Highlights from roundtable meeting of experts on revised CFI & ARCW2018

 

The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) organized a roundtable meeting of renowned statisticians and experts from 27 to 28 March 2018 in Addis Ababa to review the conceptual and methodological framework of the revised CFI as well as the structure and analytical framework of the forthcoming African Report on Child Wellbeing 2018 (ARCW 2018).

At the meeting, participants agreed that the conceptual framework of the revised Child-friendliness Index and the methodological choices made are generally sound and good. There was also a similar positive reaction with regards to the theme, structure and analytical framework of the 2018 African Report on Child Wellbeing. They also pointed areas where further work was needed including the following:

  • There is a need to demonstrate the significance of both CFI and the 2018 ARCW to efforts being made to achieve child-focused SDGs, AU’s Agenda for Children 2040, and the broader AU development framework, Agenda 2063.
  • Equity related issues are important considerations when dealing with state accountability to children and should therefore be given attention.
  • Given the prevalence of conflicts in Africa, the forthcoming report needs to consider their huge impact on the lives of children.
  • A point of wide ranging discussion was how to deal with the important but contentious issue of military expenditure from the perspective of a government’s child-friendliness. It was left for ACPF to reflect on the pros and cons of its inclusion or exclusion from CFI.
  • Participants recommended the use of trend analysis to show how states have progressed over the years and not to judge them by the current status alone.
  • It was agreed that child participation, although critical, may be difficult to incorporate in the CFI. Suggestion was made to elaborate the progress made and the challenges encountered in a narrative in an appropriate section of the report.
  • There were also suggestions to consider, depending on data availability, use of poverty measure, particularly child poverty in assessing state performance.

Finally, Mr Richard Morgan, Director, Child Poverty Global Initiative at Save the Children and member of the International Board of Trustees of ACPF, while closing the meeting spoke of the unique role of the organisation and its continental and global engagements in promoting the realization of children’s rights. He called on international partners to support ACPF’s work and initiatives that are so valuable and critical in advancing the cause of children in the continent. He expressed his hope that the solidarity and spirit of partnership demonstrated in the meeting would continue and help achieve the ambitious agenda of the organization.

 

The Children’s Legal Protection Centre (CLPC) is established to provide legal protection to children through various interventions such as the provision of legal aid, psychosocial support and capacity building of key actors.

 

When a child or his/her representative approaches the CLPC seeking legal aid, a legal counsellor is appointed on her/his behalf to deal with the legal issue. However, as earlier and current experience of CLPC shows, those children seeking legal assistance are often in need of psychosocial services such as shelter, food, medical services, educational support, transportation, etc. In such instances, the psychosocial needs of the children become a priority concern that requires an immediate response, because if not adequately addressed, this could cause a damaging effect on the wellbeing of the child and in building up the child’s legal case as well.  

 

Evidently, the provision of psychosocial services directly to a child is beyond the objective and mandate of the CLPC. Instead, the CLPC has tried to put in place a mechanism where children involved in the justice system requiring such services are referred to psychosocial service providers whom the CLPC has a formal agreement with. This referral system enables the CLPC to address the needs of the children in a holistic and integrated manner.

 

However, there are still exceptional circumstances where a child approaching the CLPC may not be able to obtain essential psychosocial services immediately for various reasons such as lack of accommodation space, temporary closure of service, and/or absence of institutions providing the specifically required service. The child might not have a place to spend the night, he/she might not have the means to travel back to the place he/she came from, he/she might not have any food to eat, or he/she might not have the possibility to get immediate medical examination. Unless these and other related immediate psychosocial needs of the child are sufficiently met, there is a possibility that the child may experience irreversible physical or emotional damage at most or, at least, the CLPC may not succeed in the litigation process. Therefore, it is crucial that the immediate needs of the child are addressed sufficiently until such time he/she is referred to a psychosocial service provider or until the completion of the legal case.

 

It is on the basis of this rationale that ACPF introduced this initiative – The Victims’ Fund – which aims at creating a centralised fund from financial contributions of volunteers. This Fund shall be used to cover those immediate and necessary costs of children in need.

The Fund is centrally administered at ACPF based on a guideline for management of the funds developed by the staff of ACPF and CLPC. Clear procedures are put in place in terms of approval of beneficiaries of the fund as well as expenditures to be covered by the Fund. The Fund is managed by a Staff Committee of three, representing ACPF and CLPC staff.  Although this is purely a staff initiative, ACPF provides the required financial management to ensure transparency with regards to the utilisation of the funds.

 

The Fund shall only cover those expenses until such time when the child gets relevant support or services from other service providers or any other dependable benefactor.  Where a service provider or dependable benefactor cannot be found, the Fund shall only extend until such time that the case of the child is finalised by the CLPC.

 

Any interested person can make contributions to the Fund. Anonymous donations are also accommodated. The contribution shall, as much as possible, be made in cash for the purpose of easy administration of the Fund. Donations in kind could however be allowed in exceptional circumstances. The contribution can be made on a regular basis such as monthly and annually or could as well be a one-time donation. The amount of one-time contribution to the Fund shall not be less than BIRR 50.00. The Fund shall be deposited into ACPF’s account and all appropriate financial and accounting regulations and standards shall be duly complied with in all the transactions.

