Methodology and research process


Evidence Based Data Collection

In order to inform the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, in February 2018, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), on behalf of the Independent Expert, distributed a questionnaire to member States and other relevant stakeholders, including international monitoring bodies, UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and academia.

Conceptually based on expert input from a consultative process which took place in 2017, the questionnaire “is primarily aimed at collecting and providing quantitative statistical data about the number of children deprived of liberty in the key focus […]. In addition, Governments are encouraged to provide examples of promising practices and innovative alternative approaches aimed at reducing the number of children deprived of liberty according to the child rights principles“. Access the questionnaire

Desk research

In addition to data gathered through the questionnaire, the Study offers a unique opportunity to take stock of available information on the situation of children deprived of liberty, the current legal and policy framework and its implementation in practice. For this purpose, the research process includes desk research activities, such as:

  • Literature review of articles and academic reports.
  • Review of relevant UN reports and data, e.g. from UNODC, UNICEF, UNHCR, OHCHR, SRSGs, WHO.
  • Review of relevant Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to deprivation of liberty, and information from the State reporting process.
  • Review of deprivation of liberty-related documents from relevant UN mechanisms (Human Rights Council; Special Procedures; Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; Committee against Torture; etc.) and regional mechanisms (ACERWC,  ASEAN, CoE, IACHR, etc.).
  • Review of information gathered from National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), through the UN and with the support of the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC), etc.
  • Review of civil society contributions, such as from partners of the NGO Panel, inter alia.

Thematic and Regional Consultations

Besides engaging in data collection and desk research on the dimensions of the phenomenon of deprivation of liberty, the Global Study engages in further in-depth analysis on certain issues through thematic and regional consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including State authorities, UN agencies, academia and civil society, as well as children themselves.

The overall purpose of the Consultations process is to:

  • Raise awareness of the Global Study, encouraging further engagement of stakeholders in the process;
  • Collect additional data on the progress and challenges in relation to specific thematic areas / regional contexts and developments;
  • Collect promising practices;
  • Receive input and feedback on the research process, challenges and findings.

Engaging Children's Voices and Experiences

As mandated by the UNGA Child Rights Resolution 69/157 of 2014 (§ 52.d), the Study process should include “consultation with relevant stakeholders, including [...] children”. In this regard, the Global Study benefits from experiences and lessons learned from previous UN study processes, such as the 2006 UN Study on Violence against Children and the 1996 UN Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. Within limits of current resource constraints, experts on child participatory methodologies are developing concepts for meaningful inclusion of children’s views in the Study process. Relevant issues for consideration include:

  • Structural aspects of child participation (e.g. setting up of a dedicated Children’s Expert/Advisory Group);
  • Ethical considerations for child participation;
  • Targeted research on reports reflecting feedback from children with experience of situations of deprivation of liberty;
  • Inclusion of voices of children in Global Study activities, such as thematic and regional consultations;
  • Tools and approaches for encouraging a diverse range of young people, e.g. through peer-to-peer mobilisation, use of social media, through support from civil society organisations directly working with children (including through the NGO Panel) to submit evidence about their experiences in situations of deprivation of liberty.

Structural framework

Certain structures and mechanisms are in place to ensure the effective implementation of the Global Study:

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which invited the Study to be commissioned;
  • The United Nations Secretary-General (SG);
  • The United Nations Interagency Task Force (UNITF) for political oversight;
  • The  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as limited “Secretariat“– responsible for the liaison and coordination with member States and UN agencies;
  • Independent Expert and Core Research team (hosted at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights, Vienna/Austria) – responsible for overarching research coordination, the development of an apposite database and the Expert’s communication strategy (incl. social media);
  • Advisory Board of qualified international experts providing sound and cross-regional expertise to the Study;
  • Thematic Research Groups for each of the Study’s thematic areas; each Research Group is composed of:
    • Lead Researchers/Group Coordinator (Research Institutions/Academia)
    • Representatives of relevant UN agencies
    • Representatives of relevant NGOs
    • Representatives of the Study’s Advisory Board
  • Cross-Cutting Working Groups on Child Participation, Disabilities Gender and Health.