Launch of global report on access to justice for children

Date: 17th February 2016
Category: General measures of implementation

In a new report 'Rights, Remedies and Representation' every country in the world has been ranked on how effectively children can use the law to challenge violations of their rights, in what is the first-ever global study on children's access to justice. The report provides a snapshot of how countries compare when it comes to ensuring that every child rights violation has a remedy, and sets the scene for collective action towards pressing for reform to improve access to justice for children worldwide.

The research takes into account whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action, and whether judges apply international law on children's rights in their rulings.

The global study condenses findings from 197 country reports, researched with the support of hundreds of lawyers and NGOs.

For children's rights to have meaning, they must have access to all courts and complaints mechanisms to enforce their rights and seek remedies when rights violations occur.

Many of the most serious barriers to children accessing justice lie in the practicalities. The financial burden of seeking legal advice, intimidating courtrooms and baffling legal procedures can be difficult to overcome for many adults, but they can become an impenetrable barrier for children seeking justice.

Access to justice is a human right, but it is also what makes other rights a reality. For human rights to be more than a promise, there must be a way for those rights to be enforced, including through redress when rights are violated. Yet while the importance of access to justice applies equally to children and adults, children's rights in this area, and the obstacles they face, have long been neglected.

CRIN's director Veronica Yates said:

  • "When we think of children and justice, the first image that comes to people's minds is usually one of children breaking the law. Rarely do we consider children and their right to use the legal system to protect their human rights or to seek redress when their rights have been violated. [But] like adults, [children] have human rights and when these rights are infringed they should be able to trust and use the legal system to get justice."

In the global ranking on access to justice, Scotland came 36th; England and Wales 10th and Northern Ireland 18th. Belgium, Portugal and Spain occupy the top three positions, with Kenya the only country outside Europe to make the top ten. Relegated to the bottom of the pile are Palestine, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea. But despite the numbers, what the figures also show is that no country on earth perfectly protects children's access to justice, and that all countries could learn a great deal from each other.

Despite the grim picture painted by the report, it sets the scene for collective action towards pressing for reform to improve access to justice for children worldwide.

The project can help to guide governments on how to improve children's access to courts and other complaints mechanisms to enforce their rights, and encourage the UN and regional bodies to address children's access to justice in a more systematic way throughout their work.

The report offers support to NGOs and children's advocates to consider stronger and more strategic forms of advocacy, and encourage lawyers to assist children and their representatives with seeking redress through the legal system.