 

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The Children’s Legal Protection Center (CLPC)

The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)

Contact Person: Ms Roman Woldemariam

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 For any information, please call us at the following numbers:

 Tel. +251 116 628 192; +251 116 628 196; +251 116 628 199

  

THANK YOU FOR HELPING US SUPPORT CHILD VICTIMS

 

Africa still faces numerous challenges in the field of child protection. The continent has some of the highest rates of violence against children in the world. For instance:

  • Every second, a child reaches out to child helpline services to report abuse and violence
  • Over 60 per cent of children experience physical punishment from family members and caregivers in many countries in Africa
  • One in four African children experiences sexual violence
  • Each year, three million girls are at risk of genital mutilation and cutting in Africa. This harmful practice is almost universal in some countries.
  • 15 million girls are married every year. 40 per cent of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are married before their 18th birthday
  • Four out of ten boys in residential care institutions suffer physical violence, while two in ten experience some type of sexual violence
  • Violent and other cruel and degrading punishment of children has been documented in care settings and in penal institutions in many countries
  • Child trafficking is increasing: Sub-Saharan Africa reports the highest share of child trafficking in the world, and girls and boys are more or less equally detected.

 

To overcome these challenges, most African countries have put in place better legislative, policy and programmatic frameworks to protect children. Today, there is greater awareness of the need to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of children and greater political commitment to child protection than ever before. At the continental level, the fundamental right of children to be free of violence is recognised by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and through AU’s numerous policy frameworks, such as the Revised Call for Accelerated Action for Africa Fit for Children, African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the African Agenda for Children’s Rights 2040. The Regional Economic Communities have either developed a sub-regional plan of action to combat violence against children or have given prominence to the issue within their respective children’s policies.

 

At the national level, the language of children’s protection from violence is common place in constitutional clauses – violence, torture, cruelty and mistreatment are prohibited in almost all African Constitutions and children are protected under general human rights provisions. The introduction of legislation to protect children from all forms of violence is also gaining momentum in Africa. Some states have comprehensive legal instruments that offer a broad prohibition, while others have legislations on specific forms of violence.

 

Many African Governments are increasingly recognising the importance of setting the evidence base and conducting national surveys as well as developing routine administrative data collection systems to better measure and track the scope and scale of violence against children.

 

This page aims to gather all the resources produced by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and other continental and international organisations working to end violence against children. It hopes to make a substantive contribution to the evidence base and understanding of the nature, breadth and scope of violence against children in Africa. It further aims to inform and accelerate pan-African, regional and national efforts to prevent and respond to violence against children.

ACPF has currently proposed an MOU with the Commission of The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to concretise future engagements with regards to promoting child rights and wellbeing in the region.

 

The partnership’s vision is to promote the rights of children, their protection from violence, abuse and neglect, their inclusion in development and their access to basic social and health services within ECOWAS.

 

The proposed partnership is aimed at promoting the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child ; Supporting the implementation of the Children’s Policy in the region; Identification of challenges as well as achievements affecting the rights and wellbeing of children in the region through research and dissemination of evidence for informed policy making; and strengthening capacity building initiatives through various training workshops organised for policy makers in the region.

 

The partnership is further designed to advance the partner organisations’ work, through joint programmatic and capacity building initiatives, while maximising capacity to positively impact the lives of children in ECOWAS.

As part of its initiative of engaging with regional economic communities in Africa, ACPF authored the initial draft of the Children’s Policy of the East African Community (EAC).  ACPF further pursued its work with the EAC towards the finalisation, adoption, and implementation of the Policy through the continuous lobbying and push from the Inter-Agency Working Group on the EAC Child Policy (to which ACPF is a member), the Policy was adopted in March, and launched during the 2nd EAC Children’s Conference held in Nairobi in August 2016. The adoption of the Policy was the culmination of a lengthy process of advocating and drafting since 2013.

 

The Policy is very significant for the protection of children in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as it forms a basis for engaging EAC Partner States on a common approach to issues affecting children in the region.  One of the priority areas under the Policy is the harmonisation of national laws and policies to the African Charter and the UNCRC as well as other international child rights instruments.

 

ACPF will continue to be involved in the implementation of the Policy, including the review of national laws to give effect to the Policy.

 

An MOU is currently under discussion with the EAC Secretariat.

 

 

 

 

Impact of CLPC

The main objective of undertaking various interventions on child right issues is to facilitate changes in institutional, legal and social rules, procedures and behaviour.  It is believed that all activities carried out by CLPC under the four programmes since 2005 have contributed to the overall improvement in accessing justice to children.  Though it might be difficult to attribute and articulate all positive changes on children in Ethiopia to CLPC’s works, the following concrete changes that would have a long term impact on the lives of children, however, could be observed as a result of interventions carried out by CLPC in the past five years.

 

Improving access to legal and psychosocial services

The CLPC has played significant role in improving access to quality legal and psychosocial services in Addis Ababa and regions. These services have brought positive changes in the lives of many children.  Apart from the services directly provided, CLPC has also sensitized as well as initiated other actors for the establishment of formal networks among legal aid and psychosocial service providers to improve children’s access to relevant legal and psychosocial services.

