Support to the Juvenile Justice Reform

Project completed

Since 2010, the child justice system in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has undertaken a process of reform to which UNICEF, SDC and Sida have greatly contributed. Today the legal framework on juvenile justice is compliant with international standards, but the system for its implementation still needs to be strenghtened. This last project phase will focus on building the human capacity of justice and child protection professionals, and ensuring that adequate financial means are provided by the Government to implement this framework throughout the country. Awareness of children and their families about their rights and demanding access to justice will also be a priority.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Human rights

Legal and judicial development
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)
Sexual & gender-based violence
01.05.2018 - 31.05.2022
CHF  2’500’000

More than twenty years after a war that devastated the country BiH is a middle-income country that has gained the status of official candidate for accession to the European Union (EU) in 2016. The reform of the justice system, including justice for children, is a necessary pre-condition to the country’s EU membership. According to the 2013 census, there are 786’461 children between 0 and 18 years old living in BiH. In recent years, it seems that the number of reported crimes involving child victims in BiH has been increasing. In 2015, 6’395 children (out of which nearly 1/3 female) were identified as prone to committing criminal offenses, and hundreds of child victims are involved in the criminal justice process each year, either as victims or witnesses. Children from poor family background and other disadvantaged groups (child with a disability, the Roma child, the child in detention or deprived of parental care) are simultaneously more likely to have their rights violated and less likely to seek and obtain remedy.

The Project Support to the Juvenile Justice Reform implemented by UNICEF with the support of SDC and Sida has been evaluated after two phases (2010-2017) and it was found that UNICEF played an essential role in instigating change by implementing the new legal framework on “Protection and Treatment of Children and Juveniles” which is compliant with international standards. This third and final project phase will consolidate achievements whilst building the foundation for financial sustainability of the reform to the juvenile justice system and its implementation throughout the country.

Objectives Children in justice processes and children at risk are dealt with in compliance with international standards on justice for children and decisions are taken in their best interests.
Target groups

The Project’s direct beneficiaries: professionals in charge of justice and protection for children in BiH, i.e. governmental authorities and the institutions they oversee at the municipal, cantonal, entity/BD and State levels, including education, justice, social welfare and training institutions.

The Project’s end beneficiaries: children under 18 years of age, estimated at a population of 786’461 according to the 2013 census

Medium-term outcomes



  • The justice and social welfare systems are strengthened, including the conditions for financial sustainability, and more adapted and responsive to the rights and needs of children participating in justice processes
  • Children at risk, child victims and witnesses, children in civil proceedings, children in conflict with the law and their caregivers are empowered with prevention programmes, legal support, and information to enable them to access justice 


    Expected results:  




  • Remaining gaps in laws, by-laws, policies, and gaps in their implementation are identified and recommendations for further reforms are made
  • Budgeting of laws, by-laws and policies are established and advocacy for financing by government has taken place
  • Capacity-building programmes for child professionals further implemented.
  • Correctional recommendations increasingly available
  • Enhanced availability of data on child protection for administrative and statistics purposes
  • Municipal and Basic Courts better equipped to conduct child-friendly proceedings
  • Increased availability of expert associates to support child victims/witnesses and children in conflict with the law
  • Children at-risk benefit from prevention programmes in selected locations
  • Improved access to legal aid for children and their families
  • Increased knowledge and wareness of children and youth how to access the justice system.






    Results from previous phases:  

    Legal and policy achievements : 3 Laws on Protection and Treatment of Children and Juveniles in Criminal Proceedings adopted (covering the entire  country), 11 guidelines for professionals developed and endorsed by relevant ministries, Law on Primary Education in RS amended enabling children in detention equal right on education), needs of children in contact with law included as objectives in Justice Sector Reform Strategy on the State level

    3’100 professionals trained in various institutions such as prosecutors’ offices, police, judiciary, and centres for social work

    The piloting of a secondary prevention programme for children who are at-risk of harm or offending and for which care plans have been developed in 29 pilot schools, reaching 13’000 children

    Establishment of 16 Municipal/ Cantonal/City Working groups (supported by NGOs) which developed their own actions plans to encourage the use of alternative measures and the implementation of secondary and tertiary prevention programmes

    In terms of impact, the total number of juveniles diverted from formal proceedings increased from 40 (in 2012) to 116 (in 2016). There was also an overall decrease in children in conflict with the law, with a drop in an overall rate of recidivism from 14% in 2012 to 9.6% in 2016 

    Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
    Credit area Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe
    Project partners Contract partner
    United Nations Organization (UNO)
    • United Nations Children’s Fund

    Other partners
    United Nations’s Children’s Fund, as implementer and co-founder
    Coordination with other projects and actors



  • SDC-supported project „Support to the Prosecutors in the Criminal System of BiH“ - statistical data and capacity building of legal professionals
  • SDC-supported Mental Health Project and the project “Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Gender Equitable Attitudes” - peer and gender violence prevention activities in schools
  • SDC-supported “Strengthening the Role of Local Communities-MZ“ -information dissemination in local communities 
  • Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    2’500’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    2’437’500
    Project phases

    Phase 3 01.05.2018 - 31.05.2022   (Completed)

    Phase 2 01.01.2014 - 31.03.2018   (Completed) Phase 1 15.12.2009 - 30.06.2013   (Completed)