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Children's equitable access to justice - Regional study

Project Duration:
Nine months

Project Location: 
Managed from IDLO Headquarters (Rome) with activities in Albania, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Montenegro. 

Project Description: 

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that support or inhibit children’s equitable access to justice, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in partnership with UNICEF is engaged in a nine month research project in Albania, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Montenegro. This research will provide greater insight into local realities, concerns and approaches, and facilitate the identification of culturally appropriate, sustainable and effective recommendations for policy and programming in the region. Justice for children means ensuring that children are served and protected by justice systems. Access to justice is both a right in itself and the means of restoring rights that have been disregarded or violated, and leads to the effective implementation of other human rights such as those contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children who have no effective access to justice remain vulnerable to abuses from family, society and the state and are less likely to receive education, health care and social protection. Despite the positive flow on effects of the realization of access to justice for children, children far too often must overcome social, economic, and political barriers to achieve outcomes that are just and equitable.

As a starting point for understanding justice, this study reflects the principles set forth in the 2005 Guidelines on Justice in matters Involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime: dignity, non-discrimination, best interests of the child (protection, harmonious development), and right to participation. This study also adopts the framework of the justice needs of children: 
  • The right to be treated with dignity and compassion 
  • The right to be protected from discrimination 
  • The right to be informed 
  • The right to be heard and express views and concerns 
  • The right to effective assistance 
  • The right to privacy 
  • The right to be protected from hardship during the justice process 
  • The right to safety 
  • The right to reparation 
  • The right to special preventative measures
Research Objectives:
The IDLO-UNICEF study will contribute to research and policy on children’s access to justice by bringing to the fore the voices of children, families, and communities. In particular, the study will gather the perspectives of children who live in vulnerable situations. As distinct from existing research, the study will focus on how the legal system works in practice for children, drawing primarily from the perspective of children themselves. The objectives of the study are to: 
  • analyze access to justice issues in the CEE/CIS region with a focus on children in vulnerable situations, including children living in extreme poverty such as children without parental care and/or living in difficult family circumstances, children from minorities, children with disabilities, and girls;
  • provide greater insight into local realities, concerns and approaches;
  • facilitate the identification of culturally appropriate, sustainable and effective action plans and good practice benchmarks; 
  • and inform policy-making and programming on children’s access to justice.
The broader goal of the research and resulting analytical report is to strengthen the safety and security of children in the region and to improve current and prospective efforts targeting children’s ability to seek and obtain remedies for infringements of their rights.

Research Methodology:
IDLO has engaged local researchers in each of the four focus countries. Through distribution of a comprehensive survey and the initiation of focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and engagement with children, parents, community workers, government officials, and organizations and individuals working with children and the justice system, IDLO, in partnership with UNICEF, will produce a draft analytical report on children’s equitable access to justice. The preliminary draft report will be presented, discussed and refined in a consultation meeting with stakeholders working on access to justice in the CEE/CIS region. The consultation will align with the UN Human Rights Council discussions on children’s access to justice in March 2014. Following validation of the report’s findings, the report will be finalized, providing an overview on children’s access to justice and identifying practical recommendations for further action. The report will be used to inform efforts to improve children’s ability to seek and obtain remedies for infringements of their rights, in conformity with international standards and leading to the realization of children’s human rights.

Voices of children
Article 1 in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. Children's participation is a key principle of a child rights based approach. 
Children have the right to express their views and to be heard in all matters affecting them, while considering their evolving capacities. Providing space and inclusive opportunities for expression, information sharing, and participation empowers children and young people as active citizens. 
The research instruments designed for this survey and their administration follow a child-sensitive approach, adhering at all times to UNICEF Norms and Standards.

Project Contacts: 

Dr. Ilaria Bottigliero, IDLO                              
Pamela Kovacs, IDLO 

Anne Grandjean
Regional Child Protection Specialist



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