 

Contributing to law reform

The domestic laws and policies of Ethiopia that are relevant to child victims and children in conflict with the law are not entirely harmonised with international child rights standards. There are still some areas that are unfriendly to these particular groups of children.  The CLPC has, therefore, tried to use the opportunity of the process of the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code by the Ministry of Justice.  Indeed, the studies conducted by CLPC have provided evidence regarding the gaps in the law and practice.  The National Policy Conference provided the basis for subsequent forums which ultimately produced a comprehensive document that was formally submitted to the Ethiopian Legal Research Institute to be considered in the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code

 

Strengthening structures and improving practices

The CLPC has initiated and strengthened existing child friendly structures that would have a long term impact towards facilitating access to justice. Accordingly, the CLPC, in consultation with the Federal First Instance Court designed pro-child custody assessment procedures. This document is currently in use at the Federal First Instance Court, Lideta Bench and has contributed to the improvement of the Court’s decision making process as judgments are based on the best interest of children.  Similarly, the CLPC has lobbied for the introduction of a uniform maintenance guideline that suits the best interest of the child seeking support from persons who are responsible to provide maintenance. Most court files clearly show that decisions on child maintenance are decided arbitrarily without considering the best interest of the children. Currently, the draft Guideline is being used by judges for rulings on child maintenance cases in uniform manner and ensuring the best interest of the child.

 

Litigation as a long-term change

The CLPC also used the legal service programme not only to benefit individuals but also to instigate judicial activism having a far reaching effect.  Hence as a result of conscious effort from CLPC, some of the court litigations handled by the Centre convinced the judiciary to interpret relevant legal provisions in light of child rights standards and principles recognised under the CRC and ACRWC. In this regard, the Cassation Bench of the Federal Supreme Court passed a landmark decision by invoking the principle of the best interest of the child, recognised under Article 3 of the CRC, when reversing the decision passed by lower courts on a child custody case despite the fact that the relevant family law provision provides otherwise. The Cassation Bench set precedence by recognising the principle of ‘the best interest of the child’ as the main standard to be considered when deciding the issue of child custody and other concerns affecting children. The CLPC has also won similar court decisions in relation to paternity cases. Apparently, the Revised Family Law has stipulated limited grounds for ascertaining paternity and the practice of courts has never been in favour of DNA test.  As a result, many children are affected as they are not able to obtain the necessary support from their fathers who have abandoned and/or neglected them. Following a series of dialogue with judges from the Federal High Court and Federal First Instance Court to use DNA test as one mechanism of ascertaining paternity, courts have since been ordering DNA test for about 42 cases handled by CLPC based on the principle of the best interest of the child.

A PROJECT INTEGRATED WITHIN THE CHILD JUSTICE PROGRAMME OF THE GOVERNMENT 

ACPF re-established the CLPC in 2012, in collaboration with the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia. The new CLPC aims at strengthening Government’s efforts to enhance the child justice administration and to create a sustainable child protection structure in the justice system.

 

The unique feature of the CLPC is that it works closely and in partnership with local and international partners and operates under government oversight. This particular feature of the CLPC is the major leverage that made its operation quite effective, through facilitating the referral system service delivery, speeding up children’s court cases and ensuring better enforcement of its legal counselling services.

 

Through its four branch offices provided by the three tiers of the Federal Judiciary - the Supreme Court, the High and First Instance Courts - the CLPC is providing comprehensive and effective services to children in contact with the justice system. The activities of the CLPC go beyond providing legal aid and encompass other psychosocial services and capacity building endeavors.

 

The CLPC is an attempt to ensure the protection of children’s best interests through legal aid service provision by establishing a pro-bono lawyers’ scheme. Apart from its legal aid services, the CLPC’s mediation service, paternity establishment through DNA testing as well as provision of other psychosocial services are helping to remove barriers children face in accessing justice and ensuring their rights and wellbeing. 

 

Since its establishment, the CLPC carried out several important realisations, including:

  • The CLPC has used the opportunity of the processes of the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code as well as the Legal Aid Strategy by the Ministry of Justice to advocate for law reform.  Indeed, the studies conducted by CLPC have provided evidence regarding the gaps in law and practice.  The National Policy Conference provided the basis for subsequent forums which ultimately produced a comprehensive document that was formally submitted to the Ethiopian Legal Research Institute to be considered in the revision of the Criminal Procedure Code. The redefinition of Powers and Responsibilities of the Executive has also improved the legal framework in defining the access to free legal aid. The CLPC has also greatly contributed to the development of the National Child Policy.
  • The establishment of a referral system involving 37 governmental and non-governmental organisations with the aim of improving the administration of justice for children and ensuring the protection of the best interest of children involved in the justice system.
  • The development of Standard Guidelines for a Child-Friendly Administration of Justice for the judiciary which sets forth uniform child-friendly implementation parameters, courtroom set-ups, referral systems, capacity building strategies as well as a data management system that should be applied by courts across the country. These guidelines were unanimously endorsed at the National Experience Sharing Workshop conducted in May 2014 by the Presidents of all the Regional and Federal Supreme Courts who pledged to put the document into use in their respective regions.
  • The establishment of a national legal aid network among legal aid service providers across the country to help improve the quality of legal aid service and widen the accessibility of such services to children and other vulnerable groups of the society
  • The setting-up of a pro-bono lawyers’ scheme involving 34 qualified independent lawyers working with the Center providing free legal aid services for children.
  • Institutionalisation and standardisation of the CLPC’s mode of operation and service delivery through the development of various guidelines such as the pro-bono lawyers’ guidelines, legal counselling guidelines, as well as guidelines for court representation, case follow-up, referral and mediation services as well as guidelines for psychosocial counselling.
  • Improvement of children’s access to justice through the provision of legal aid to over 30,000 children coming in contact with the justice system out of which more than 20,000 are girls.
  • The family mediation services being provided by the CLPC has benefited a number of children in maintaining family relationships and/or, in instances where maintaining the relationship may not be possible, providing counselling to couples on the need for fulfilling their parenting responsibility as it benefits their children.
  • Capacity building of over 2,000 law enforcement personnel and other professionals working closely with children involved with the justice system carried out through various training workshops.
  • Awareness creation within the general public on the rights of children carried out through the production and dissemination of information, education and communication (IEC) materials and media.
  • The rollout of the CLPC and its referral system to three regions in Ethiopia: namely, Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR. 
SUSTAINABILITY OF THE CLPC

