Strengthening juvenile justice activities
There is a movement in several of the region’s countries to reform their juvenile justice systems, with UNICEF helping countries explore non-detention alternatives. Even within this support, UNICEF has shifted its focus away from formal interventions to promoting detention as a last resort.
A variety of changes are taking place in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and New Zealand where authorities are developing alternatives to the formal system of trial and detention when dealing with young offenders, such as a police caution or warning, a written or verbal apology, community service/work, restitution to the victim, participation in a life skills course or counselling, or therapeutic treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.
After two external evaluators assessed juvenile justice activities in five UNICEF countries, the Regional Child Protection section organized a workshop of UNICEF child protection officers, government officials and NGO partners to discuss the observations, considered relevant to all countries. The workshop discussion also considered the role of UNICEF in strengthening juvenile justice systems and continued advocacy on international standards and moving governments away from the use of detention centres.
According to the Regional Child Protection Adviser, Sawon Hong, a key lesson from the evaluation was the importance of links between and among the legal and regulatory system, the social services system and the societal behavioural system. “Without supportive social services, the existence of laws does not mean much,” she says. “At the same time, as long as people’s behaviour – parents, service providers, police and judges – doesn’t change, there is little chance that any laws will be effective.” The workshop concluded with discussion on linking juvenile justice issues with governance, social protection, human security and poverty reduction.