UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body of experts who monitor the implementation by State Parties of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee holds regular sessions each year to review States Parties’ reports on progress made in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocols (on the 'sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography' and on the 'involvement of children in armed conflict'). The Committee can make suggestions and issue recommendations to governments and the General Assembly on ways to meet the Convention’s objectives. In the context of children in conflict with the law, the Committee frequently urges States, through its 'Concluding Observations' on States Parties' reports, to develop and implement diversion procedures and alternatives to detention. The Committee also issues 'General Comments' which give guidance on implementation of specific aspects of the Convention: General Comment No. 10, issued in 2007, deals with 'Children's rights in juvenile justice' and is referred to throughout this toolkit. [See the toolkit section on Child rights & the international legal framework for details of all other relevant UN legislation including the Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures ].
Interagency Panel on Juvenile Justice
The Interagency Panel on Juvenile Justice (IPJJ) (formerly known as the Inter-Agency Coordination Panel on Juvenile Justice) was established by Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Resolution 1997/30 to act as a "coordination panel on technical advice and assistance in juvenile justice." The work of the Panel is guided by the CRC, international standards and norms on juvenile justice and other relevant instruments. The objective of the Panel is to facilitate and enhance country and global level coordination in juvenile justice by:
1. Identifying panel member organisations working at country level and their activities;
2. Encouraging respective field offices to work together towards a common approach at country level;
3. Promoting on-going dialogue with national partners in juvenile justice reform;
4. Identifying, developing and disseminating common tools and good practices;
5. Bringing protection of the rights of children in conflict with the law onto the agenda of the international community.
The Panel currently has 14 members, including: Committee on the Rights of the Child, OHCHR, UNICEF, DPKO, UNDP, UNICRI, UNODC, Defence for Children International; International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates; International Juvenile Justice Observatory; Penal Reform International; Save the Children UK; Terre des hommes - child relief and World Organisation Against Torture. At the 2008 annual meeting, members of the IPJJ decided to expand the scope of their work to include issues relating to justice for all children rather than just children in conflict with the law.
Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group
Established by a decision of the UN Secretary-General in 2006, with the aim of ensuring rule of law coherence and coordination across the UN system, the group is made up of the following UN entities: UNDP, DPKO, OHCHR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNODC, OLA, DPA, UNHCR. It is chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General and supporetd by a small secretariat within the Rules of Law Unit. "The Secretary-General’s Rule of Law Reports and related decisions identify UNICEF as lead agency for juvenile justice, enabling the organization to convene a process with other agencies to develop a United Nations-wide approach to justice for children." (UNICEF Child Protection Strategy, para 61). Diversion and alternatives to deprivation of liberty were identified as areas for scaling up in the common UN approach to justice for children endorsed by the principals of UN entities in the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group.
UN Common Approach to Justice for Children
In 2007-2008, UNICEF led an inter-agency effort to develop a common UN approach to justice for children, in consultation with child protection colleagues in country offices and with DPKO, OHCHR, UNDP, UNIFEM and UNODC. This approach aims at ensuring greater attention to children in broader rule of law and security sector reform initiatives and is a major contribution to enhanced coherence and coordination within the rule of law area. The Common Approach was endorsed by Principals of all concerned UN entities via the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group. The Common Approach spells out two complementary strategies:
1. Children's issues should be mainstreamed in rule of law efforts by all UN entities. For example, if (e.g.) UNDP supports an overall reform of the judiciary in a particular country, they should promote special procedures and courts for children from the outset. This will be achieved in cooperation with UNICEF but it is not solely UNICEF's responsibility. The contribution of other UN entities should then release resources for the second strategic track:
2. Scaling up on certain issues and gaps, including diversion and alternatives.
Learn more about the Common Approach to Justice for Children:
• UN Common Approach to Justice for Children - full text, March 2008
• UN Common Approach to Justice for Children - Guidance Note of the Secretary-General, September 2008
• UNICEF Papua New Guinea- Practice implications of the Common Approach to Justice for Children for the 'One UN' in Papua New Guinea - May 2008
• UN in Papua New Guinea - Secretary-General's Guidance Note on the Common Approach to Justice for Children - Implementation Plan – 2009
UN Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children
The UN Study on Violence Against Children was presented by the independent expert Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro to the Third Committee of the General Assembly in New York on 11 October 2006. The Study provides an understanding of the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of different forms of violence against children (physical, psychological, and sexual), taking into account five main settings in which violence takes place – the family, schools, care and residential institutions as well as detention facilities and prisons, in work situations, and in communities and on the streets. In the official report to the General Assembly, the study recommends:
• "Reduce the numbers of children entering justice systems by decriminalizing “status offences” (offences that are only a crime when committed by children, for example, truancy, running away from home, or being “beyond parental control”), survival behaviours (such as begging, selling sex, scavenging, loitering or vagrancy) and victimization by trafficking or criminal exploitation. States should also establish comprehensive, child-centred, restorative juvenile
justice systems that reflect international standards. Detention should be reserved for child offenders who are assessed as posing a real danger to others, and significant resources should be invested in alternative arrangements, as well as community-based rehabilitation and reintegration programmes" (para 112b).