Federal courts provide working space and cover some of the CLPC’s administrative costs. Other local partners provide legal and psychosocial services to children, and work closely with the CLPC to improve and sustain the administration of justice for children.

 

ACPF has been extensively advocating for the absorption of the key functions of the CLPC within the public sector scheme. In this regard, the Government has already developed a proposal to integrate the CLPC as a national child protection structure within the Judiciary. There is political will from the Supreme Court officials to sustain the work of the CLPC even though the process of endorsement of a new structure and implementation is quite slow. 

 

ACPF and the Federal Supreme Court have also taken steps to sustain the establishment of Social Work Units in the courts’ system which is a major child-friendly intervention to form a bridge between clients and the complex and more formalised court systems, in addition to responding to the psychosocial needs of children passing through the justice system.

 

With the intention of sustaining and expanding the accessibility of social work throughout the country, a tailored training programme has been designed with a plan to train some Federal and Regional Court officers in social work through an 18-month Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program. The major stakeholders involved in the design and development of the program have been the Federal First Instance Courts, the Federal Supreme Court’s Child Justice Project Office, the Federal Justice Organs’ Professional Training Centre, the Ministry of Education, the Addis Ababa TVET Agency, the Addis Ababa University School of Social Work, ACPF and UNICEF.

 

 To date, the following tasks have been completed:

  • The training has been accredited as TVET Level 4 Community Service Programme with the Ministry of Education
  • The curriculum and the training modules were developed by experts from the Addis Ababa University School of Social Works and supported by ACPF
  • The certification of trainers by the TVET Agency is now completed
  • It is planned to start the training in 2018 within the newly constructed training complex of the Federal Justice Organs Professional Training Centre.
FINANCING OF THE CLPC

ACPF financially supported the work of the CLPC since its reestablishment in 2012 with funding from generous partners, such as Plan Netherlands, Plan Norway, the Canadian Embassy, the French Embassy and the British Council CSSP project.

 

Currently, funding for the CLPC is ending and ACPF is also lobbying the Government to take over key functions of the CLPC, including critical staff running the center.  ACPF’s gradual phase out from the CLPC project started in 2017. From June to September 2017, ACPF has maintained key staffs to help the CLPC function with minimum capacity until the integration by Government is complete. This is done to support the court to transition smoothly with no major interruption in the functions of the CLPC.

AN ACPF INITIATIVE

ACPF established the Children’s Legal Protection Centre (CLPC) in 2005 as part of its Children and the Law Programme with the overall objective of ensuring access to justice to all children. In 2010, ACPF terminated the services of the CLPC in its initial set-up and re-established it in 2012, as a government-owned programme intended to develop and implement sustainable child protection strategies and mechanisms nationwide.

THE CHILDREN’S LEGAL PROTECTION CENTER (CLPC): ADVOCATING FOR IMPROVED ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN

During its operations between 2005 and 2010, the CLPC was running under the aegis of ACPF providing administrative and technical support. It was located in the center of Addis Ababa with a friendly office environment for children. It was initially established to provide legal advice and judicial representation to children, as well as information, education and training on child rights. In August 2006, two additional areas were added to its remit: advocacy and psychosocial support. Its work was framed by the UNCRC and the ACRWC. It adopted an explicitly rights-based approach in its interventions.

The overall objective of the CLPC was to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of children who were victims of exploitation, violence, abuse and neglect, or in conflict with the law, by:

  • Providing free legal counselling to children and their families both for those who are victims of abuses and those in conflict with the law
  • Providing judicial representation in cases involving complex legal issues of children
  • Providing in-house counselling to children with legal cases at the Center and facilitating the access of children who are survivors of abuse to other complementary support services, such as temporary shelter and psychosocial assistance
  • Providing legal education and training to various target groups
  • Advocating for legal and policy reforms.

State infrastructure for child protection in Ethiopia was inadequate. There was no overarching Children’s Act codifying children’s legislation, and the CRC had not been published in the relevant legal Gazette. Previously, this led to ambiguity about whether the CRC could be directly applied in domestic courts.  This ambiguity regarding the direct application of the CRC in courts was resolved in 2007 through court litigations handled by the CLPC:

LITIGATION AS A LONG-TERM CHANGE

This particular case involves a 15-year-old child who was living with his aunt since he was one-year old. His father was married with two children and running his own business. When the child's mother died two years earlier (in 2005) leaving behind a large amount of money and property, the father filed an application to the local court to be appointed as the legal guardian of the child. The court automatically granted him the guardianship. This is because, according to the relevant Ethiopian law, as long as the child's parents are alive, other individuals cannot have any legitimate ground to become guardians. The only issue examined by the court was, therefore, the hierarchy of relationship the parties have with the child, instead of their respective disposition to protect his best interest. Following his appointment as the guardian to the child, the father was recklessly squandering the assets left by the deceased mother.

