While deprivation of liberty is one of the most harmful violations of children’s fundamental rights, across the globe, over 7 million children per year are deprived of liberty in the administration of justice, held in immigration detention, detained in relation to armed conflicts or national security contexts, or living with their primary caregivers in detention.

On the organisers

DCI together with Terre des Hommes are co-chairing the NGO Panel on Children Deprived of Liberty which is in the initiative of the publication and presentation at the UN General Assembly of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty (2019) by the lead author and independent expert Prof. Manfred Nowak.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (SRSG VAC), Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid is coordinating the UN Interagency Task Force on Children Deprived of Liberty.

Prof. Manfred Nowak
Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid


The idea is to organise an international global Forum of two days three years after the publication of the Study. It will be an opportunity to take stock of the work achieved on justice for children and deprivation of liberty, mobilising key stakeholders to trigger action in front of unprecedented challenges, ensuring that no child is left behind. The Forum will be opened by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid and Prof. Manfred Nowak, the independent expert and lead author of the Global Study who will be also participating and sharing their experience from the Study and its dissemination.

The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty identified for each form of deprivation of liberty good practices of non-custodial measures as well as structural changes that facilitate the identification of such alternatives. For instance, in the case of administration of justice, developing comprehensive child protection systems, applying diversion at all stages as well as restorative justice principles are good practices that have given positive results. Moreover, integrating into the national law the recommendations of the UNCRC included in the General Comment 24 (2019) on children’s rights in the child justice system (e.g. minimum age of criminal responsibility, time limits for police custody and pretrial detention, specialised child justice systems…) could prevent or significantly limit the number of children deprived of liberty.

High-Level Advisory Committee

Jennifer Davidson

Professor Jennifer Davidson is the Executive Director of the Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures, and its Inspiring Children’s Futures Doctoral Research Centre. Jennifer works to embed children’s human rights into the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, for example as Project Director of the access-to-justice project: Justice for Children, Justice for All Global Initiative on behalf of the United Nations-sponsored Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. During COVID, working in partnership with a wide range of international partners, Jennifer initiated and leads the international ‘COVID 4P Log for Children’s Wellbeing’ Smartphone App project. Jennifer is the Founding Director of the leading improvement and innovation centre, the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection at the University of Strathclyde. Jennifer was awarded an OBE in the 2020 Queen’s Honours for services to the care and protection of children in Scotland and abroad.

Jaap Doek

Former member and Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (1999 – 2007), he was also the General Rapporteur of the Third World Congress on Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents (2008) and member of the Editorial Board for the UN Study on Violence against Children (2003-2006). He was involved in the creation of DCI and established DCI’s national Dutch section in 1984. Jaap Doek is the special legal advisor of ECPAT and in that capacity he was involved in the drafting of the Terminology Guidelines for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (also known as The Luxembourg Guidelines 2016) and in the production of the Explanatory report to the Guidelines (Bangkok: ECPAT sept. 2019).  He was also involved in the development of the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which were adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN Doc. CRC/C/156, 10 September 2019).

Virginia Gamba

Professor Virginia Gamba was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict at the Under-Secretary-General level in April 2017. She served most recently as Assistant Secretary-General, Head of the Joint Investigative Mechanism Syria (SC Res 2235 and 2319). She previously served as Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and Director of the Office for Disarmament Affairs. Past engagements with the United Nations include serving as Director of the Disarmament and Conflict Resolution Programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva (1992-1996). Ms. Gamba has a long career in peace and security, human security and disarmament issues. 

Meskerem Geset Techane

Meskerem Geset Techane is a human rights lawyer, and a keen advocate of women’s and girsl’ rights. She is currently a chair of the United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women and girls in law and in practice. She previously held positions as a High Court Judge in Ethiopia, and Deputy Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA). Meskerem has worked closely with the African human rights mechanisms and was involved in drafting African Union human rights laws, policies and studies. She served as an expert member in different Working Groups of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and collaborated with the various Special Rapporteurs of the Commission.

