Addis Ababa, 10 May 2018 – More than 100 child rights experts, advocates, defenders, campaigners, policy-makers, lawyers and academics are calling for action to make access to justice a reality for all African children.
The Call to Action came at the close of the Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children in Africa, organised by Africa Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and Defence for Children International (DCI). Participants heard repeated warnings about the adverse and lasting impact that failure to access justice has on children in different contexts across Africa.
Despite some progress in recent years, the Call to Action makes clear its concerns that children remain predominantly invisible in the justice systems in Africa; that some groups of children have specific needs because they are in particular situations of vulnerability; that action is needed to bring laws and policies in African countries in line with international standards and principles; and that access to justice for children urgently needs more resources and better coordination between governments, civil society, international agencies and academics.
“Immense challenges still remain to promote and protect the best interests of children involved in the justice system,” said Dr. Assefa Bequele, ACPF’s Executive Director. “There is an imperative on all of us to act now, as the future of our continent depends on ensuring justice for our children today.”
“Countless thousands of children across Africa are being deprived of their liberty in prisons, detention centres, rehabilitation units or other such institutions. Even if they avoid detention, many children experience discrimination, a lack of legal support and representation and physical punishment,” said Dr. Bequele. “Traditional, religious and other informal justice mechanisms in Africa also remain largely unaccountable, and the children who access justice through them are vulnerable to violations of their rights.”
A new report launched at the conference, Spotlighting the Invisible: Justice for Children in Africa, reveals how thousands of children across the continent are denied access to justice, and paints an alarming picture of discrimination, inadequate funding, poor training, unaccountable informal justice systems and slow progress on children’s rights.
The Call to Action lists a number of ways the different institutions and stakeholders involved – African governments, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, non-governmental organisations, United Nations bodies, academic institutions and development agencies – should speed up the fulfilment of access to justice for children.
“Many African countries now have laws and standards to protect children in the justice system, but that’s not enough. Efforts to enhance children’s access to justice have lacked a sustained, multi-pronged and systematic approach, and children’s rights have been insufficiently embedded in justice systems,” said Mr. Alex Kamarotos, DCI’s Executive Director.
“Access to justice is a fundamental enabler of other children’s rights, but it cannot be achieved in isolation. Now is the time for implementation. ,” said Kamarotos. We need a systematic and coordinated approach at the local, national, regional and international levels to best serve the needs of all children seeking justice.”
The third day of the conference was a regional consultation for the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. Participants from governments, civil society, academic institutions, and other practitioners met to discuss pathways leading to and conditions of detention, as well as alternatives and non-custodial measures. “The opportunity to engage with government officials and leading regional experts on deprivation of liberty across the continent during the conference has been a highly valuable contribution to the Global Study,” Kamarotos said.
The full text of the Call to Action can be downloaded here.
Photos of the conference can be downloaded here
About the conference: Spotlighting the Invisible: The Continental Conference on Access to Justice for Children is jointly organised by ACPF and DCI and was held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 8-10 May 2018. For more information, go to https://www.childjusticeinafrica.info/
About ACPF: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is an independent, not-for-profit Pan-African centre of policy research and advocacy centre on the African child. It was established in 2003 out of concern about the situation of the African child and the need for Africans to recognise their responsibility to collectively ensure the realisation of all rights to all children. More info at http://africanchildforum.org/
About DCI: Defence for Children International (DCI) is an independent non-governmental organisation set up during the International Year of the Child in 1979 to ensure on-going, practical, systematic and concerted international and national action specially directed towards promoting and protecting the rights of the child, as articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). More info at https://defenceforchildren.org/
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