The aunt, assisted by the CLPC, complained about the irresponsible actions of the father to the same court that granted the guardianship to the latter. But the court was not willing to entertain the complaint. Hence, the CLPC was forced to take the case on successive appeals to the Regional High Court, Supreme Court and, finally, to the Cassation Bench of the Regional Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the appeals were rejected at all levels on grounds of the same legal reasoning adopted by the lower court. After failing in all appellate levels, the last place left for the CLPC to try its 'chance' was the Cassation Bench of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia. Finally, the Cassation Bench reversed the decisions passed by the lower courts by applying the principle of the best interest of the child and assigned the aunt as the legal guardian of the child.

This was a landmark decision for the country and set a precedent for Article 3 of the CRC, regarding the best interests of the child to be the principal consideration for cases concerning children.  

CONTRIBUTING TO THE ESTABLISHMENTS OF CHILD-FRIENDLY STRUCTURES
  • A number of Child Protection Units have been established in police stations in Addis Ababa and some regional cities. These units have contributed to the better treatment of children in contact with the law; however, they face significant problems, including lack of legal mandate and appropriate training as well as financial and human resources constraints. Since its establishment, the CLPC has made a significant contribution to bridge the gap through regular training and education targeting the relevant staff members who are running these units.
  • There were very few child-friendly courts in Ethiopia, except for some pilot benches. A sizable section of vulnerable groups of children were passing through vagrancy procedure and there were very poor provisions for legal aid for children in conflict with the law. Though the Ethiopian Criminal Procedure Code gives the courts the mandate to appoint a publicly funded lawyer to a child who has no parent or guardian to represent him or her, or who is charged with an offence punishable by a sentence of ten-years imprisonment or death, in practice however, children were rarely, if ever, legally represented in court. Once convicted, children were often imprisoned in adult prisons. Without representation, children often pleaded guilty when in fact they may not be guilty at all.
  • The CLPC has initiated and strengthened existing child friendly structures that would have a long term impact towards facilitating access to justice. Accordingly, the CLPC, in consultation with the Federal First Instance Court designed pro-child custody assessment procedures. This document is currently in use at the Federal First Instance Court, Lideta Bench and has contributed to the improvement of the Court’s decision making process as judgments are based on the best interest of children.  Similarly, the CLPC has lobbied for the introduction of a uniform maintenance guideline that suits the best interest of the child seeking support from persons who are responsible to provide maintenance. Most court files clearly show that decisions on child maintenance are decided arbitrarily without considering the best interest of the children. Currently, the draft Guideline is being used by judges for rulings on child maintenance cases in uniform manner and ensuring the best interest of the child.

Aside from the inadequacies of the child justice system, there was a significant lack of data in relation to children’s rights on areas including domestic adoption, street children, children involved in armed conflict, children without parental care, children involved in the justice system, and sexually abused and trafficked children.  In its five-year existence, through research, the CLPC has achieved considerable success in filling some of the gaps in the provision of legal aid and psychosocial support for children, as well as in raising awareness more generally about children’s rights and advocating for policy reform.

From 2005 to 2010, the CLPC has:
  • Provided legal counselling and judicial representation to 5,712 children (child victims and children in conflict with the law) as well as direct and indirect psychosocial services to 1,035 children;
  • Prepared independent reports on referred cases from the Federal First Instance Court on custody assessment and visitation rights
  • Organised capacity building training for media and community-based organisations
  • Disseminated information on various issues regarding children’s rights using newspapers, radio and television programmes
  • Conducted research on various issues, including children in prison and detention centers and the legal rights of children living with HIV/ AIDS
  • Provided training for judges, public prosecutors and police officers
  • Advocated on the following five issues, including the organisation of debates between law school students at Addis Ababa University:
    • Determination of custody disputes in the best interest of the child
    • Admissibility of DNA test results as proof of paternity
    • Determination of child maintenance
    • Bail rights for the accused charged with sexual abuse against children
    • Admissibility of claims for the emancipation of the child; the CLPC has seen several cases where children are unable to apply to the court to challenge a court decision that appointed a guardian who has become abusive or exploitative.

 

The ACERWC draws its mandate from Articles 32-46 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the OAU on 11th July 1990 and came into force on 29th November 1999.

 

The Charter provides for the establishment of an African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child consisting of 11 members.

 

The functions of the Committee include the following:

  • Promote and protect the rights enshrined in the Charter.
  • Collect and document information, commission interdisciplinary assessment of situations on African problems in the fields of the rights and welfare of the child, organize meetings, encourage national and local institutions concerned with the rights and welfare of the child and where necessary give its views and make recommendations to Governments.
  • Formulate and lay down principles and rules aimed at protecting the rights and welfare of children in Africa.
  • Cooperate with other African, international and regional institutions and organisations concerned with the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the child.
  • Monitor the implementation and ensure that the rights enshrined in the Charter are protected.
  • Interpret the provisions of the Charter at the request of a State Party, an institution of the OAU/AU or any other person or institution recognised by OAU/AU.
  • Perform such other tasks as may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

 

 

The framework of cooperation between the Committee and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) is outlined in the Committee’s Rules of Procedure (sections 34, 37, 81 and 82) and the Criteria for Granting Observer Status to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Associations.

