Professor Manfred Nowak update on the Global Study at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee

On Tuesday, October 9, 2018, during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee panel discussion on the rights of the child, Professor Manfred Nowak, the Independent Expert for the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty did an update on the study’s progress and implementation phase.

The full speech can be found below:

“Thank you very much Mr./Mrs. Chairperson for the opportunity to address the Third Committee of the General Assembly,

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

In 2014, in resolution 69/157, the Assembly invited the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth global study on children deprived of liberty, funded through voluntary contributions and conducted in close cooperation with relevant United Nations agencies and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, academia and children, and to include good practices and recommendations for action to effectively realize all relevant rights of the child,

Following an extension in 2017, I will present a comprehensive Global Study to you one year from now.

The Study’s implementation phase was severely delayed due to lack of funding which was to come through voluntary contributions. Indeed, most of 2017 was dedicated to concerted fundraising efforts, to build an initial funding base for the Study to be realized. These efforts proved positive as approximately 1 million USD was raised by means of contributions received by Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Malta, Qatar, the European Union (EU), UNICEF and a private foundation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our friends of the Global Study for truly having saved the Study through their support. The need to continue joint fundraising efforts however remains, since the Global Study is still operating on essentially one fifth of its total budget.

Due to the funding challenges, the Study only commenced its effective implementation phase in early 2018, which included the adoption of a methodological framework to guide and structure the Study process.

Despite our limited resources, our joint activities have been maximized, and the Study has managed to enter its implementation phase with data being collected and good practices identified by means of a specific questionnaire and consultations, as well as thematic chapters being drafted by different research groups. The Global Study Team at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights now coordinates 9 research groups with more than 100 innovative, hard-working and committed researchers and practitioners across all continents. Next to the growing research network, an expanding and vibrant civil society network carries the Global Study. That said, I wish to thank all UN agencies, NGOs and academic institutions for their invaluable input pro bono. This does not go un-noticed and is deeply appreciated. The Global Study will be a truly joint achievement of many different Stakeholders.

In February 2018, a questionnaire to inform the Global Study was circulated to all member States and other stakeholders by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), and a reminder was circulated again in June 2018. To date a total of 86 replies have been received (53 from States and 33 from other relevant actors including UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, Ombudspersons, National Preventive Mechanisms and Non-Governmental Organizations). I take the opportunity to thank those who submitted a reply to the questionnaire and I am happy to see that many different actors are actively engaging in this important process, which shall leave a sustainable blueprint for all governments for future data collection on the situation of children deprived of liberty.

A total of six consultations already took place and four others will follow soon: Warsaw, Poland; Brussels, EU; Bangkok, Thailand; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Paris, France; Pretoria, South Africa; New York, United States; and upcoming consultations will take place in Montevideo, Uruguay (at the end of October); Tunis, Tunisia (November) and Montego Bay, Jamaica (December). Furthermore, two expert meetings took place in Venice in 2017 and in Vienna in 2018. I take this opportunity to thank all of those actors who supported the Global Study in providing these vital platforms and their expertise.

Moving forward, in 2019, the Study will enter its final phase, wherein the desk research carried out by the various research groups and the data received through the questionnaires and consultations will be consolidated into different chapters of the Global Study. It is foreseen that an expert meeting takes place in March 2019, to critically review all of the information gathered. This meeting would include members of the Advisory Board, leads of the different research groups and members of the United Nations Interagency Taskforce as well as children as they are experts in their own rights. A Global Study on children cannot happen without the active involvement of children.

Notwithstanding the achievements reached to date, challenges remain. Last year, when I addressed the Third Committee, I hoped not to have to come back to the financial situation; to be able to report that the funding situation was no longer our concern. However, we still require further funding to ensure the Study is completed to the best extent possible and in a professional manner. I call again on member States to step up and support this important process, particularly considering how far we have come with extremely limited resources. Let us not lose this momentum for children’s rights just because of financial shackles.

I am deeply convinced that the Global Study will have a milestone impact on the situation of children deprived of liberty. In the almost thirty years since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the issue of children being deprived of liberty has never been adequately addressed and continues to lag behind compared to other areas of the international treaty. Deprivation of liberty is an extremely serious issue, not only violating basic international human rights obligations but exposing each and every child who is detained, for whatever reason, to further human rights violations. With immigration detention currently on the rise, there seems to be more regression than improvement in the situation.

Dear friends, let me remind you, why it is important that the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty is a success. Deprivation of liberty of children is not merely an issue of international legal obligations not being fulfilled, but it has serious harmful effects on the mental and physical health and development of children and on society at large. Witnessing children behind bars during my time as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture was heart-breaking, as many children are tortured, neglected or isolated and crying for
help. The youngest victim I met was a three-year-old orphan in a terrifying institution that warehoused boys in a variety of situations and employed daily beatings for minor infractions.

The Global Study aims to bridge the data gap on the number of children in such situations and raise awareness about the risks posed to society as a whole. The Study will also develop evidence-based recommendations and compile best practices to help States uphold international obligations and reduce the number of children deprived of liberty – making children’s rights a reality and leaving no child behind.

I thank you for your time and attention and welcome any questions, comments or pledges you may have.”

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