Strathclyde joins global Coalition to achieve SDGs for children

Professor Jennifer Davidson (centre) at the UN's Justice for Children event

The University of Strathclyde has been announced as a member of a global coalition established to champion equal access to justice worldwide, and notably to meet the distinctive rights and needs of children.

Strathclyde has joined the Justice Action Coalition, established under the auspices of the United Nations. It is a high-ambition partnership of 35 national governments, UN agencies – including UNDP and UN Women – and international organisations, including the World Bank and OECD.

This group of committed leaders is working together to advance justice in countries around the world, to achieve Agenda 2030 on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG16.3 “…to ensure equal access to justice for all”.

Strathclyde’s Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures (IICF), based in the University’s Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, has been commissioned to drive the international efforts for children within the Coalition, leading the efforts of the multi-sectoral Justice Action Coalition’s SDG 16 Working Group on Justice for Children.

IICF Executive Director, Professor Jennifer Davidson, said: “We are proud to be a founding member of the Justice Action Coalition, a role which will grow the global ambition of governments to achieve SDG 16 for children.

“In setting out the ambitious vision for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Agenda 2030 pledges not only to ‘leave no one behind’, but also to ‘reach the furthest behind first’. Children are among those most at risk of being left behind, especially those facing adversities.

“At the halfway point to 2030, slowed progress in achieving the SDGs is exacerbating existing inequalities and adversely impacting on our ability to achieve justice for children and consequently justice for all – here at home, and around the globe. With our fellow Coalition members, and with our network of partners in this work for children, we are determined to accelerate this progress to deliver child-centred outcomes.”

Two recent events initiated IICF’s work. As part of the Justice Action Coalition, the Institute organised and moderated a high-level event on justice for children in May 2023 at the UN Crime Commission – the UN’s primary policymaking body for crime prevention – focused on the challenges and opportunities provided by digitisation. Led by Brazil’s Justice Minister and sponsored by the governments of Canada, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Thailand, and speakers from organisations including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children (SRSGVAC) and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, raised concerns about the risk of governments uncritically embracing the use of digital courts for children, and called for procedural safeguards.

In July at the UN High Level Political Forum – where governments hold each other to account for progress on achieving the SDGs – the Ambassadors of Canada and Mexico called for smarter financing strategies to achieve justice for children, alongside UNICEF, the SRSGVAC, the OECD and an international child delegation, moderated by Strathclyde’s IICF.

At these events, launched three Policy Briefs endorsed by the UN on digital innovations, smarter financing, and intergenerational partnerships to drive SDG 16 for children. In addition, Strathclyde’s Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) was profiled as a promising global practice for its excellent child participation projects.

The University’s work in this context has also been hugely supported by Professor Ann Skelton, who recently received an honorary degree from Strathclyde Honorary Graduate and was appointed IICF Board Chair. In June 2023, she was elected Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN’s highest role for child experts.

Strathclyde’s Centre for Sustainable Development Director, Professor Tracy Morse, said: “Investing in children’s wellbeing underpins the world’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and is a pre-requisite for securing most national objectives in all countries.

“Strathclyde has a solid track record of expertise on children and young people – across research, teaching and knowledge exchange – already being applied locally, nationally and around the globe. Funded and award-winning partnerships across the University are well-established, with huge potential for even greater impact to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. It is brilliant to see this momentum growing and achieving further success.”