“Youth are key to identifying new solutions that will secure the breakthroughs that our world urgently needs […] By advocating for their active inclusion in policy spaces, young people provide diverse perspectives that improve and inform critical decisions.”
Ensuring opportunities for meaningful youth engagement requires investing in youth-led initiatives to support engagement in decision-making and establishing institutionalized mechanisms for young people to contribute to policy making, including on the rule of law and crime prevention efforts at local, national, and international level. This has been recognized in various policy frameworks, including in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Youth 2030 Strategy, as well as in the Kyoto Declaration adopted in the 14th UN Crime Congress, calling on States to “empower youth to become active agents of positive change in their communities to support crime prevention efforts by organizing social, educational, cultural, recreational, sports-related youth programmes and youth forums, as well as by using social media platforms and applications and other digital tools to amplify their voice”.
The ASEAN-Japan Special Youth Forum for Promoting the Rule of Law" was held in Tokyo, Japan from 6-7 July 2023. Hosted by the Ministry of Justice of Japan and the Thailand Institute of Justice with the support of UNODC, it was organized in connection to the ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers. It provided the space for meaningful youth engagement and empower the next generation, by equipping them with the knowledge and tools, to amplify their voices, share their perspectives on access to justice in their region, and advocate for a better world that ensures access to justice for all. As such, it offered a regional follow-up to the 32nd session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in May, which included a thematic discussion on enhancing the functioning of the criminal justice system to ensure access to justice and to realize a safe and secure society.
The Special Youth Forum was a unique and forward-looking event that brought together 69 young people, primarily university students, from the ASEAN region, Japan and Timor-Leste to discuss a core principle of the Rule of Law, “Access to Justice”. Through group discussions and structured plenary sessions, participants exchanged knowledge, cross-cultural perspectives, and experiences, and explored the role of education, including civic education, in addressing justice literacy and the impact of digital technology on justice, exploring risks and opportunities in securing the fundamental values and principles of justice and ensuring access to justice for all, leaving no one behind.
"Access to justice is never a privilege, but a fundamental right. Through innovative approaches, we can bridge the gap and ensure equal opportunities for all to seek and receive justice” said Le Manh Hung, a young delegate from Vietnam. Access to justice is a basic human right and at the same time a means to protect other universally recognized human rights. Where human rights protections are lacking, marginalized groups in particular, are more vulnerable to abuses and face significant challenges to realizing their rights, including within the formal justice system. Ayana Inoue, a youth delegate from Japan reflected on the importance of universal access to justice: “Regardless of age, gender, nationality, race, status, criminal background and so on, people have the right of access to justice universally. So, governments should guarantee the individual’s rights properly.” Youth delegates also explored, possible innovative youth solutions to enhance the integrity, inclusivity, and accountability of the criminal justice system in their communities and ensure access to justice for all, reflecting on complex challenges and innovative solutions that arise at the intersection of technology and justice.To amplify youth voices and perspectives, participants developed a set of actionable recommendations for the consideration of policy makers at national regional and international level.
The final outcomes and recommendations were shared with the ASEAN-Japan Justice Ministers and will also be presented to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), the UN body responsible for implementing and adopting policies in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. This constitutes a significant step toward making the concerns and perspectives of young people heard and considered within intergovernmental policy making processes on crime prevention and criminal justice.