Millions of children throughout the world suffer harm as a result of crime and abuse of power, and therefore, come into contact with the criminal justice system. UNODC takes a preventative approach towards crime and violence against children by supporting States to create and enhance a protective environment framework for all children, and to ensure that justice systems are well equipped to prevent and respond to violence against children. It also focuses on ensuring better access to justice for children, reducing recourse to deprivation of liberty and promoting child-sensitive investigation and court procedures, non-custodial sanctions, restorative justice and diversion, recovery and reintegration of children and prevention of abuse and exploitation.
The vulnerabilities of children in criminal justice processes, due to their age and still developing levels of maturity, require that special measures be taken to ensure their rights are adequately protected. Child victims and witnesses who do not receive proper child and gender sensitive consideration and protection can be revictimized during their participation in the criminal justice system, which can leave them more vulnerable to future violence and can reduce the likelihood of them reporting violent crime.
Crime takes an enormous physical, financial, and emotional toll on victims. However, in many criminal justice systems, victims of crime are often forgotten, revictimized, unable to fully participate in decisions that concern them and do not always receive the assistance, support, and protection they need. Redress for the harm they have suffered as a result of victimization is often unavailable or is received too late.
Therefore, a fair, effective and efficient justice system is a system that respects the fundamental rights of child victims and witnesses. It focuses on the need to prevent victimization, to protect and assist child victims and witnesses, to treat them with compassion, and respects their dignity in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child victims should also have access to judicial and other mechanisms, to seek prompt redress for harm they have suffered. Read more
Violence against children is a widespread phenomenon affecting millions of children all over the world. Whether it takes place within the family, schools, alternative care and justice institutions, the community or even within workplace environments (both those workplaces mandated under law and those which exist illegally and breach child labour and exploitation laws), it is often implicitly socially condoned and goes without legal sanctions. It takes many forms including, child sexual abuse and exploitation; child trafficking; child labour, exploitation and slavery; as well as child recruitment and exploitation by criminal and armed groups, including terrorist and violent extremist groups.
The link between child safety and global development, is recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a pre-condition for global development. Goal 16.2, explicitly calls for the elimination of violence against children in all its forms, and highlights the crucial role played by children in the construction of peace, justice and robust institutions. Read more
Children in contact with the justice system are more vulnerable to violence. Given their vulnerability, international standards and norms highlight the specific needs of these children and also the obligations of States to ensure that their rights are protected, respected and fulfilled with a view to promoting their rehabilitation and reintegration.
According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, not only is the use of child justice systems important to maintain public safety and to ensure that children are treated in a way that upholds their rights under the Convention and their sense of dignity and worth, it also requires "the establishment of specialized units within the police, the judiciary, the court system and the prosecutor's office, as well as specialized defenders or other representatives who provide legal or other appropriate assistance to the child"(General comment No. 24 (2019) on children's rights in the child justice system). Therefore, training of such professionals on child rights and child-sensitive approaches is critical to ensure that the rights of children in conflict with the law, as well as child victims and witnesses of crime, are upheld. Read more
UNODC places a special emphasis on collecting evidence and carrying out research on the situation of the most vulnerable in society, especially children deprived of their liberty, and on the performance of the justice system in preventing and responding to violence against children.
UNODC provides legal advisory services to review legislative and regulatory frameworks, identify gaps and recommend action to comply with the requirements of the international legal framework in the areas of violence against children and justice for children.
UNODC provides support to review and improve organizational design and management processes relating to the implementation of violence against children and justice for children reform; develop strategies and establish mechanisms of coordination among government and judicial institutions; develop procedures and management of legal aid programs; develop and strengthen integrated database and tracking mechanisms for children's cases in the criminal justice system; and improve allocation of financial and other resource management.
UNODC develops national and local capacities and skills relevant to the areas of violence against children and justice for children. Key recipients of these activities include, judges, magistrates, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, detention facility staff, probation service staff, and social workers. Assistance may be provided to develop training curricula and deliver training activities on a variety of issues relevant to the areas of violence against children and justice for children. Read more