The Justice for Children global initiative launched its Call to Action on 4 July, calling on states to place children at the heart of justice in every nation of the world.
Led by project director Professor Jennifer Davidson, CELCIS’s Executive Director and Executive Director of the Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures at the University of Strathclyde, Justice for Children works in collaboration with international 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.
The Call to Action outlines 10 challenges to address and provides a strategic vision for putting children at the centre, affirming children’s rights and promoting their capabilities and opportunities, in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The development of this work is part of the focus being taken forward by with the Task Force on Justice initiative under the Pathfinder for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies group of nations and organisations committed to SDG 16: 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.
The launch event was held at the Human Rights Council at the UN’s Palais de Nations, with 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, among the leading human rights experts speaking at the launch.
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.”
Professor Jennifer Davidson 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 beyond the launch now, as we focus on the implementation of the Call to Action Justice for Children, promoting legislation, policies and practices that will better realise children’s rights in their day-to-day experiences around the world.”