 

So far, the Observer Status has been granted to about 20 international organisations and NGOs working on the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the Child in Africa.

 

 

 

 

For the past ten years, ACPF has organised training workshops for African Civil Society Organisations on a number of key themes, especially on Governance, Budgeting for Children, Harmonisation of Laws, Protecting Children from Violence, Abuse and Neglect, Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities in Africa, etc.

 

Today, in collaboration with partners such as Save the Children’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, ACPF organises training workshops every year in an effort to improve the implementation and the enforcement of children’s rights through enhancing the capacity of child rights governance institutions at the regional, sub-regional and national levels to play their role effectively. The overall goal of these workshops is to build the capacity of child-focused CSOs in Eastern Africa to monitor the implementation of the African Children’s Charter, and to engage effectively with the ACERWC. The workshops are attended by CSOs from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Egypt, etc.  The topics covered include understanding the African Children’s Charter and its monitoring mechanisms; CSOs’ engagement with the Committee, including complementary reporting, participation in the Committee’s pre-sessions, and observer status; child rights monitoring and advocacy, including the role of CSOs in State Party Reporting; and child participation in child rights governance.

 

The training programmes provide CSOs with a better understanding of the Charter and the Committee’s work, as well as practical information on how to engage with the Committee. This knowledge will enhance the involvement of CSOs in monitoring child rights implementation and hence facilitate government accountability for fulfilment of the obligations under the ACRWC within the Eastern Africa region. Robust CSOs involvement in the implementation of the Charter will contribute to a better protection of children, as well as more effective ACERWC. 

 

The Child Rights Governance Project at ACPF was designed with these developments and rationales in mind. It seeks to contribute to improved implementation and enforcement of child rights and child protection laws and policies in Africa, through building evidence and knowledge on better child protection and child rights governance practices, as well as by contributing to the enhancement of the capacity of institutions to better link child rights policy to practice and promote greater government accountability. It is widely documented that, whereas resource availability and prioritisation play a significant role in the implementation of the rights, the inadequacy of resource and knowledge capacity amongst key stakeholders in the sector is a major impediment to the fulfilment of and accountability for the implementation of these rights. The project therefore seeks to build knowledge on better ways of co-ordination within institutions as well as amongst different institutions across the sectoral spectrum.

 

The objectives of the Project are regional, multi-sectoral and cross-thematic. The Project seeks to build on previous initiatives and will devote substantial attention to consolidating the gains made in advocating for child rights governance and child protection within the ACERWC and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), especially the East African Community (EAC). One of the greatest gains made within the EAC in the past few years has been the adoption of the EAC Child Policy in 2016. Furthermore, the EAC is a unique region having two of the world’s six pathfinder countries in addressing violence against children. These countries have the necessary and demonstrable political will and policy foundations to lead by example in protecting children against all forms of violence. Paying keen attention to and building upon the gains made in respect of the EAC is therefore essential to achieving the goals of the Project.  

 

Cross-country co-operation among CSOs and governments in addressing child protection challenges is also a central theme of this Project. Co-operation and cross-learning across regions both within the government and CSO sectors also form an important element of the Project. It seeks to boost capacity and facilitate transfer of knowledge and better collaboration and synergy among African CSOs by strengthening the African Partnership to End Violence Against Children (APEVAC) as a pan-African platform   established to facilitate the uptake of the VAC aspects in the Agenda 2040 for Children in Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through catalysing innovative programming, knowledge building and cross-country sharing. The Project will also continue building the capacity of CSOs to monitor the implementation of children’s rights.

 

Collaboration amongst the RECs is necessary given the enormity of child protection challenges and the similarity of the challenges facing the various sub-regions in the continent. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 has clearly articulated the need for greater integration of the continent, which includes cross-country and inter-regional collaboration in advancing human rights, especially children’s rights. The RECs can play an important role in linking the AU with Member States and in creating stronger integration within their own sub-regions as well as with their sub-regional counterparts.

 

The plight of children within the criminal justice system has been well documented as far as concepts and theories are concerned. However, there is very little (identifiable) literature on the treatment of children within the criminal justice system in Africa. As a result, this vulnerable group continues to be marginalised in legislative and policy frameworks, having dire consequences on the realisation of their rights. The absence of a separate system in many African countries to deal with the special needs of children in conflict with the law has been a major source of concern for the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The criminal justice system in many African countries is faced with poor administrative measures, and under-funding and therefore ill-equipped to protect the rights of children who come in conflict with the law. As a result, many children in conflict with the law end up in prisons (often with adults) without due regard being made in the course of the criminal proceedings to their age and immaturity.

 

Children come in contact with the justice system in many ways, including civil, criminal, administrative proceedings, and also in different capacities such as victims, complainants, witnesses and as suspects. Despite the frequent contact children might have with the justice system, available substantive and procedural standards are largely designed to fit adults and they seldom cater for the needs of children. As a result, the basic human right of access to justice for children is not given due consideration in the predominantly adult-oriented justice system. Even when there are special rules for treatment designed particularly for children, adherence to them by national legal, social welfare, justice and security institutions is far from expected.

 

The 2011 Conference on Child Justice organised jointly by ACPF and DCI carried the slogan “Deprivation of children’s liberty as the last resort”, to emphasise the need for specialised procedures for children in conflict with the law, who in most cases are detained in prisons, often alongside adults, therefore violating international and regional standards.

