In addition to findings related to the specific thematic areas, the Global Study also contains a large set of recommendations. As a follow-up to the Study, many activities have been funded in order to implement these recommendations.

Reduce the number of children in detention

States should significantly reduce the number of children held in places of detention and prevent deprivation of liberty before it occurs, including addressing the root causes and pathways leading to deprivation of liberty systemically and holistically. Deprivation of liberty shall only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

States should apply non-custodial solutions instead of detention. Non-custodial solutions include any legislation, policy or a range of practices that avoid detention. These alternatives can include conditions or restrictions to the persons´ freedom of movement.

Non-custodial solutions

UN Optional Protocols

States are strongly encouraged to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and to establish independent and effective National Preventive Mechanisms with particular expertise to conduct visits to places where children are or may be, deprived of liberty. States are also strongly encouraged to ratify the third Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) on a communications procedure (OPIC), enabling children to further seek redress for violations of their rights.

States are urged to develop national action plans with clear targets and benchmarks indicating how to reduce progressively and significantly the number of children in the various situations of deprivation of liberty and how to replace detention of children with non-custodial solutions.

National Action Plans or Policies

Data collection

States should regularly collect data, disaggregated by age, gender, and nationality, on the number of children deprived of liberty per year and on a ‘snapshot’ date. States are encouraged to establish an appropriate system of data collection that involves States agencies which are coordinated by a focal point.

Since children have the right under Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to be heard and actively participate in all matters directly affecting their lives, they shall be empowered to influence decisions relating to their treatment and enjoyment of essential services and have the right to effective remedies, as well as to lodge complaints to an independent and impartial authority on any grievances and human rights violations during detention. Furthermore, States are strongly encouraged to ratify the third Optional Protocol to the CRC on a communications procedure (OPIC), enabling children to further seek redress for violations of their rights.

Child participation

Child-friendly treatment

States should establish specialized child-friendly systems and other procedures involving their potential deprivation of liberty (e.g. in age-assessments). If detention is unavoidable under the particular circumstances of a case that are truly exceptional, States have an obligation to apply child-friendly conditions of detention, with arrangements and facilities, that promote the children’s´ welfare and healthy development.

They should ensure close inter-agency cooperation between the child welfare, social protection, education, health and justice systems, the law enforcement as well as the administration of migration and refugee policies. In this way, States are urged to build comprehensive child protection systems and early intervention policies aimed at preventing detention and at ensuring the well-being of children.

Institutional & inter-agency cooperation

Reduce inequalities & Support families

To address the root causes of deprivation of liberty of children, States should invest significant resources to reduce inequalities and support families to empower them to foster the physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development of their children, including children with disabilities. They shall repeal all laws and policies that permit the deprivation of liberty of children based on an actual or perceived impairment or based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

States should invest in human resources, awareness-raising, and systematic education and training of all professionals who work with and for children in decisions leading to their deprivation of liberty and those who are responsible for their well-being while in detention. This applies to police, judges, prosecutors, prison guards, psychiatrists, medical personnel, psychologists, educators, probation officers, social workers, child protection and welfare officers, asylum and migration personnel, and any other individuals in contact with children at risk of deprivation, or deprived of liberty.

Training for personnel

Child courts

States are called to establish effective child justice systems with special children’s courts, legal aid and adequate resources. Thus, States should among others, ensure that children are adequately informed about their rights (e.g. in age-appropriate language), develop child-friendly justice systems (e.g. with personnel adequately trained) and ensure that procedures are set in place so that children can themselves lodge complaints.

States should apply diversion at every stage of the criminal procedure, increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years, and shorten the length of detention. Diversion measures should equally be applied to boys and girls and be appropriate to the child’s age, level of maturity, as well as the situation in the community.

Diversion / Restorative justice

Prohibit immigration detention

Migration is not a crime and should therefore not be criminalized. Since migration-related detention. cannot be considered a measure of last resort and is never in the best interest of the child, it always violates Article 3 and Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. States are urged to stop all forms of immigration detention of children, whether unaccompanied or migrating with their families, and replace it with appropriate non-custodial solutions.

Children recruited by armed forces or groups designated as terrorists or violent extremists shall be treated primarily as victims rather than perpetrators with the aim of their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Further, States shall take responsibility for their child nationals detained abroad in facilitating their return to their country of origin.

Treat children as victims

Status offences

States should decriminalise perceived ‘immoral’ or ‘disruptive’ behaviour of children, as well as descriminalise consensual sexual activities between teenagers and other behaviour typical of children.

The detention of mothers and other primary caregivers with very young children should be avoided as much as possible. When sentencing a primary caregiver, courts shall recognize children as rights holders, take their best interests into consideration and avoid, as much as possible, prison sentences.

Avoid detention of caregivers


States should adopt a comprehensive deinstitutionalisation policy by developing appropriate family-type settings since children should not grow up in institutions characterised by strict discipline, neglect, abuse, and a lack of love. States are further urged to actively target the identified causes of children being separated from their families.

In all decisions that may lead to the detention of children, States shall most rigorously apply the requirement of Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that deprivation of liberty shall be applied only as a measure of last resort. This means that children may only be detained in truly exceptional cases. This concept is very linked to the best interests of the child, which shall be at primary consideration in all actions concerning children.

Measure of last resort

Improve detention conditions

If detention is unavoidable under the particular circumstances, it shall be applied only for the shortest appropriate period of time. States have an obligation to apply child-friendly and gender-sensitive conditions without discrimination. Children shall not be exposed to neglect, violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, ill-treatment, torture and inhuman conditions of detention. States should ensure that children have access to essential services aimed at their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, including education, vocational training, family contacts, sports and recreation, adequate nutrition, housing and health care. Health services in detention shall be of a standard equivalent to that available in the community at large.

Article 3(1) of the CRC provides that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. This concept is dedicated to ensuring children’s´ full and effective enjoyment of all the rights and their holistic development. The interest must be assessed by competent authorities, taking into account the full circumstances.

Best interest of the child