Preparatory national consultation on justice with children held

Dated: Thursday, 14th January 2021

Islamabad: Leading the discussion during the Preparatory National Consultation on Justice with Children, key national and international stakeholders contributed to a meaningful discussion to pave the way forward for justice with children

Group Development Pakistan (GDP) – a civil society organization registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 working on protecting and promoting child rights and strengthening child protection and justice with children across Pakistan, held a preparatory national consultation on Justice with Children, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Law and Justice, Terre des hommes Foundation, BackerMcKenzie, the office of the UNSRSG on VAC, Penal Reform International, International Association of Youth & Family Judges and Magistrates, Global Initiative on Justice with Children and International Institute for the Rights of the Child on 14th January 2021.

World Congresses on Justice With Children represent dedicated spaces of interaction and participation for policymakers, academics and civil society representatives, which seek to a) Promote a fair and appropriate justice for and with children worldwide, b) Encourage meetings between professionals to exchange on best practices, to foster scientific cooperation, to formulate policy recommendations and raise awareness on child justice and c) Support the operational implementation of international instruments and standards related to the rights of children and young people in conflict with the law and follow up with the UN Global Study on Children deprived of Liberty.

The last World Congress took place at the UNESCO headquarters, in Paris-France (May 2018), with the thematic focus “Strengthening Justice Systems for Children: Challenges, including disengagement from violent extremism”. The next World Congress will take place in Mexico City in Fall 2021. The World Congresses are developed through The Global Initiative on Justice with Children which is a joint program developed by a group of international organizations, and in the context of Pakistan, GDP co-organized this national preparatory consultation to address the most current issues related to children in contact and conflict with the law.

In the virtual preparatory national consultation key national and international stakeholders opened discourse on key challenges, priority actions to promote justice for children and good practices that have led the state and civil society partnership in Pakistan to pilot the child courts contributing to promoting fair and appropriate justice for and with children in Pakistan.

It is pertinent to mention here that Dr Najat Maalla M’jid UN Special Rapporteur to the Secretary-General on Violence against Children commended the efforts of the state actors in Pakistan for piloting child courts. She said “I would like to commend the ongoing work in Pakistan in advancing justice for children, especially with piloting the ‘child-friendly court’ even during this pandemic.  As the government of Pakistan prepares its second Voluntary National Review during the upcoming High-level Political Forum in July, I hope that these good examples will be shared in the report with the other Member States”

Cedric Foussard, Advocacy and Global Learning Advisor. Terre des hommes Foundation said “The objective of the preparatory consultations is to feed the reflection around the next world congress and to discuss the trends, challenges, best practices recommendations, and to identify the challenges faced by the countries like Pakistan. Such platforms create opportunity for regional and international synergies between key stakeholders”.

Among the other esteemed panelists, the Executive Director of GDP, Mrs. Valerie Khan, stated that Pakistan had achieved unprecedented milestones which needed to be consolidated and upscaled in a synergic manner, based on scientific evidence.

Speaking at the consultation child rights activist and advocate Syed Miqdad Mehdi presented the legal framework pertaining to child justice and Advocate Ahmar Majeed underlined the challenges.

A child participant, Waleed Mehmood, Secretary of Child Rights society at Roots School System, said: “According to a report published by Unicef, more than one million children were imprisoned around the world because of the minimum age of criminal responsibility set across the justice system around the world. In such cases, children are too young and not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions. We need to collectively work on bringing reforms to ensure reformative and restorative justice to children in contact and conflict with the law.”

Dr Tariq Hassan, a Forensic Psychiatrist highlighted the significance of having legislative reforms and implementation of existing laws that requires to have functioning juvenile justice committees and rehabilitation centers to ensure rehabilitative justice for children.

Sharing her thoughts, Angela Vigil, Pro Bono Partner and Executive Director of Pro Bono Practice, Baker & McKenzie said “The improvement of the situation of child rights is directly linked with the implementation of the laws that contributes to improving rule of law for any country around the globe”. 

In the closing remarks Marta Gil, MENA Regional Coordinator, Access to Justice (A2J) Terre des Hommes Foundation thanked all the participants and organizers for successfully conducting the consultation and highlighted the historic contribution of the government and civil society for taking the agenda of child justice in the country forward.

At the end of the consultation, the child delegate presented their recommendations to improve the plight of children in conflict and contact with the law in order to improve the situation of rule of law in Pakistan and also lauded efforts of the organizers for ensuring child participation in meaningful policy reforms at national and international level.

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