Around the world, an unknown number of children are deprived of their liberty every year. Such detention often occurs in squalid conditions, without adequate oversight and regulation, negatively impacting children’s mental and physical development. Despite evidence that deprivation of liberty is both costly and harmful,
there is an acute lack of comprehensive, disaggregated data and qualitative research on child detention, leaving States without a clear indication of the scope of the problem or adequate information on alternatives to detention that may be more beneficial to both children and society.

What is the UN Global Study?

The UN Global Study on children deprived of liberty (“Global Study”) will collect sorely needed qualitative and quantitative data on children in detention, while also studying good practices that can shape more effective policies and practices. Previous in-depth UN studies of this caliber have proved crucial in providing an objective reference point for serious issues such as children affected by armed conflict (Machel Study, 1996) and violence against children (Pinheiro Study, 2006).

The Global Study will take into account deprivation of liberty in all its forms, including: children in conflict with the law, children confined due to physical or mental health or drug use, children living in detention with their parents, immigration detention, and children detained for their protection or for national security reasons such as during armed conflict. It will take a collaborative approach with the involvement of a range of actors, including UN agencies, States, civil society organizations, academics, and children.

Support for the UN Global Study?

In December 2014, during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, UN member States adopted resolution A/Res/69/167:

“To invite the Secretary-General to commission an in-depth global study on children deprived of liberty, funded through voluntary contributions and conducted in close cooperation with relevant United Nations agencies and offices . . . and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Member States, civil society, academia and children, and to include good practices and recommendations for action to effectively realize all relevant rights of the child . . .”


The key output of the Global Study will be an in-depth, comprehensive global report to be presented to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) at its 73rd regular session (2018).


In October 2016, the UN Secretary General appointed Manfred Nowak as Independent Expert to lead the Global Study. Mr. Nowak is a professor of international law and human rights at the University of Vienna and the Secretary-General of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice.  He was previously the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and a member of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Get Involved

There are now over 100 non-governmental organizations from around the world who support the Global Study as members of the NGO Panel. The IDC Secretariat is a member of the NGO Panel, and encourages our Members to also join the NGO Panel to lend your support to the Global Study.

The IDC is also holding a free webinar to inform our Members and partners further about the Global Study and to discuss how to best support the Independent Expert on the collection of data and good practices around ending the immigration detention of children.