Justice for Children initiative launched at United Nations

UN Palace of Nations, Geneva

The Justice for Children global initiative has launched a Call to Action to place children at the heart of justice in every nation of the world.

Launched at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today (Thursday 4 July). The work is being led by project director Professor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of the University of Strathclyde Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures, in collaboration with many outstanding internationally-recognised partners, including the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the Child Justice Advocacy Group, with Terre des hommes and Defence for Children International.

This Justice for Children, Call to Action provides a strategic vision that actively puts children at the centre, affirms children’s rights and promotes their capabilities and opportunities, and vigorously targets the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

It is explicitly focussed on injecting momentum into the next steps for the implementation of the UN SDG16; the goal to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Accelerate progress

The Call to Action highlights ten critical Challenges that create injustice for children, impoverishing not only their lives but every society in which they live. The Call – most importantly – addresses the crucial Responses that much be urgently addressed throughout the world in order for us to accelerate progress towards delivering the rights and opportunities that every child deserves. Only then will we have left no child behind.

Implementing the strategies that will deliver our vision is critical. And so the Call emphases the paramount importance of sustained political commitment in every nation, supported by the necessary resourcing. Moreover, it highlights the need to engage all society in this effort, including both those who have traditionally championed the rights and needs of children, but also those whose decisions have a huge impact on children – albeit sometimes less directly – and have not typically been engaged in justice for children.

The launch event was held at the Human Rights Council at the UN’s Palais de Nations and hosted by the UN Ambassadors for Belgium and the Republic of Botswana.

Peggy Hicks, Director at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Professor Philip Jaffé, Director of the Centre for Children's Rights Studies, was amongst the leading human rights experts speaking at the launch.

Key moment

Peggy Hicks said: “This is a key moment. As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), there is no better time to demonstrate global leadership, not only on behalf of those who are children today, but for the approximately 1 billion children who will be born in the coming decade: the children who will inherit a post-SDG world.

“In spite of near-universal ratification of the CRC, millions of children around the world continue to be left behind and their rights denied, particularly those who are the most discriminated against or living in precarious situations of vulnerability – such as children in detention, on the streets, in institutions or in migration situations. Children also suffer the impacts of poverty, violence, inequality and exclusion disproportionately, due to their sensitive phase of life and development.

“This Call to Action goes to the heart of our challenge. Unless we identify, and then seek to resolve – and, ideally, prevent – the critical challenges that obstruct the fulfilment of their rights; that preclude the meeting of children’s critical needs; and that inhibit the securing of their opportunities, for many children we will continue to fall far short.”

Safer world

Professor Davidson, Executive Director of the Strathclyde-based Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures said: "The Sustainable Development Goals commit to ‘leaving no one behind’ but this cannot be fulfilled if the rights of children – and justice for all children – are not made a reality.

“Children account for 30% of the global population. With such a large proportion under 18, we must make sure that children are at the forefront in our effort to implement the SDGs. This Call to Action aims to do exactly that.

We won’t succeed around the world with our global goals, if we don’t get it right for children.

"Justice systems affect children in many ways; children are rights holders and can be human rights defenders, but also, children may be victims, witnesses, or accused of an offence, or intervention may be required for their care and protection. In each of these contexts, children must have access to specialist and differentiated justice systems that are in line with their stage of development, and recognise international law. Only then will children experience meaningful justice and be adequately protected from injustice.

“It is so important to stress that this is something that affects us all, not just children. By creating justice for children everywhere, and leaving no one behind, we are creating a fairer, safer world and society for us all to live in and flourish.

“We’re delighted that this valuable work has come to fruition after the dedicated efforts of our partners and supporting organisations; however, this is very much the start of our journey. We look forward to the launch and beyond, when we will focus on the implementation of the Call to Action Justice for Children, promoting legislation, polices and practices that will better realise children’s rights in their day-to-day experiences around the world.”