influential research and policy advocacy. Turkey is one of the Bank’s largest clients and the largest in the Europe and Central Asia Region. The Bank has competencies in health, education, social policy, youth and early childhood development. ‘Improved Equity and Public Services’ is one of the three core objectives of the World Bank’s Country Partnership Strategy with Turkey for 2012-2015. This is to be achieved through (a) improved quality and coverage of early childhood education; (b) a more effective and financially sustainable health system; (c) progress made toward gender equity; (d) improved public services and governance. Eleven UN agencies are active in Turkey (FAO, ILO, IOM, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNIC, UNICEF, UNIDO, WFP and WHO). The work of several of these, including all of the work of UNICEF, is directly related to children and youth. The programmes of the various UN agencies contribute to the UN Development Cooperation Strategy (UNDCS) with Turkey for 2011-2015 which prioritises three strategic areas: Democratic & Environmental Governance; Disparity Reduction, Social Inclusion & Basic Public Services, and Poverty & Employment.

10.7 Data availability: Reliable and meaningful statistics are a precondition for healthy debate and for the design, implementation and assessment of initiatives for securing children’s rights and the well-being of children and youth. The Turkish Statistical Institute (Turkstat) is the main state body responsible for economic, environmental and social statistics. Social statistics cover population, demographics, education, culture, tourism, health, sports, housing, justice and politics, as well as household labour and budget surveys and a poverty study. In 2008, Turkstat introduced a Survey of Income and Living Conditions, providing more data on living conditions, relative poverty and income distribution. In 2008-9, new surveys were introduced on health, health expenditures and causes of death. The first results of the 2011 Population and Housing Survey, conducted with a very large sample, are expected in late 2012. This survey will provide a more detailed picture than currently available of the workforce and employment, fertility, migration and its causes, causes of death among infants, children and adults, disability and homes and buildings. Turkstat plans to regularise the statistics gathered about children by state institutions and to include them in a single database. In addition to Turkstat, numerous other public institutions, such as the Central Bank, the Treasury, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Education and the Social Security Board also regularly publish data in their own areas of competence.

DHS: Another major regular survey is the five-yearly Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) carried out by the Hacettepe Institute of Population Studies, at Hacettepe University, which provides many of Turkey’s basic indicators in areas such as fertility, maternal care and infant and young child survival, health and nutrition. The survey was last conducted in 2008 and will be repeated in 2013. The results of the first national nutrition survey for 35 years conducted by the Ministry of Health were awaited in late 2011.

Occasional surveys: Government agencies, universities, think-tanks, international financial institutions, UN agencies and NGOs also all carry out or sponsor surveys, collect and process data or publish reports from time to time, independently or in collaboration, in areas of interest to them where quantitative or qualitative data may not be available or may not be available in sufficient detail. These studies have led to the collection of valuable data on domestic violence, risk behaviour, family life and other issues. However, such studies are not usually done on a regular basis. Moreover, many topics relevant to children – what they do in their free time, how much money they have to spend, what they are afraid of or how they feel about themselves – have not yet been explored.  The relevant government, non-government and international agencies and academic institutions should consider undertaking policy-oriented surveys of the needs of specific groups of children such as disabled children, children in poor rural areas, and Roma children.

International comparisons: Comparisons of Turkish data and data from other countries are available through the OECD and the annual flagship reports of UN agencies including UNICEF’s ‘The State of the World’s Children’ - although time lags may be long and data may not be strictly comparable. Data on Turkey is, however, sometimes missing, indicating that not all the data collected in other countries is yet collected in Turkey. This includes some data items which are acquired  by UNICEF in some other countries through its Multi-Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), but which are not covered by the DHS survey. Turkey takes part in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) surveys and (although some questions are not asked) in the WHO’s Health Behaviour of School Children (HBSC) surveys.

Detail and frequency gaps: Data is not always sufficiently detailed, or collected as frequently as desirable. For example, poverty rates have been calculated based on an annual Household Budget Survey, from which figures for child poverty can be derived – but only for the under-fifteen age group, which is out of line with the UN definition of children. Not all forms of poverty are taken into account. The future of the Turkstat poverty studies is unclear. Social data is not usually published on a province-by-province or even a sub-region-by-sub-region basis (Annual data on the education system and employment are exceptions). Where data is disaggregated by rural-urban populations the same definition of the rural-urban divide is not always used. Turkstat has conducted child labour surveys only once every seven years, and these do not make use of international definitions, nor are they fully disaggregated by age group and geography. Turkstat has conducted only one disability survey and one on perceptions of disability. Turkey has participated only once in the European ESPAD school survey on addictive behaviour. For political reasons, data is very rarely disaggregated by ethnic origin or mother-tongue. Household survey questionnaires could be up-dated in line with internationally accepted indicators, especially in the area of education.

