On September 26th and 27th, a two-day training for the implementation of an early warning system for missing children is being held in Skopje, North Macedonia, organised by NGO Journalists for Human Rights as part of the project “Pilot project for an early warning system for missing children”. Expert experiences from the fight against human trafficking and the search for missing persons, as well as necessary conditions and challenges in successfully implementing an early warning system for missing children, will be shared by Lili Šipec, Senior Strategic Advisor at AMBER Alert Europe and Christian Mader, President of “Austria will find you” (Österreich findet euch), as well as Saško Sirachevski and Biljana Lalova, Chief Inspectors at the National Unit for Suppression of Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking at the Department for Criminal Investigations at the Department for Suppression of Organized and Serious Crime, and Baže Dimitriovski, Chief Inspector at the Property and Violent Crime Unit, Criminal Police Department, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia.

As stated at the first day of the training by Lili Šipec from AMBER Alert Europe, “When a child goes missing there is an urgent need to act, and not necessarily wait 24-48 hours to file a missing persons police report”, and as reaffirmed by all participants, all questions on reasons and possible cause can be dealt with in the meantime.

What was emphasised by Christian Mader for Österreich findet euch, and confirmed by the participants as functioning in practice, is that joint efforts of civil society, media, and police officials play a crucial role in the successful outcome in majority of cases of missing children, so good networking and exchange of information is crucial in setting up an alert system, preferably led by police officials, but also managed by NGOs like it is in Austria.

The training is part of a series of activities for the exchange of experiences and gaining new knowledge of all involved parties (public and private sector, civil society organisations, media) in the project whose aim is to improve existing approaches and find new methods for prevention, investigation and mitigation of human and child trafficking, as well as protection or strengthening of the rights of the affected persons.

For this purpose, several activities were carried out, including a one-day training to strengthen the capacity of institutions to identify and direct key innovative techniques for preventing human trafficking (transposition of European legislation, management policies – security of personal data, etc.) , one-day training for journalists covering social rights, one-day training to strengthen the capacities of the target civil society organisations, study visits to Austria for the exchange of good practices for professional staff from relevant state institutions and for representatives of NGOs and journalists, a policy was developed for child protection as well as an online safety toolkit.

The project, which started in July 2021 and will last until December 2022, is implemented in cooperation with the partner organisation ECPAT-Austria, and with financial support from the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection, and foresees a series of activities that will conclude with the piloting of the Early Warning System for missing children.