In the more detailed 'World Report on Violence Against Children' which accompanies the Study, Chapter 5 looks at 'violence against children in care and justice institutions' (see below for link to full document). Recommendations from Chapter 5 relevant to diversion and alternatives include:
• #2. "Ensure institutionalisation is a last resort, and prioritise alternatives. Governments should ensure that placement in an institutional setting is avoided wherever possible, and a full range of alternatives should be available for both care and justice systems."
• #13. "Reduce detention. Governments should ensure that detention is only used for child offenders who are assessed as posing a real danger to others, and then only as a last resort, for the shortest necessary time, and following judicial hearing, with greater resources invested in alternative family and community-based rehabilitation and reintegration programmes."
Learn more about the UN Study on Violence Against Children & the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Violence Againt Children:
• UN Study on Violence Against Children - report to the General Assembly in full
• UN World Report on Violence Against Children - Chapter 5: Violence against children in care and justice institutions
Millennium Declaration & Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
World leaders made a commitment to meet children’s rights to survival, health, education, protection and participation – among others – during the Millennium Summit in September 2000, from which the Millennium Declaration and, subsequently, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emerged. Both the declaration and the MDGs were later reaffirmed in the 2005 World Summit. Based on fundamental human rights, they provide a framework for the entire UN system to work coherently towards a series
of concrete objectives for human development.
• UNICEF Information Sheet on Child Protection, the Millennium Declaration & the Millennium Development Goals, May 06
UN Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review: Children and Conflict in a Changing World
To mark the 10th anniversary of the landmark UN report by Graça Machel, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (A/51/306), the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC) and UNICEF co-convened a strategic review of the current situation faced by children in conflict situations. Published in April 2009, the review recommends:
• "Recommendation 5 - Promote justice for children:
(a) Member States should uphold international standards, norms and guidelines on juvenile justice and ensure that their national legislation and systems treat all juveniles in a manner that takes into account their particular vulnerability, including ensuring access to legal assistance, focusing on rehabilitation, reintegration and diversion, recourse to detention only as a last resort and separation of juveniles from adults;
(b) Member States should promote the rule of law by ensuring children’s access to justice, identifying and addressing obstacles encountered by children within their legal systems;
(c) Member States should establish child-friendly mechanisms to promote the participation and protection of children in all justice systems, including transitional justice processes."
• "Preventing conflict and building peace - Recommendation 14
Increase the participation of and support for children and youth:
(a) Member States should make a greater commitment to address obstacles to the participation of young people in decision-making, and to actively promote their engagement in national and local-level governance, peace processes and justice, truth and reconciliation processes."
Learn more about the Machel 10-year strategic review:
• UN Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review: Children and Conflict in a Changing World
• Youth report - “'Will you listen?': Young voices from conflict zones”
Council of Europe:
• Child-friendly justice website: Details the efforts of the Council of Europe to prepare European guidelines on child-friendly justice in general.
• Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)11
of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on the European Rules for juvenile offenders subject to sanctions or measures, adopted 5 November 2008 - consists of detailed rules to ensure human rights compliance of measures for children in conflict with the law. The rules reinterate basic principles such as:
Para. 10. "Deprivation of liberty of a juvenile shall be a measure of last resort and imposed and implemented for the shortest period possible. Special efforts must be undertaken to avoid pre-trial detention."
Para. 12. "Mediation or other restorative measures shall be encouraged at all stages of dealing with juveniles."
Furthermore, amongst other things, they give detailed guidelines on the implementation of "community sanctions and measures" which are particularly relevant for diversion and alternatives programmes. The text of the recommendation is accompanied by a detailed commentary.
Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the European Rules for juvenile offenders subject to sanctions or measures
Council of Europe commentary to Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)11
UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Office: The 'juvenile justice micro-site' contains tools and reports in relation to diversion and alternatives within the region.