Child protection

The Issue

Justice for Children

Violence Against Children

Child Care Reform


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Justice for children

UNICEF supports child-friendly reforms of justice systems in line with international standards. We promote a constructive, tailored response for each child in conflict with the law, in which deprivation of liberty is a last resort and reintegration the ultimate aim. We also promote equitable access to justice for all children, including through adapted procedures in police stations and courts and legal and other outreach assistance to the most vulnerable children. 

Our work includes:   

• Supporting legislative and policy reform
• Building institutional and professional capacity
• Developing support services and alternatives to the deprivation of liberty
• Fostering multi-disciplinary approaches to justice for children
• Setting up data collection mechanisms
• Research

In Turkey, UNICEF has worked with the government and the EU to build a specialized juvenile justice system. As a result, close to 80 child courts have been established, covering nearly half of the children going through the courts. The number of probation orders has soared from a few hundreds in 2006 to some 15,000 as of today. The number of children benefiting from tailored support has jumped from just 3 per cent of children in prison in 2010 to 25 per cent today. 

UNICEF has worked on juvenile justice reform in Moldova since 2001 with a focus on reducing the number of children detained. Today, children cannot be held in detention unless their offence was extremely serious, as an alternative such as community service would also stop them reoffending. All judges and prosecutors responsible for children now have specialist training, as have many probation officers and correctional staff in facilities or units for adolescents. We have also supported the opening of 17 Community Justice Centres, alternatives to detention. Publicly-funded legal assistance now furthermore includes defenders for children. As a result of these reforms, Moldova reduced the number of children in pre-trial detention by 80 per cent between 2002 and 2010.

We support the Children’s Rights Legal Clinic, raising awareness about children’s rights and promoting reform of the juvenile justice system. The Clinic models the provision of free legal aid, legal counselling, legal support and representation in trials for vulnerable children and their families. It also builds professional capacity within the judiciary, police and social sector.

Last updated November 2013

Justice for Children - High level Regional Conference in Brussels, Belgium, 27-28 June 2013
A high-level regional conference on justice for children on 27 – 28 June in Brussels, Belgium.

Violence against children in juvenile justice systems - International conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic (18 - 21 September 2012)
BISHKEK, 22 September 2012 - UNICEF is currently supporting research into the torture and ill-treatment of children in juvenile justice systems in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine.

Preparatory meeting in Kiev, Ukraine (18 – 20 October 2011)
This meeting is part of an EU-supported project on juvenile justice reform that includes strengthening the capacity of statutory child rights/human rights bodies & civil society organisations to monitor the torture and ill-treatment of children.

The third child protection forum for Central Asia in Ashkabat, Turkmenistan (30 May - 1 June 2011)
The Child Protection Forum for Central Asia is a key platform for high-level policy dialogue between countries in the region, organized approximately every two years by Governments of Central Asia in partnership with UNICEF.



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