Regional standards

Regional human rights systems have also established conventions and guidelines that are relevant to child-friendly justice. While these have often been developed with a particular cultural context in mind, regional standards can still serve as a fine model to be elaborated and adapted in other parts of the world. Of particular note are instruments from the European and African systems, including:


  • Guidelines on Child-Friendly Justice: The Council of Europe approved Guidelines on Child-Friendly Justice to direct European governments in their efforts to enhance children's access to justice. The Guidelines address children's place and role in legal proceedings, as well as their views, rights and needs. Above all else, they aim to ensure that children's rights to information, representation, participation and protection are fully respected in all proceedings. Structurally, the Guidelines address the elements of child-friendly justice as they would arise during a child's encounter with the legal system, progressing from initial interactions with lawyers and the police through to court hearings and post-decision monitoring, enforcement or other follow-up activity.
  • European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights: The ECECR facilitates children's right to participate in certain family legal proceedings, recognising their rights to be informed, to express their views and to seek a special representative. Where a representative has been appointed for a child, he or she is expected to explain the judicial process and potential outcomes, ultimately determining and presenting the child's views to the court. Judicial authorities are also obliged to ensure that children are consulted and their best interests considered, acting with speed and where necessary urgency to reach decisions.


  • Guidelines on Action for Children in the Justice System in Africa: Prepared in conjunction with a regional conference on child-friendly justice, these Guidelines provide a framework for child-friendly justice law reform in Africa. The Guidelines apply to all proceedings that involve children, whether formal or informal, judicial or administrative, civil or criminal. The overarching principles mirror the Convention on the Rights of the Child and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the Guidelines detail specific measures to improve respect for children's rights from their first contact with the justice system. The underlying principles further emphasise the importance of children's access to justice, child rights-oriented legal representation, and child-friendly judicial settings. Notably, the Guidelines also devote special attention to child-friendly justice practices in traditional and religious courts.
  • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: Similar to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter offers a comprehensive set of children's rights obligations. States that have ratified the Charter agree that the best interests of the child is the primary consideration in all actions concerning children, and that children must be given an opportunity to express their views in any proceedings that concern them. The Charter also enshrines children's rights to privacy, to protection against child abuse and torture, and – in the context of children in conflict with the law – to be treated in a manner consistent with their dignity and worth.