 

As was revealed through the conference discussions, there is a very little understanding of children’s rights in the justice system on the part of both children and adults, which makes it unlikely for people to challenge the abuse perpetrated within the system. Furthermore, institutions dealing with children in conflict with the law are sometimes not child-friendly and their physical conditions are often in the grimmest of state in Africa. In addition, not much has been done at the policy level for children as victims and witnesses as the focus is usually on children in conflict with the law. This means there is an urgent need for new tools to help African States to adapt their justice systems to the situation of children, to bring their procedures up to speed with international standards, and to properly implement them. As such, one of the outputs of the Kampala Conference aimed at helping the African States to implement the existing standards as well as to adopt recommended procedures that exist elsewhere, was the ‘Guidelines on Action for Children in the Justice System in Africa’.

 

Among other things, the Guidelines provide standards for treating children in both the traditional and formal justice systems; stipulate fair trial rights for children in conflict with the law and fair trial rights in matters involving child victims and witnesses; provide for standards for justice for children as subjects of non‐criminal judicial or administrative proceedings, including alternative care proceedings and family law disputes; and most importantly, provide for mechanisms for monitoring and implementing of child justice standards.

 

The Guidelines were translated into English, French and Arabic and are also uploaded on this website. In March 2012, the Guidelines were officially presented to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) during their 19th Session, for review and consideration. The ACERWC officially endorsed the Guidelines on 11th July 2012.

 

In order to ensure continuity and measure progress towards implementing the Guidelines and enhancing the protection of children in the justice system in Africa, the Second Global Conference on Child Justice in Africa will be held in 2018.

The need for addressing the deficit in implementation of children’s rights

Nearly three decades have passed since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Evidently, there is a progressive movement towards the acceptance, recognition, institutionalisation, and implementation of children’s rights in Africa. Today, most African countries have put in place fairly comprehensive laws and policies pertaining to children. The main challenges, as elaborated in greater depth in the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2016, are in relation to the implementation of the commitments made in these laws and policies. There is, therefore, an urgent need for addressing the deficit in the implementation of children’s rights in Africa which calls upon Governments in particular to take appropriate measures to bridge the gap between policy and practice. Numerous factors contribute to the deficit in implementation of children’s rights in Africa. Institutional capacity limitations, lack of coordination among the various implementing agencies, insufficient budget to cover operational costs and, most importantly, lack of functional accountability mechanisms to enhance performance are the main impediments to the fulfilment of children’s rights and improvement of their wellbeing.

The need to strengthen the capacity of the ACERWC to deliver its mandate, particularly the interpretative and protection mandate

The capacity of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) to implement its mandate of monitoring and promoting the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child has greatly improved in the past few years. For instance, based on a steady campaign spearheaded by the ACERWC, most African States have ratified the Charter and submitted at least an initial report to the Committee. The Committee has also received and considered a number of Communications, issued Concluding Observations, and developed General Comments on three articles of the Charter. Despite this progress, the Committee’s capacity to implement its full mandate under the Charter and to maintain the momentum of effectiveness is limited. Complementing the efforts of the Committee is necessary to harness the current momentum and ensure the continuity of effort to enforce State Party accountability for the implementation of the Charter

The need to build the capacity of CSOs and children to demand state accountability for implementation of rights

Civil Society Organisations play a critical role in enforcing accountability for the implementation of children’s rights through monitoring States’ implementation of the treaties and advocating for action. The ACERWC has specifically called for an increased participation of CSOs in the implementation of the ACRWC, as well as the CRC. While opportunities for CSOs to engage with the Committee abound, there are significant capacity and knowledge gaps that undermine their capacity to effectively engage. There have been several initiatives, including training workshops organised in the past 3 years by ACPF and SCI, to build the capacity of CSOs and to provide platforms for CSOs to collectively and individually engage with the Committee. These efforts need to be continued and targeted to maximize synergy and ensure effectiveness of implementation interventions at both national and sub-national levels.

The need to promote public investment in children through child-friendly public budgets

It is acknowledged that Africa has been experiencing, and is expected to continue experiencing steady economic growth. There are more resources available for economic and social development today than a decade ago. Furthermore, Africa’s development blue print, i.e. Agenda 2063, seeks to harness and facilitate more of this development for the benefit of the citizens of Africa, including children. Commitments have also been made in terms of allocating budgets to the various sectors, especially health and education. Research, including that of ACPF’s, has found that African countries often fail to adhere to these budgetary commitments. It is therefore necessary to ensure that public financing, including revenue and resource allocation, in Africa is efficient and effective in achieving outcomes for children in health, education and protection.

 

The need for addressing the deficit in implementation of children’s rights

Nearly three decades has passed since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and, evidently, there is a progressive movement towards the acceptance, recognition, institutionalisation, and implementation of children’s rights in Africa. Today, most African countries have put in place fairly comprehensive laws and policies pertaining to children. The main challenges, as elaborated in greater depth in the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2016, are in relation to the implementation of the commitments made in these laws and policies. There is, therefore, an urgent need for addressing the deficit in implementation of children’s rights in Africa which calls upon, particularly, governments to take appropriate measures to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

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The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) 
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Engaging with Regional Economic Communities

 

Regional Economic Communities’
 
Regional Learning Workshop on Strengthening National Child Protection Systems in the EAC region<br />October 30-31, 2017, Kigali RwandaRegional Learning Workshop on Strengthening National Child Protection Systems in the EAC region
October 30-31, 2017, Kigali Rwanda
The workshop was organised by ACPF and the Secretariat of the East African Community.  Participants included mostly government experts from Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.  The workshop provided an opportunity to converse on what needs to be done to further strengthen national child protection systems in the East African region. This included a detailed discussion on a proposed regional framework for Strengthening Child Protection Systems in the East African Region. The workshop concluded with a resounding endorsement of the regional framework.

