On 16 June 2020, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, held a webinar organised by the Children’s Rights Unit on the occasion of the Day of the African Child 2020. The webinar focused on the issue of access to a child friendly justice system in Africa, against the backdrop of the 30 year anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Theme: The Day of the African Child, COVID-19 and access to a child friendly justice system in Africa
Moderator: Dr Nkatha Murungi
Assistant Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
- Lady Justice Maria Mapani-Kawimbe
Vice Rapporteur, African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC)
- Prof Ann Skelton
Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria; Member, Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- Dr Musavengana Chibwana
Senior Child Protection Officer, Children and Armed Conflict, ACERWC
- Ms Felistus Motimedi
Regional Coordinator of the Child Rights Network for Southern Africa (CRINSA)
The Day of the African Child (DAC) was instituted in 1991 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to commemorate the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa. The DAC is used to spotlight various issues affecting the rights of children in Africa, as guided by the selected themes. The theme identified by the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child for DAC 2020 is ‘Access to a child friendly justice system in Africa'.
Access to a child friendly justice system is one of the fundamental entitlements of the child which gives meaning to the other rights and freedoms through enabling enforcement of the rights. A child friendly justice system ensures that children are able to make meaningful use of the instruments of law enforcement, administration, judicial processes, as well as informal mechanisms of justice. Despite growing acceptance of this standard, access to a child friendly justice system remains largely beyond the reach to the vast majority of children in Africa.
Access to justice has taken a particularly heightened meaning within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the response measures taken. The overriding drive to ensure safety and security in the context of a health crisis has diminished further the opportunities for children to access mechanisms of justice. Similarly, there is evidence of increased violations of children’s rights during the enforced lockdowns, and a disregard or limitation of their rights such as education without opportunities for recourse.
The DAC 2020 also takes place at a particularly important moment, which is the celebration of the 30 year anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. At least 49 countries have ratified the Charter, and its imprint on national and regional policies on access to child friendly justice are clearly evident. It is therefore an opportune time to reflect on the journey so far, and what the future portends for access to a child friendly justice system in Africa.
Objectives of the webinar
- To commemorate the Day of the African Child 2020.
- To highlight the key issues affecting access to a child friendly justice system in Africa.
- To draw attention to the impact of COVID-19 on access to justice.
- Key issues in the protection of the right to child friendly justice.
- The contribution of the Charter to the goal of access to child friendly justice in Africa.
- The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s access to justice in Africa.
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