Partnering with Pro-bono Law Professionals for Child Friendly Justice
Children come into contact with the law and justice systems as victims, as witnesses and when accused of an offence, or because intervention is required for their care, protection, health and wellbeing. They require child-friendly and gender-sensitive justice systems that are specialised, meet their needs, and ensure access to justice when their rights are violated.
Children’s contact with justice systems can have life-long negative consequences. This is especially true for children deprived of liberty; recent estimates suggest there are between 1.3 and 1.5 million children deprived of liberty worldwide. Although custodial measures should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time, children are often detained for minor offences and spend long periods of time in detention waiting to be tried. Consequences of even short periods of detention include interrupted cognitive development and aggravation of mental health problems. Girls in detention are especially vulnerable.
At Tdh, we aim to significantly and sustainably improve access to justice for children in Europe, West Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. We are committed to changing practices to ensure that each child has access to justice that is respecting their rights and adapted to their circumstances and needs.
To that end, we work with actors in formal and informal justice systems, as well as with communities, families and children themselves, to create sustainable pathways for children to access child-friendly justice. We place particular emphasis on restorative approaches in order to repair the social relationships damaged by offences and to promote the reintegration and rehabilitation of children involved in crimes.
In 2018, over 56,800 children benefited from activities delivered through Tdh’s Access to Justice programme, including 1,450 children who received non-custodial measures. We also trained 9,570 justice professionals.
Tdh’s access to justice work work increasingly seeks to harness the potential of digital technology to create a bigger impact as demonstrated, for example, in two flagship projects promoting restorative justice and alternative measures: AWAY and i-Restore. Moreover, we recently coordinated a joint interagency submission on the General Comment of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, specifically through a justice lens.
Working in Partnership
Working with legal firms and pro-bono legal professionals is key to our work in supporting children's access to justice. Through our worldwide Access to Justice team, we have built connections and collaborations with law firms such as DLA Piper, Baker Mckenzie, and Dentons, as well as pro-bono support from the likes of Amazon.
Partnerships are critical to helping us solve big and complex problems. That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with dedicated lawyers such as those from DLA Piper to better identify and respond to the needs and challenges faced by children involved in contact with the law. Our ambition is to nurture relationships with critical actors to best ensure access to justice for children, while building on the concerning results from the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. This document was recently presented at the UN General Assembly, which Tdh contributed to by collecting around 270 children’s views to be included in the report.
Our work with Baker Mckenzie includes a collaboration on an online training course on Neuroscience and Justice with Children, based on research conducted last year. Baker Mckenzie are also critical to the preparations for the next World Congress on Justice with Children; they will be co-hosting regional Preparatory meetings in Kenya and Indonesia to prepare for the event which follows the 2018 World Congress which Tdh co-organised.
With Dentons, we are exploring ways to address stronger access to justice for LGBTQI+ youth and use artificial intelligence to improve access to information for children involved in justice systems.
A World of Opportunity
1.5 million children detained worldwide is 1.5 million too many. To make sure we’re helping as many of these children as possible, we’re continuing to grow and learn from our partnerships with law firms and pro-bono legal providers.
Mariama Diallo, Tdh’s Programme Manager for Access to Justice in Europe, will be moderating a workshop organised by DLA Piper during PILNetPro Bono Global Forum on 12 November 2019 in Singapore. Together with partners presenting their experience in Zambia, China and Cambodia, Mariama will be exploring ways to make partnering with law firms and pro bono actors work for child-friendly justice, seeking to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what we need to do to have a meaningful impact for children.
“Today, there are still too many children who cannot access a lawyer, or whose right to information is not respected. Children in contact with the law navigate through justice systems without proper procedural safeguards, and way too often have measures of deprivation of liberty imposed on them, instead of effective alternatives to detention. Well tailored and negotiated partnerships between civil society organisations and law firms can show effective results for children, by ensuring a proper match of legal expertise with first hand field experience and knowledge about children’s needs”, says Mariama.
Are you a legal professional who wants to fight for children’s access to justice around the world? We’d love to discuss ways we can collaborate to ensure a more just world for children deprived of liberty. As well as collaborating on research, we’re open to exploring opportunities for partnering on case work with children (for example, working with kids who are accused of violent extremism to organise legal assistance), and exploring options to co-host events.
If you are interested, please contact:
-Global: Cedric Foussard, firstname.lastname@example.org - Advocacy and Global Learning Advisor, Terre des hommes -Europe : Mariama Diallo, email@example.com - Regional Access to Justice Programme Manager, Terre des hommes