The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, published in 2019, is a comprehensive Study conducted by Manfred Nowak, a large team of experts from all over the world and 274 children who were interviewed. The findings of the Study concern six thematic areas in which children live deprived of liberty: juvenile justice, detention with their primary caregivers, for migration-related reasons, in institutions, in the context of armed conflict or on national security grounds.

The Study also focuses on the gender dimension, the impact on the health of the children and children with disabilities, as well the views and perspectives of children themselves. According to the research more than 7 million children are currently living in deprivation of liberty. In addition to other findings related to the specific thematic areas, this comprehensive publication 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. 

Rationale, background and main data

Childhood is when children develop their personality, their emotional relationships with others, their social and educational skills and their talents. Depriving them of liberty means depriving them of their childhood. Article 37b of the Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that deprivation of liberty of children shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

To address this situation, in December 2014 the UN General Assembly invited the UN Secretary-General to commission an in-depth Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty (A/RES/69/157 §52.d). In October 2016, Manfred Nowak was appointed as Independent Expert to lead this Study. He submitted the final summary report on the Study (A/74/136) to the General Assembly and presented it on 8 October, 2019 (Resolution 72/245 §37). He and his team presented a comprehensive version of the Global Study to the UN in Geneva on 19 November, 2019.

The Global Study was carried out in close cooperation with Governments, UN agencies and other actors, including: OHCHR, UNICEF, UNODC, UNHCR, IOM, WHO, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as more than 170 civil society organisations and academia, led by the Global Campus of Human Rights. The process included thematic, national and regional consultations all around the world where also children´s views and perspectives were consulted. Find out more about our project partners.

The Study focuses on the following six areas in which children live in deprivation of liberty:

  • Administration of Justice
  • Children Living in Prisons with their Primary Caregivers
  • Migration
  • Institutions
  • Armed Conflict
  • National Security

Through this Study, it was found that worldwide roughly 7.2 million children are deprived of liberty per year in all these situations of detention. Learn about the Global Study´s main findings and recommendations.



Administration of justice

Immigration detention

Armed conflict

National Security

Children living in detention with parents


Children de jure deprived of liberty







1.5 million

Children de facto deprived of liberty

5.4 million

1.41 million





7.2 million

Bringing the Global Study to all stakeholders

Following the presentation of the Global Study at the UN General Assembly in New York and to the UN in Geneva in 2019, it was pivotal to present the main findings of each of the thematic areas in the different regions of the world and to discuss the best way to implement the corresponding recommendations. Find out more about our launches of this Study in the events section.

Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, has taken the leading role in coordinating the Global Study Interagency Taskforce for the implementation of the Global Study´s recommendations. Check the newest updates.

The implementation of further dissemination activities is supported by the Global Campus of Human Rights in partnership with the Right Livelihood Foundation (RLF).

The three core objectives of these activities are:

  • To present the Global Study findings and recommendations and develop follow-up strategies with key-stakeholders by means of training programmes, workshops and consultations
  • To coordinate and support the development and facilitation of further Global Study related research, advocacy activities and outputs
  • To maintain and strengthen the Global Study network through our regular newsletter and other advocacy and communication tools