J4C2018: “The Congress is the beginning of a solid movement”
The World Congress on Justice for Children took place from 28 to 30 May 2018 in Paris. The topic of this year was about the challenges of strengthening justice systems for children, including disengagement from violent extremism. The event was co-organised by Terre des hommes. Kristen Hope, Research and Advocacy Advisor for the Tdh Access to Justice programme, answered our questions.
What impact did the Congress have?
The World Congress on Justice for Children in 2018 in Paris was a success. Over 800 participants from 95 countries attended the event during the three days. We had some of the best international advocates for a child rights approach to violent extremism coming from a range of different specialisations, including the legal professions, the international human rights bodies, the UN, government representatives, as well as young people themselves. Having that diversity and that calibre led to very rich exchanges.
Justice is often not the first thing that people think about when talking about child rights. However, this is the third time that a World Congress of this nature has been able to bring together so many different people to engage in justice for children. This year’s topic – violent extremism – was very relevant, but also controversial. The fundamental commitment to child rights as the overarching priority within any actions to counter or to prevent violent extremism is really important.
We created a platform where those ideas can be voiced. The Congress isn’t an end in itself, it’s a means to an end of creating sustainable change for the life of children who are in contact with justice systems. This is the beginning of a solid movement to counter some of the main assumptions around young people involved in violent extremism.
What was a highlight for you?
It was the way youth were able to participate. A group of young people from different countries in Europe who had been in contact with justice systems were present in Paris. They took part in a session on child and youth participation in judicial proceedings with adults working in the formal and informal judiciary system. It was a very honest and open discussion on what they would like to change and how these actors could better listen to and take into consideration the views of children in the justice systems.
The group of young people then had a presentation in plenary, where they tried to reinforce the idea that it is not enough for young people to voice their perspective, but they should be listened to and their needs should be taken into account. They got a standing ovation of the 800 people in the room. Moving forward, we need to involve children as much as possible in the phase of developing advocacy initiatives and their implementation.
What are the next steps Tdh will take?
We just finalised the Paris Declaration with the members of the consortium. It is thought to be an advocacy tool for everyone across the world who is continuing to fight for the rights of children in justice systems and who are accused of violent extremism. The declaration captures key messages about the need to prioritise the rights of the child over the interest of a security-based approach. Children have a right to not be deprived of liberty, which should always be a measure of last resort and for a short period of time. It’s a fundamental part of the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030 and we all have a joint responsibility to ensure that no child is left behind. In the coming months and years, Tdh will continue the advocacy to change practices at country level and the behaviours of practitioners which are dealing with children on a daily basis.
Photo credit: © Tdh/Amanda Keillor