Publication: Data collected by institutions other than the Turkish Statistical Agency (Turkstat) may not be published, or made widely available via the Internet, or may be published with a long delay. Children may not be disaggregated from adults or girls from boys. Definitive, timely information about judicial proceedings or accidents involving children, for example, is not readily available. Data obtained through the Ministry of National Education e-school database - for example on school attendance - is not yet available to the public (However, Turkey is taking part in the UNESCO/UNICEF Out of School Children Initiative and more data on education is being made public and analysed in conjunction with the Education Reform Initiative based at Sabanci University). The Ministry of Health has information about health services, public health interventions and outcomes which is not regularly shared with the public. This may also be true of other ministries with respect to children in institutions, children in conflict with the law, and child refugees and migrants. Sometimes data only becomes public knowledge when it is reported in the planning documents of the Ministry for Development or in answers to parliamentary questions. Where data is made available, it may not be well explained or presented. Reasons for these deficiencies may include lack of capacity, the unreliability of the data or wariness about stepping into Turkstat’s field of responsibility. A desire to avoid scrutiny or criticism may also contribute to the non–publication or late publication of administrative data or survey results. Fiscal transparency is problematic at the national level and very limited at the local level.

Data literacy: There is a need for greater critical awareness about data at all levels. On the one hand, mistrust of the data produced is commonplace; on the other, politicians, columnists and a range of professionals and interest groups commonly cite data selectively, or simply from hearsay, or make use of data which is out of date. In these circumstances, it is hard to say that policy-making or public debate is based on objective knowledge. This requires improvement not only in the supply of data but also in the demand for it and the ways in which it is used, analysed and re-presented by academics, NGOs, the media and others.

10.8 Child rights and the media: Despite competition from electronic media, the mass media – especially television - remains an important influence on the children and young people and their surroundings. The impact of mass media content and of the activity of watching television on the physical, cognitive, emotional and social development of children of different ages. Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges states to “ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health”. It also refers to the need for guidelines protecting the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being. Turkey has a significant advertising industry and a large number of media channels and organs, including some using languages other than Turkish. There is a Radio and Television Board (RTÜK) for regulating and supervising broadcasting. Debate has tended to focus on the harmful impacts of television, rather than on how to ensure quality information and entertainment services for children, young people and parents.

The mass media can help to spread a culture of children’s rights and a positive attitude towards youth by – for example - paying adequate attention to the issues facing children and young people, respecting their rights when reporting about them, reporting positive news about them, and making it possible for their voices to be heard. The print media, in particular, can be said to have played a significant role in highlighting child rights issues in recent years - especially prominent protection issues. In addition, news reporting about children seems to have become more sensitive - for example by concealing the identities of child victims or suspects. The development of child-friendly media education for journalists has been followed by the development of a child rights syllabus for use in the communications faculties of several universities, where journalists are trained. Nevertheless, reporting on children is still frequently sensational and they continue to be represented mostly as victims of tragedies like violence, accidents, natural disasters or family feuds. Their own voices are rarely heard. The mass media shows little obvious concern to empower young people or to highlight the issues which they face.

10.9 Environment and emergency preparedness: Environmental issues increasingly affect Turkey’s children and young people. In future, it is they who will have to live with the consequences of the environmental degradation being carried out today in the name of economic growth, including global warming and the loss of green space, soil and agricultural land. In the present, they are faced with environments, including crowded urban environments, which offer few spaces accessible, safe and attractive for children. Home environments are often overcrowded or unsafe and some, particularly in rural areas, are without adequate water and sanitation. By and large, these issues are not recognized as problems and there is a lack of policies for addressing them.

A high proportion of the population, including children and young people, is at risk of death, injury and hardship due to disaster – especially the combination of earthquakes and unsound buildings, which killed some 30,000 people in the Marmara region in 1999, and over 600 in the province of Van in 2011. Most cities face a significant risk of major earthquakes. Past quakes have hit school buildings badly.  In Istanbul, the World Bank-supported Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project is being carried out to raise awareness, build capacity, and assess and reinforce buildings. Several hundred school buildings have been reinforced against earthquakes but a similar number still await reinforcement, according to engineers. Urban renewal schemes involving the demolition and rebuilding of large areas of urban space are being used to improve the building stock, but these have been criticised on diverse grounds, and inspection of new buildings does not appear to be adequate. The environment and emergency preparedness have been mainstreamed into the primary and secondary school curricula, but no impact assessment has been made.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org