Panel Discussion : Promoting Alternative Solutions to Deprivation of Liberty


While deprivation of liberty is one form of violence and one of the most harmful violations of children’s fundamental rights, across the globe, the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty estimated that at least 1.5 million children are deprived of liberty every year, and that due to undercounting, the de facto total figures could exceed 7 million. It found that many children are held in facilities where violence is endemic, and that deprivation of liberty can harm children’s development, limit children’s right to education, and their right to health. The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty identified good practices of non -custodial measures as well as structural changes that facilitate the identification of such alternatives. For instance, in the case of administration of justice, developing comprehensive child protection systems, applying diversion at all stages as well as restorative justice principles are good practices that have given positive results. Moreover, integrating into the national law the recommendations of the UNCRC included in the General Comment 24 on children’s rights in the Justice systems (e.g. minimum age of criminal responsibility, time limits for police custody and pretrial detention, specialised child justice systems…) could prevent or significantly limit the number of children deprived of liberty.

Furthermore, the COVID 19 pandemic has given rise to justice challenges faced by children and created additional obstacles for realising the vison of justice for and with children. It has revealed and exacerbated social inequalities and injustices around the globe. Risking leaving children in vulnerable situations farther behind. Mitigation measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the risk of children being exposed or subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse. Disruption of child protection and justice systems and the difficulty to access justice, in many countries, acutely affected children at risk or victims of violence, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, children in detention including migrants and pretrial detainees.


The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty conducted by the independent expert, Professor Manfred Nowak, in coordination with UNICEF, OHCHR, UNODC and other UN entities under the coordination of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG VAC), academic institutions and other civil society actors (NGO Panel composed of 170 CSOs). The NGO Panel for the Global Studyencompassing 170 NGOs worldwide, played a crucial role during the process, from advocacy for the initial UNGA resolution (2014) up to the finalisation of the Study in 2019. The NGO Panel is now focussing on the promotion, dissemination and implementation of the recommendations of the Study, as well as conducting advocacy in support of the follow-up of the Study that is led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children as recognized by General Assembly A/Res/75/1851.

The Global Study was presented to the General Assembly in October 2019 including quantitative data by category of deprivation of liberty. The Study also presented examples of good practice, and recommendations for how governments can significantly reduce the number of children deprived of liberty.

The challenge is now to ensure full and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda to end violence against Children including deprivation of liberty of children as a form of violence. In doing so, the SRSG VAC as chair of the UN Task Force on Children Deprived of Liberty leads the UN work on deprivation of liberty of children, supporting Member States in collaboration with the NGO panel and other relevant multi stakeholders.


The webinar will aim to:

  •  Provide guidance on new developments in the field, disseminate recommendations of the Global Study and other tools on Justice for Children;
  • Exchange promising practices with ‘champion countries’ from different continents and contexts, such as investment on non-custodial measures to ensure children’s safe reintegration into families and communities;
  • Advocate for the follow up of data collection on children deprived of liberty and the launch of national action plans to promote alternatives to detention;
  • Highlight good and innovative practices that enable children’s and youth effective and meaningful participation in these objectives;
  • Promote enhanced and coordinated cooperation at national, regional, and international levels to end child migration detention and provide adequate integral protection and access to justice for children;
  • Elaborate the roles of relevant stakeholders in assisting Member States in their implementation of their international legal obligations and political commitments;

Expected Outcomes

  • Better understanding of deprivation of liberty and of the recommendations of the study
  • Promising practices are shared and processes for the implementation of the study’s recommendations are clear.
  • Concrete ideas on how to further cooperate in the future at all levels (national, regional, international) to prevent and end deprivation of liberty of children.

Panel Members

Moderator: Alex Kamarotos

Moderator: Alex Kamarotos

Executive Director of Defence for Children International (DCI), co-chair of the NGO Panel on children deprived of liberty

Opening remarks:    Virginia Gamba

Opening remarks: Virginia Gamba

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict

Video message:       Najat Maalla M’jid

Video message: Najat Maalla M’jid

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against children

Panelist: Mikiko Otani

Panelist: Mikiko Otani

Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Panelist: Vassiliy Yuzhanin

Panelist: Vassiliy Yuzhanin

Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Member of the UN Task Force on children deprived of liberty

Panelist: Jo Becker

Panelist: Jo Becker

Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, co-chair of the NGO Panel on children deprived of liberty

Panelist: Mohamed Bangura

Panelist: Mohamed Bangura

Youth advocate from Sierra Leone

Panel Discussion: Promoting alternatives solutions to deprivation of liberty

2021 World Congress on Justice with Children