Training of trainers in Niger on the treatment of children associated with violent and extremist groups
Like most of the Sahel countries affected by Boko Haram, Niger has been facing the phenomenon of child recruitment and exploitation by violent extremist and terrorist groups. The country is also known to serve as a key source of, transit point, and destination for trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
In the framework of the UNODC contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, called the Sahel Programme, UNODC has been supporting the government of Niger with technical assistance aimed at strengthening the capacities of criminal justice actors concerning the treatment of children within the criminal justice system as offenders or victims. Between 2017 and 2018, UNODC has trained more than 230 Nigerien officials on these issues and, to enhance national training capacities, the Office initiated a series of training-of-trainers with the aim to build a pool of trainers specialized on the criminal justice response in the context of counterterrorism and human trafficking.
From 8 to 19 October 2018, a training-of-trainers (ToT) workshop was therefore organized by UNODC in Niamey, in cooperation with the "Ecole Nationale de Formation Judiciaire du Niger" (EFJN), focusing on the treatment of child victims of violence, trafficking and recruitment by violent and extremist groups, and the application of alternatives to prosecution and imprisonment for children in conflict with the law. The ToT, which aimed to form a pool of trainers on justice for children at the disposal of the EJFN, was attended by 12 Nigerien magistrates (prosecutors, juvenile judges and investigative judges) from across the country and was led by both UNODC experts and selected international experts on adult training, juvenile justice, and child psychology.
Through practical exercises, case-studies, role-play, and mock training, the workshop provided the 12 magistrates with refresher and tailored knowledge regarding violence against children within the criminal justice system as victims or alleged offenders, and on the application of alternative measures for children in conflict with the law including those accused of terrorism related offenses. In doing so, the ToT emphasized the importance of adult training methodology and how to efficiently conduct training for future magistrates and other criminal justice actors.
One juvenile judge stated: "I have attended a number of trainings but this one is really particular. Thanks to the methodology and the practical exercises and mock-training we had in this ToT, I now feel ready to take on the role of a trainer and disseminate the knowledge and know-how amongst other magistrates." Another participant who works as an investigative judge stated further: "This ToT will have an impact not only on my work as a judge but also on my role as a father. Thanks to the excellent sessions and the practical exercises, I learned a lot about violence against children, especially secondary victimization and how to detect child victims. Before applying my knowledge as a judge, I will look at my own children with a different perspective because I think there are many things I have been doing wrong as a father and as a judge."
The training also served as a platform for exchange on the challenges Nigerien magistrates are facing, especially concerning cooperation with other actors within the penal chain such as social workers, police, and those in the broader protection system. One prosecutor stated: "I accumulated a lot of knowledge through different theoretical trainings, but I was never able to apply it to my daily work as a prosecutor. For instance, I know the meaning of alternatives to imprisonment but I admit I have missed a lot of opportunities in applying them and I used to overlook the role of social workers. I am confident that thanks to this training things will change because I now know when, why and how to apply alternative measures to children in conflict with the law. I also understand now why a social worker is crucial to my role as prosecutor or juvenile judge."
This activity was organized in the framework of the UNODC Global Programme on Violence against Children and the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (Glo.ACT) thanks to the support from the European Union and the Governments of Canada and Sweden.