Young and in contact with justice systems,
they took part in the World Congress on Justice for Children.

“Children and young people are often spoken about as ‘the future’, as the ‘voices of tomorrow’. We disagree. We think that we are the voices of today, we are the voices of now."

Group of young people spoke at the World Congress on Justice for Children.

In May last year, Terre des hommes co-organised the World Congress on Justice for Children that took place in Paris. A group of young people from different countries in Europe who had been in contact with justice systems took part in the Congress and had a presentation in plenary. Here is an extract of their speech:

“We would like to thank you for being able to be here. But we’d also like to remind you that it should not be an exception; listening to our views needs to become an everyday practice. We know our rights, and we have things to say. Each one of us has come here over the past three days to listen, but also to speak. We have wanted to tell our stories of being in contact with the justice system, not because we want you to feel sorry for us, but because we are experts on this topic. Our experiences and our insights should be the starting point for your words and your actions.

We came together as a group of young people from different backgrounds and cultures to share our experiences of being in contact with the justice system. Despite the differences, we found many common points.

One adult participant said that he had previously advocated for child and youth participation, but that, after listening to us, he would now be obliging participation. It is this shift in mentality that we would like to see.

This event covered many new topics which were interesting to discover. But we feel that our presence was not enough, there should have been more opportunities for us to be seated at the table to share our views, instead of just sitting passively in the audience.

Children and young people are often spoken about as ‘the future’, as the ‘voices of tomorrow’. We disagree. We think that we are the voices of today, we are the voices of now.

In conclusion, we feel that it is important that children in contact with the justice system are no longer looked upon only sympathetically by professionals but seen as people with experience and supported to come together. We hope that this is the beginning of a new way of working together.

It is clear for us that, as we approach the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, now is the time to move from theory to practice. If we want to change children’s bad experiences tomorrow, we need to act today. The title of this year’s World Congress is “Justice FOR Children”. Maybe the next Congress will be entitled: “Justice WITH Children”.”

 

The original text was written by Joao Bateka, Fabio Caillaud, Mamédi Diarra, Sandra Kissel, Georgiana Militaru, Morven Petrie and Angela Vasile.