Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference

On 18 November 2019 the Independent Expert leading the global study on children deprived of liberty, Professor Manfred Nowak, spoke at the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The event marked the official release to the media of the final report on the ‘Global study on children deprived of liberty’, which Professor Nowak had originally submitted to the Third Committee of the General Assembly during its 74th session in New York on 8 October 2019.

Professor Manfred Nowak appearing at the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on 18 November 2019 – copyright of UN Web TV.

During the press conference Professor Nowak outlined the focus and findings of the final report, which examined six situations of children deprived of their liberty, including in the administration of justice, children living in prisons with their primary caregivers, migration-related detention, institutions, armed conflict and national security contexts. Shockingly, the study had found the following:

“Data collected for the study and well-grounded scientific approximations indicate that, altogether, a minimum of between 1.3 and 1.5 million children are deprived of liberty per year. Of those, the largest number are in institutions (430,000–680,000), followed by those in the administration of justice (410,000), migration-related detention (330,000), in armed conflict situations (35,000) and for national security reasons (1,500). An additional 19,000 children are living with their primary caregivers in prisons.”

Worse still, the above figures were deemed to be conservative estimations. Canada, like all countries, makes its own contribution to the above figures. Just this past week, CBC Radio threw a spotlight on a new report by the Canadian Council for Refugees, highlighting that children were still being held in immigration detention on a ‘regular basis’, despite government directives to the contrary.

An earlier Canada OPCAT Project article looked at the need and key recommendation of the report for independent oversight of such detention contexts, including immigration detention, through the ratification of the OPCAT.

Spooling backwards, and as noted in the summary of Professor Nowak’s report, in its resolution 69/157 of 18 December 2014 the UN General Assembly had invited the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth study on children deprived of liberty. Professor Manfred Nowak, a former highly impressive UN Special Rapporteur on torture, was appointed as the Independent Expert leading the study in October 2016.

The final report represents the first scientific attempt, on the basis of global data, to comprehend the magnitude of the situation of children deprived of liberty, its possible justifications and root causes, as well as conditions of detention and their harmful impact on the health and development of children. Even the briefest of glances at the final report’s conclusions and multiple related recommendations reveal that there is a great deal of work to be to done in this regard.

During the press conference Professor Nowak replied to a wide range of questions relating to the report and children deprived of their liberty from around the globe, including on the OPCAT and scope of deprivation of liberty. Interested readers can watch the full hour-long press conference on demand on UN Web TV, including a summary of the report’s key findings (ending at around the 15-minute mark).

Professor Nowak was scheduled to present his full report at two events in Geneva on 19 November 2019, more details about which can be found on the Twitter account and web-page of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.


Watch the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty Press Conference.

Find out more about Children Deprived of Liberty – The United Nations Global Study.

Read the report in English or in French.

Read why the UN Independent Expert Manfred Nowak urges OPCAT ratification.

Consult the new International Detention Coalition briefing paper on alternatives to immigration detention, Alternatives: Learning What Works & Why?