Children's Equitable Access to Justice: Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Every day, millions of children in the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia region have their rights violated. They are denied access to school, health care and social benefits, unduly separated from their families, and affected by exploitation, abuse and violence in their homes and communities. Everywhere, groups of children are being left behind, victims of prejudice and discrimination. Among the most vulnerable are children born into poverty, children of ethnic minorities and children with disabilities. Yet, only a fraction of children whose rights are violated come forward and seek redress, and even fewer obtain an effective remedy.
The right to access justice – while being generally recognized for adults – still seems, in the minds of many, inconceivable or unacceptable when it comes to children. This is true for all children but is exacerbated for the child with a disability, the Roma child, the child in detention – to name just a few of the most excluded groups of children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has changed the way children are viewed and treated, and today, more than ever, children are seen as human beings with a distinct set of rights rather than as passive objects of care and charity. The unprecedented acceptance of the Convention – the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history – shows the global commitment to advancing children’s rights. This shift does not yet correspond, however, to full recognition – much less full realization – of the child’s right to access justice.
Without access to justice, though, child rights commitments will remain only promises on paper. As stated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, “for rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations.” Accessing justice is a child right in itself, but it is also a means to enforce all rights under the Convention and other international and national standards.
Now, 25 years after the adoption of the Convention, the time has come to address this issue, thus far given insufficient attention.