Ton Liefaard

Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard is Vice-Dean of Leiden Law School and he holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the Head of the Department of Child Law and the Director of the Master’s Programme (LL.M) Advanced Studies in International Children’s Rights. He also coordinates the Leiden Summer School on International Children’s Rights. He teaches and publishes widely on issues related to international children’s rights, juvenile justice, child friendly justice, deprivation of liberty of children, violence against children and access to justice for children. Ton Liefaard regularly works as a consultant for international organizations, including UN agencies, the Council of Europe and the European Union. He was a member of the International Advisory Board of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

Najat Maalla M’jid

On 30 May 2019, the Secretary-General appointed Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid (Morocco) as his Special Representative on Violence against Children. Dr. Maalla M’jid took her position on 1st July 2019. Dr. M’jid, a medical doctor in paediatrics, has over the last three decades devoted her life to the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Dr. M’jid was a member of the Moroccan National Council on Human Rights and founder of the non-governmental organisation Bayti, the first programme addressing the situation of children living and working in the streets of Morocco. From 2008 to 2014, she served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Dr. M’jid also worked as an Expert-Consultant for national and international projects, strategies and policies relating to child rights’ promotion and protection.

Mikiko Otani

Mikiko Otani is an international human rights lawyer based in Tokyo where practicing family law with focus on women’s and children’s rights. She is Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Council Member of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and former Chair of the Committee on International Human Rights of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. She is also the country representative of Japan for the Family Law and Family Rights Section of LAWASIA (The Law Association for Asia and the Pacific). The areas of her focus include child justice, human rights education, early childhood development, child participation, girl child, child marriage, human trafficking and migrant children. As a leading woman lawyer representing civil society in Japan, Ms. Otani was an Alternate Representative of the Delegation of Japan to the 60th and the 61st UN General Assembly (Third Committee) (2005-2006) and an Advisor (NGO Representative) of the Delegation of Japan to the 53rd UN Commission on the Status of Women (2009).

Manfred Nowak

Manfred Nowak is Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice, Professor of International Human Rights at Vienna University and Director of the Vienna Master of Arts in Human Rights. He previously served in various expert functions, such as UN Expert on enforced disappearances (1993-2006), UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (2004-2010), judge at the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996-2003) and Vice Chairperson of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (2013-2018). In 2016 he was appointed Independent Expert leading the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. He was Director of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights at Utrecht University (SIM, 1987-1989) and of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights at Vienna University (BIM, 1992-2019) as well as Visiting Professor at the University of Lund (2002-2003), the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva (2008-2009), and at Stanford University in Palo Alto (2014). He is author of more than 600 publications in the fields of public international law and human rights.

Ann Skelton

Ann Skelton is a Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria. She is also the Director of the Centre for Child Law which promotes children’s rights in South Africa through advocacy, law reform, research and litigation. She is a practicing lawyer who often appears in South African courts, arguing landmark children’s rights cases. She has worked as a children’s rights lawyer in South Africa for 30 years. Her global influence has been recognised through the Juvenile Justice Without Borders award (2017), her involvement as chairperson of the Advisory Board of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty and being appointed as an Ambassador for the British Society of Criminology. Ann Skelton is currently a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, having been elected in 2020 for the second term of office.

Benoit Van Keirsbilck

Founder and director of Defence for Children International – Belgium, Benoit Van Keirsbilck has worked on issues relating to child justice as well as deprivation of liberty leading him to actively work towards the realisation of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty as part of its Advisory Board. He has a rich and broad experience: working in the field alongside children and families, legal expertise, evaluation of social and legal systems, training of professionals, writing articles and publishing books, monitoring legal proceedings at national and international levels, participation in expert committees, teaching. Benoit Van Keirsbilck is member and Teacher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Rights of the Child (Centre interdisciplinaire des Droits de l’Enfant – CIDE) an academic Research and Training Center, since 2007 and Editor in Chief – Journalist at the “Children’s right journal” (Journal du Droit des jeunes), since 1990.In 2021, Benoit Van Keirsbilck was appointed as member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.


The experts (national and international) – children and adults – addressing the Forum have a rich and confirmed experience within different child rights areas and possess recognised competence and vocation in this field. A balance between grassroots, national, regional and international levels will be ensured among the participants.