12 July 2021 - On the occasion of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, annual review of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the UN in New York, the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty, Human Rights Watch and Defence for Children International, co-organized the side event on 'Promoting Alternative Solutions to Deprivation of Liberty, Integral Protection and Access to Justice for All Children'.
Focusing on SDG 10 and SDG 16, this event discussed concrete implementation of alternatives to detention to ensure children’s safe reintegration into families and communities, and presented how targeted responses to prevent deprivation of liberty of children are critical to addressing shifting patterns of violence exacerbated by the pandemic.
Deprivation of liberty is one of the most harmful violations of children’s fundamental rights, across the globe. The COVID 19 pandemic has exacerbated the justice challenges faced by children:
The challenge to ensure full and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda to end violence against Children and all forms of deprivation of liberty of children has been addressed by the SRSG VAC (Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children) that has convened the UN Interagency Task Force (UNTF) for the implementation of the Recommendations of the Global Study on children deprived of liberty (UN GSCDL). Moderator of the Side Event, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, stressed: "the UN Interagency Task Force is committed to build back better an integrated approach linking the justice sector to other sectors, investing in the chain of services including education, child protection, justice, etc. that will support States in responding to and preventing deprivation of liberty of children".
Since 2015, UNODC has been addressing specific objectives to ensure that children are better served and protected by justice systems and to increase the protection of children from terrorism and violent extremism within the framework of UNODC’s strong mandate and expertise in violence against children, justice for children and counter-terrorism. Alexandra Martins, Head of the UNODC Global Programme to End Violence Against Children, speaking on behalf of UNODC and UNTF stated: "Children need to be protected against the use of exceptional detention regimes. UNODC is working tirelessly to increase awareness among States and to assist them in ensuring both public safety and child rights alike.”
Benoit Van Keirsbilck, Founder and director of Defence for Children International Belgium, also pledged: "In order to address the world issue of child-friendly justice, States have to be committed in ensuring that the children have access to the justice system and the implementation of their rights." All panelist agreed that there is not only a financial but also a human cost related to children deprived of liberty and that they are, above all, first and foremost children and should be treated and considered as such.
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