30 May 2014 - UNODC works all over the world to support countries in preventing crime and violence and to strengthen justice systems, including in relation to children in contact with the law as alleged offenders, victims and witnesses of crime. UNODC's objective is to ensure that children - defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child as all persons under the age of eighteen - are better served and protected by those systems, and that international standards and norms are applied to safeguard their rights.
The number of children deprived of their liberty worldwide is estimated to be more than one million. In many countries there is no specialized system to deal with children who are in contact with the law and, frequently, deprivation of their liberty is the only and primary resource for dealing with alleged child offenders. Often, children in detention are first time offenders who have committed petty crimes and end up being deprived of their liberty for truancy, for being homeless and for having no family or community background. In many countries, there is a failure to consider the needs and best interests of the child and to address the root causes that bring them into contact with the justice system in the first place.
UNODC works in several countries to improve the situation of children in contact with the law. It provides legal assistance and legal advisory services, assesses needs for technical assistance, provides training for government and criminal justice officials, and supports the public sector in developing policies and strengthening institutions, as well as through awareness raising campaigns. To support the delivery of its services, UNODC has developed a wide range of technical assistance tools and strengthened strong partnerships with governments and civil society organizations in different regions.
The UNODC-supported programme in the juvenile detention centre in Marg, Egypt, for example, helps young offenders move on with their lives through vocational training, while also using individual counseling to assist them upon release in dealing with the social, family, and personal problems they might face. The programme provides an individualized "life plan" for young offenders to follow once outside, which addresses the economic, social, health and psychological issues of each young person and includes regular follow ups to ensure they have the necessary support to continue on their path.
Recently UNODC has also provided support to Member States in the development of a new international instrument entitled "United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice". This normative instrument was recently approved by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, at its 23rd Session, held on 12-16 May 2014, and recommended for adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations later this year. This represents a historical achievement and a strong commitment of governments towards addressing Justice for Children issues.