2005 ZAM: Report on Child Justice in Zambia with reference to UNICEF supported projects
Author: Muntingh, L.
Since the Situational Analysis was completed in 2000, the UNICEF Child Protection Unit has played an instrumental and stabilising role in the child justice reform process in Zambia through providing strategic in-puts, technical advice, capacity building and financial support. Seen together, these culminated in three pilot projects that are evaluated in this report.
The three pilot projects are: Arrest Reception and Referral Service for arrested children (ARRS); Child Friendly Court (CFC); Diversion Programme operated by an NGO. In addition to the pilot projects, an assessment was done of the Child Justice Forums (CJF) and the crime prevention programme that were supported by UNICEF and the donor community through RYOCHIN.
This study was commissioned by UNICEF as a follow-up to the Situational Analysis of Child Justice in Zambia undertaken by the same researcher in 2000. The terms of reference required two broad areas of delivery. The first is a context description of Zambian child justice in 2005 reflecting upon the 2000 Situational Analysis. Secondly, in response to the 2000 Situational Analysis, three pilot projects were designed and supported by UNICEF and the donor community. The task was to evaluate these three pilot projects.
The objective of the evaluation is to assess to what extent the recommendations of the 2000 study were implemented, and, more specifically to assess the impact of the Child Justice Programme. Particularly, an assessment will be undertaken of the three pilot projects (ARRS, the Child Friendly Court and the Diversion Programme), and within that context, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the administration of child justice in Zambia.
Specific evaluation activities included:
- Discussion with role players through interviews and focus group discussions in the three pilot projects: Child Friendly Court; Arrest Reception and Referral Services (ARRS) centres; and the Diversion Programme;
- Discussions with key government officials relevant to the successful roll-out of Child Justice;
- Visits and discussions with child offenders and authorities at reformatories and probation hostels, including the issue of girls who come into conflict with the law.
Findings and Conclusions:
On a general level it can be concluded that an increased awareness and sensitivity towards children’s rights in the criminal justice system were observed in nearly all the sites visited during the fieldwork. This has, however, not translated into a general improvement in service delivery (especially outside of Lusaka) and children are still subjected to nearly all of the ills, misuses and delays that were observed in 2000. The problems experienced by Zambian society make it increasingly difficult to advance the rights of a relatively small group (child offenders) when the poverty and suffering is so vast and pervasive.
The ARRS aimed to centralise all arrested children in three (later two) police stations in order to ensure that resources are available and concentrated at the correct point in the criminal justice process. The centralisation of arrest also enables more accurate monitoring and prevents children from being “forgotten” in an outlying police station. The ARRS further enabled that children may be detained separate from adults, if it is indeed necessary to detain the child. There have been substantial inputs from UNICEF, the donor community and government to establish the ARRS. On a general level it can be concluded that the ARRS fostered inter-sectoral cooperation and increased awareness and knowledge on children’s rights in Lusaka. The support from the police’s Victim Support Unit is significant in this regard. The ARRS still faces substantial challenges that primarily relate to case management and the development of key performance indicators to ensure that service delivery is improved.
The CFC was first based at the Chikwa Court and later moved to the Boma Court . All cases involving children were heard in one court that was staffed with trained officials including social workers. This was the practice until the end of 2004 when, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the centralisation of cases was suspended and cases are now heard in any of the courts in the city. The CFC was also adversely affected by staff turnover, a prevalent problem in the Zambian context. Until the end of 2004 the CFC apparently functioned well and those officials that had been trained, were applying these skills. The CFC does, however, need to formalise its operating procedures and come to a closer understanding of “child friendliness”. The CFC also needs to fulfil a stronger oversight and monitoring role.
The diversion programme operated by an NGO, RYOCHIN (Rural Youth and Children in Need), was borrowed from a South African NGO. The programme fills a desperate need in the Zambian criminal justice system but it is facing a number of challenges. Low referrals, low outputs, organisational and skills-related challenges are some of the most pertinent issues requiring attention.
In addition to the pilot projects, an assessment was done of the Child Justice Forums (CJF) and the crime prevention programme that were supported by UNICEF and the donor community through RYOCHIN. RYOCHIN trained role players in children’s rights in five towns so that they could establish child justice forums that would work towards the improvement of children’s well-being in the criminal justice system in that particular area. The CJF would have representation from key government officials and interested NGOs. The forums are regarded as a key ingredient for a transformation process of the child justice system. The training that the forums received focused on children’s rights and whilst this was useful and contributed to general knowledge and awareness of children’s rights, it did not enable the forums to be effective at inter-sectoral cooperation, accurate monitoring and accountability. Additional support and training would be required here.
The crime prevention programme that RYOCHIN implemented in 2001/2, is difficult to evaluate since there is no baseline data and detailed intervention reports. An assessment was therefore done based on available data and extant literature. The programme was found to have serious design difficulties and sustained impact is therefore unlikely.
Assessing the overall impact of the pilot projects on child justice reform in Zambia, it is concluded that the pilot projects has enabled the development of the central building blocks by introducing and ensuring acceptance of the key strategies for improving the well-being of children in the criminal justice system. These are arrest and referral management, diversion and a child-friendly court. The challenge now lies in translating the lessons learned and policies developed into improved service delivery on a general scale.
