The International Legal Foundation and UNICEF Myanmar join forces to protect children in conflict with the law

New programme connecting young people with specialized juvenile defence lawyers to reduce child detention and foster community support

03 December 2019
UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Minzayar Oo

YANGON, 03 December 2019 — The International Legal Foundation (ILF) and UNICEF Myanmar announced today their new partnership to protect the rights of children in conflict with the law to support the implementation of Myanmar’s Child Rights Law which came into effect in July 2019. Funded by the European Union initiative ‘Protecting children affected by migration in Southeast, South, and Central Asia’, the project focuses on diverting children away from the criminal justice system and promotes alternatives to detention. 

Together, UNICEF and the ILF will train defence lawyers and other justice stakeholders on child-friendly justice. They will set quality defence standards for juveniles. In addition, they will also facilitate increased cooperation between police, prosecutors, judges and social service providers to divert cases away from the courts and connect children with appropriate community support, promoting alternatives to incarceration.

“Children need strong and skilled defenders to fight for them from the earliest possible moment after arrest, and their cases must be handled differently from adults,” said ILF Executive Director Jennifer Smith. “Myanmar’s Child Rights Law provides new protections for children in conflict with the law, but there needs to be a collaborative effort to implement those protections. The majority of children detained in Myanmar do not have a lawyer to defend them. That is why we are committed to expanding access to high-quality legal aid and providing specialized training in juvenile justice.” 

Myanmar’s new Child Rights Law raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 10 years, though this is still lower than international standards set by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The law states that detention of children should be a last resort and it calls for alternative measures of punishment for juveniles. Among current challenges, authorities routinely detain children awaiting trial; expertise on child development is limited; and mechanisms for diversion and alternative sentencing still need to be designed and put into practice.  

“Conditions of violence, poverty, mental health issues and other social and developmental challenges can cause children to come into conflict with the law, and unfortunately, there is a lack of quality lawyers to defend children,” said June Kunugi, UNICEF Myanmar Representative. “Thanks to the funding from the European Union, this partnership will support children in contact with the law, helping them to get them back on track towards leading safe and positive lives.” 

With close to 70 years of experience working in Myanmar, UNICEF is convening a variety of justice stakeholders and community partners to promote progress on child protection. The ILF has significant expertise developing quality standards for criminal defence and building legal aid systems in post-conflict and transitioning countries, with a strong focus on juvenile justice and child rights. Together, ILF and UNICEF Myanmar will work closely with government agencies, officials, lawyers, and civil society groups to realize Myanmar’s promise of ensuring the realisation of children’s rights. 

About the ILF

Every day, millions of people are trapped in jails around the world because they cannot afford a defense lawyer. The ILF is a non-profit organization founded to address this global crisis in access to justice. For nearly two decades, the ILF has fought to guarantee high-quality legal representation for everyone arrested or detained. Around the world, we provide quality criminal defense services and build sustainable, effective legal aid institutions. Currently, we provide direct legal services in Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Palestine and Tunisia and offer technical assistance worldwide. For more information, visit 

For more information:

Leah Conklin, Communications Officer, The ILF, 570-709-5952,

Htet Htet Oo, Communication Officer, UNICEF Myanmar, 09250075238,

UNICEF in Myanmar  

UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. 

For more information about UNICEF and its work in Myanmar: 

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