Children and young people are joining UNICEF initiative of Youth Advocates for Justice for Children

UNICEF, the European Union Delegation and partners launched two new initiatives to promote child participation in the creation of solutions for access to justice for children and to upgrade the capacities of professionals working with children at risk.

16 November 2021
Girl wearing a face mask participating in a workshop

Skopje, 16 November 2021: With the kickoff workshop on children’s rights over this weekend, 60 children and young people are joining the UNICEF initiative of Youth Advocates for Justice for Children – first of this kind in the country.

The aim of the initiative is to create the space for children and youth to participate in the legislative and policy reforms in the area of justice for children and to generate innovative ways to address issues that affect their life.

“Adverse childhood experiences at home or interactions that bring children in contact with the justice system often result with trauma which has profound impact on children’s ability to think, feel and behave. It is difficult to know who and how they are affected by trauma, so systems must ensure that all children feel safe, secure, seen and soothed.” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative.  “Children and young people must be involved in this process; they must have a direct say and voice their concerns. We saw children design and lead initiatives in climate change and quality education.  We are now excited to see them taking part in this new and exciting initiative as youth advocates and we know their ideas will contribute for an improved child friendly justice system.”

At this initial workshop the future youth advocates for justice for children were introduced to the main principles of child rights including the rights of children in contact with the law. With the support of five mentors they also worked on developing communication skills for peaceful conflict resolution, emotional literacy and self-awareness and the components of youth participation and activism.

Following this initial training, children and young people will participate in design thinking workshops to develop creative solutions to challenges that children face when they, regardless of the reason, encounter the justice system, including solutions to improve complaint mechanisms and improve access to information for all children in contact with the law. Their ideas will be presented to decision-makers and UNICEF and partners will support further development and implementation.

The initiative Youth Advocates for Justice for Children is implemented in collaboration with Youth Educational Forum. 

Building a multi-sectoral approach for supporting children in contact with the law

This week UNICEF is also launching a series of training of trainers’ workshops for professionals working with children in contact with the law to validate the first curriculum introducing a multisectoral approach based on the best interest of the child.

“When children are in contact with the justice and child protection systems, they are in contact with various professionals and institutions who make decisions about their future. Therefore, it is of upmost importance that all professionals who make the decisions, are led by the best interest of children. An individual approach with empathy and careful consideration may have enormous positive effect on their future,” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative.

The initiative derives from the need to address the issue of significant variation in the knowledge and skills among different professionals dealing with children at risk and children in contact with the law. Having one curriculum for all will ensure professionals have the same understanding and ensure the best interests of the child are ensured at any stage of the procedure.

The curriculum has been developed based on human and child rights approach, focusing on key competencies such as inter-personal communication skills, community engagement and mobilization. It also provides case studies and best practices from Europe. The modules cover the main aspects of the principles of justice for children, children at risk of becoming in contact with the law, victims, witnesses and children in conflict with the law.

The objective of the initiative is to ensure child’s contact with justice systems represents an opportunity, not a threat and that going through the justice system constitutes a positive turning point for children.

Following the workshop and finalization of the curriculum, the group of certified trainers will provide continuous instruction to their colleagues and other professionals working with children at risk including judges, prosecutors, social workers, police officers, professionals working with the children in the correctional institutions, lawyers and mediators.

Both initiatives launched this week are part of a broader two-year programme “Just(ice) children – EU for juvenile and child-friendly justice” funded by the delegation of European Union and co-funded by UNICEF supports the Government reform efforts to ensure the justice system protects the rights of children who come in contact with the law. 

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