The report concludes with a number of overall recommendations, the most pertinent of which are:
Law reform: The current legislation is antiquated and is increasingly an impediment to transformation and improved service delivery. It is therefore recommended that law reform be embarked upon as a matter of priority. The scope of law reform should be determined from the outset and if a comprehensive reform process is not possible, then certain key concepts and standards need to be reviewed. In this regard, special attention should be given to the definitions of child, age of criminal capacity, custodial sentencing, remand period, diversion and certain offences.
UNICEF: UNICEF needs to support initiatives conforming to three requirements of equal importance. Firstly, good governance principles need to be complied with, with specific reference to management skills, ability to deliver and quality control. Secondly, initiatives needs to be in support of democracy and children’s rights by ensuring access to justice aimed at holding the rights of children as paramount. Thirdly, crisis points need to be addressed as priority areas, and specific reference is made to children deprived of their liberty.
Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC): The OVC recommendations framework, as espoused in the summary report , provides a useful guideline to the general donor community on areas to focus on in the criminal justice framework. It is especially Recommendations 2 and 6 that are relevant in the criminal justice context:
o Provide adequate legal and regulatory protection for OVC
o Introduce comprehensive programmes to address the needs of children without parents or adult caregivers.
The key result areas identified in the recommendations overlap to a large extent with more detailed recommendations made throughout this report. These recommendations should be interpreted for their application to children in vulnerable situations (i.e. in the criminal justice system) as oppose to their orphan status.
A ten point plan: It has been close to five years since the Situational Analysis was conducted and whilst improvements have occurred (primarily in Lusaka) it cannot be concluded that there has been a general improvement in service delivery. It is therefore recommended that in order to kick-start a reform process that is explicitly aimed at improved service delivery, that an action plan with not more than ten key deliverables is widely consulted upon and that this be communicated thoroughly to all levels of government and civil society.
Strengthen diversion: Diversion has been shown to be effective in avoiding prosecution and conviction and, even under the current legislative framework, it is possible to implement. In view of this it is recommended that diversion programmes be expanded by:
- Training the appropriate role players
- Supporting service providers
- Developing guidelines for diversion
- Implementing standards for diversion programmes.
Set key indicators of performance: Following from the above, it is essential that officials and NGOs working with children in the criminal justice system are clear on what the key performance indicators for service delivery are, and that these are monitored on a continuous basis. Performance indicators should be simple and clear, but more importantly, they should make sense in terms of the relevant human rights standards and relate to performance measurement.
Create stability through the insertion of staff at coordinating functions: The high turnover of staff in the Zambian civil service has an adverse effect on the overall process of child justice administration as training is lost or key relationships ended. In view of this, it may be incumbent on the donor community to insert staff into key coordinating positions for a minimum of three years to ensure that systems and procedures are established and maintained through the development of institutional knowledge. It is proposed that provincial coordinators be inserted at the appropriate rank.
Urgently address information systems: Accurate recording and monitoring is central to delivering on a reform process. The current information systems fall far short in providing management with an accurate picture. Investments in information management will be wise.
Develop a programme of oversight: It will be strategically sound if an internal but independent mechanism of oversight and inspection was established to provide reporting to Parliament on a regular basis (eg. twice a year) on the state of children in the criminal justice system. Such reports need not provide a comprehensive review every six months, but may deal with particular focus areas depending on what are regarded as the priorities. It is recommended that this inspection mechanism takes the form of a Judicial Inspectorate that reports to Parliament.
Agree with government on financial support framework: Whilst government is under pressure in terms of spending, it should not preclude discussions at this stage already exploring models of (government’s) financial support for child justice reform. It is regarded as an important development to explore future support models as government needs to demonstrate that it accepts its responsibility towards children in the criminal justice system, as it is assumed in the signing and ratification of the CRC.
Give more publicity to child justice: Whilst there is a growing awareness of children’s rights, there remains substantial ignorance in relation to children in conflict with the law. Two immediate initiatives are therefore recommended:
- Host a regional conference aimed at developing solutions for Zambia that involves the SADC region
- Commence with a media campaign that publicises the fate of children in the criminal justice system but that also profiles success stories, for example, diversion or the new child friendly court.
Develop a more comprehensive training programme for CJFs: The CJFs will be a key ingredient in the transformation process and they therefore need to understand their role clearly and have the ability to perform their key functions effectively.
Parliamentary information programme: Parliament has had limited exposure to child justice and one submission has been made [by UNICEF (Head of Child Protection Section), Child Justice Forum, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development]. The Parliamentary committees form an important component of good governance and advocating for child justice reform, for the executive need to account to parliament on its performance. It is therefore recommended that civil society creates a parliamentary information programme regarding child justice. This information programme need not focus on one committee only and may need to address the information needs of more than one committee that has a responsibility towards children and social services.
Research and documentation programme: For Zambia to embark on a process of child justice transformation it is vital to build up a body of local knowledge and recorded experience. A research and documentation programme will therefore greatly enhance the quality and speed of the transformation process by ensuring that the process is knowledge-based.
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