Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention

Main principles

 
 

Systemic Approach

• Introduction
• 1. What is a systemic approach?
• 2. How can the systemic approach be applied in practice for diversion & alternatives?
• Summary

Introduction
Experience shows that an isolated 'project approach' to reform will have limited impact. The complexity and overlap of the different agencies and 'systems' (both formal and non-formal) involved with children in conflict with the law, and with child protection and general rule of law issues more broadly, requires that reform efforts are embedded in a holistic 'systems' approach. This section examines what is meant by a systemic approach in practice in relation to diversion and alternatives.
 
1. What is a systemic approach?
A systemic approach to diversion and alternatives has two dimensions:
     a. Within the child protection framework (across the systems involved in the Protective Environment Framework); and
     b. Beyond the child protection framework (links with broader rule of law agendas, including justice sector-wide approaches, Poverty Reduction Strategies, UN Development Assistance Frameworks etc.).

In more detail...

a. Within the child protection framework, a systemic approach to diversion and alternatives is one that:
     • recognises that:
          o children in conflict with the law are complex human beings, to whom all rights in the CRC apply, not just those specifically related to justice;
          o these children are entrenched within complex family, peer and community contexts;
          o in order to have an impact on the realisation of children’s rights, a series of complementary and inter-connected strategies and interventions need to be in place including, but not limited to, legal and policy reform, service delivery, capacity building, awareness raising of the general public, and knowledge generation and management;
          o applying appropriate rights-based responses to address offending behaviour and its root causes, whilst also balancing the needs of victims/survivors and society more broadly, requires multi-agency intervention and support;
          o for reforms to be owned by stakeholders, for them to be sustainable, and for pilot projects to be replicable, they need to be embedded in processes of long-term institutional and policy reform;
     • promotes collaboration amongst government and civil society partners and UN entities in order to strengthen impact and avoid costly and unnecessary duplication of effort and resources;
     • recognises the inter-dependence and inter-connectivity of rights;
     • capitalises on the strengths of the 'Protective Environment Framework' as a useful analysis and planning tool.[1]

b. Beyond the child protection framework, a systemic approach to diversion and alternatives is one that:
     • understands the need to integrate children’s issues into broader rule of law agendas, as per the Secretary-General's Guidance Note on Justice for Children[2], and leverage the support of other UN entities in this respect. This implies joint planning, implementation and monitoring in line with comparative advantages. 
 
2. How can the systemic approach be applied in practice for diversion & alternatives?
Diversion and alternatives need to be embedded into broader reforms - for children in conflict with the law, justice for all children, child protection, and general rule of law.
The mapping and planning tool below should be considered in relation to existing UNICEF planning processes (see toolkit section on planning and implementation) but it can nonetheless help to situate diversion and alternatives within this broader context.
     • The first part of the mapping and planning tool repeats the diagram from the 'bigger picture' overview in the introduction section of the toolkit, showing the place of diversion and alternatives in relation to children in conflict with the law, justice for children and child protection, and how the 8 areas of the protective environment framework intersect these areas.
     • The second part is a mapping tool based on this diagram which aims to stimulate discussion on existing initiatives in all of these areas, gaps and entry points for work on diversion and alternatives.
     • The third part is similar but provides a basic framework to think through the planning process.
     • The last part suggests a more detailed checklist against which to measure whether diversion & alternatives initiatives are covering all elements of the protective environment framework, and whether they are adopting a child rights-based approach.

Download: ‘Systemic approach to diversion and alternatives: mapping and planning tool’ 
 
Summary
An isolated 'project approach' will have limited impact. The complexity and overlap of institutions, agencies, systems (both formal and non-formal), and the complexity of children's lives requires a holistic, 'systemic' approach. This approach should: 1. Situate diversion and alternatives in the context of broader reforms for children in conflict with the law, justice for all children, child protection and general rule of law; 2. Be embedded in processes of long-term institutional and policy reform; 3. Capitalise on the comprehensiveness of the protective environment framework; 4. Recognise the inter-dependence and inter-connectivity of rights; 5. Ensure full coordination and collaboration with government and civil society partners and other UN entities; 6. Be child rights-based. The mapping and planning tool provided here can help to apply this approach in practice. 
 
Footnotes:
1. See the toolkit section on 'UNICEF Child Protection Strategy' for more details and background documents on the Protective Environment Framework.
2. One of the two main strands of the UN Common Approach to Justice for Children is that children's issues should be mainstreamed into general rule of law efforts. This implies that UNICEF needs to move away from individual 'projects' towards support for broader programmes and inclusion into broader agendas. See the toolkit section on 'Other UN and regional initiatives' for more details and background documents on the Common Approach.

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