Africa has one of the largest populations of children with disabilities in the world. Disability in the continent has been fuelled by widespread armed conflicts and the legacy thereof, particularly in the form of uncleared mines, and by household poverty allied with a lack of adequate healthcare services. 

 

Despite the significant scale of the challenge, sufficient attention has not been accorded to the issue, either in research, policy and legislation, or in service programming. An interconnected set of factors explain this sorry state of affairs: limited political commitment, a genuine lack of resources, and lack of knowledge of current policy, legislative and programming options. Furthermore, due to disability-related stigma, discrimination and multiple other barriers, children with disabilities are often subject to violence and sexual abuse, and often forced to work under exploitative and dangerous conditions.

 

In 2009, The African Child Policy Forum embarked on an ambitious research project in many countries in Africa looking at an range of issues including the scale of disability amongst children, the level of poverty in households with disabled children, levels of access to services, the barriers that impede adequate access to education, a review of laws and policies related to children with disabilities, etc.  Countries studied include but are not limited to Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia.

 

These various studies resulted in a number of research outputs, advocacy reports and materials enabling ACPF to engage with policy makers, civil society and other stakeholders in Africa. In 2014, ACPF released its pan-African report – the first of its kind – entitled “The African Report on Children with Disabilities: Promising Starts and Persisting Challenges” – a report that presents a synthesis of the extensive research conducted throughout the years. The report describes – including through the voices of children – and analyses the cultural, social, physical and other societal barriers preventing children with disabilities from realising their full human potential.

 

ACPF has also made efforts to encourage the uptake of the research evidence around the protection challenges facing children with disabilities and to strengthen the capacity of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) to play an effective role in advocating for the protection right of children with disabilities. The focus was also on generating a multi-stakeholder consensus towards action, including better ways of mainstreaming the rights of children with disabilities within the DPO agenda.

 

This page briefly presents the work of ACPF with regards to advancing the right to protection of children with disabilities in Africa. Please contact us if you need further information on the theme.

 

An ACPF Initiative

ACPF established the Children’s Legal Protection Centre (CLPC)in 2005 as part of its Children and the Law Programme with an overall objective of ensuring justice to all children.

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CLPC Now

ACPF re-established the CLPC in 2012, in collaboration with the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia with the aim of strengthening Government’s effort to enhance child justice administration and to create a sustainable child protection structure in the justice system.

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Introducing CLPC

What do they say : Practitioners

What do they say: The Judiciary

Girl's dormitory at temporary shelter

Child Justice in Africa

Children come in contact with the justice system in many ways, including civil, criminal, administrative proceedings, and also in different capacities such as victims, complainants, witnesses and as suspects.

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Guidelines for Action for Children in the Justice System in Africa

Endorsement Letter by the ACERWC

ACPF’s Publications on Child Justice in Africa

Kampala Conference on Child Justice
Munyonyo, 7 November 2011, Kampala, Uganda


Africa has one of the largest populations of children with disabilities in the world.  Disability in the continent has been fueled by widespread armed conflicts and the legacy thereof, particularly in the form of uncleared mines, and by household poverty allied with a lack of adequate healthcare services. 

 

Despite the significant scale of the challenge, sufficient attention has not been accorded to the issue, either in research, policy and legislation or in service programming.  An interconnected set of factors explain this sorry state of affairs: limited political commitment, a genuine lack of resources, and lack of knowledge of current policy and legislative and programming options.  Furthermore, due to disability-related stigma, discrimination and multiple other barriers, children with disabilities are often subject to violence and sexual abuse, and often forced to work under exploitative and dangerous conditions.

+ Read more

 

Featured Publications

The African Report on Children with Disabilities

This report provides a detailed description, analysis and synthesis of the situation of children with disabilities across Africa, and gives concrete recommendations for future policy and programme reform. The report reviews the situation of children with disabilities from a pan-African perspective, and presents recommendations to promote inclusive and accessible laws, policies, and programmes for children with disabilities throughout Africa. The report is based on extensive research and evidence generated by ACPF and other institutions.

Access Denied : Voices of persons with disabilities from Africa

Towards greater mainstreaming of children with disabilities within the Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) agenda. This report is a synthesis of regional capacity assessments of DPOs conducted in the Southern and Eastern African regions and in the Western, Central and North African regions. The assessments highlight various challenges faced by DPOs in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and identify existing capacity gaps. The report also tries to provide important insights into how DPOs, in collaboration with governments, CSOs, development partners and donors, can further contribute to advancing the rights and inclusion of children with disabilities.

Assessing Disabled People's Organisations in Africa with a Child Rights Lens

This report assesses selected African cities in light of the accessibility and disability-friendliness of their built environments. The report identifies the barriers that persons with disabilities have to deal with in their day to day lives, and highlights some exemplary achievements in the creation of disability-friendly services and infrastructures. By drawing attention to the truly monumental barriers that children and persons with disabilities have to contend with, this report calls for the commitment of all stakeholders towards creating an ‘Africa fit for children with disabilities’.

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