Defence for Children International
Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency – Riyadh Guidelines
Since 1955, the United Nations have organised a congress on Crime
Prevention and Treatment of Offenders every five years, bringing together
representatives of the world’s national Governments, specialists in crime
prevention and criminal justice, scholars of international repute and members of
the NGOs concerned. The aim of these meetings has been to discuss problems,
share professional experiences and seek viable solutions to crime. Their
recommendations are intended to have an impact on the legislative bodies of the
United Nations and on national and local Governments.
Juvenile delinquency and its prevention have been items on the agenda of
nearly all United Nations Congresses on Crime Prevention and Treatment of
The discussion on juvenile crime prevention even attracted the largest
number of participants at the first congress (Geneva, 1955). Juvenile
delinquency was treated as a broad category, comprising problems relating to
youthful offenders but also to abandoned, orphaned and maladjusted minors. The
second congress (London, 1960) already recommended limiting the concept of
juvenile delinquency to violations of criminal law, excluding vaguely
anti-social behaviour or rebellious attitudes which are widely associated with
the process of growing up.
We will find this restricted approach again in the Riyadh Guidelines.
Article 56, for instance, states “Any conduct not considered an offence or
penalized if committed by an adult should not be considered an offence or
penalized if committed by a young person”.
The sixth congress (Caracas, 1980) debated the theme of ?Crime
prevention and quality of life’. This congress was important not only because of
its pro-active approach of prevention but also because of the impetus it gave
towards more “binding” engagements in dealing with juvenile crime.
The provision of social justice for all children was strongly
emphasised as a factor of prevention.
Indeed, prevention was considered to be more than just tackling negative
situations, but to be rather the promotion of welfare and well-being. The Riyadh
Guidelines will be a concrete step in this direction. Article 2 for instance
says: “Prevention of juvenile delinquency requires efforts by the entire
society to ensure the harmonious development of adolescents, with respect for
and promotion of their personality from their early childhood”.
Although the topic of juvenile delinquency had been discussed throughout
the UN Congresses on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders, only in 1980
(Caracas) came the decision to materialise this attention in concrete
recommendations. In 1985 (Milano) the so-called Beijing Rules were adopted: the
Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice. In 1990
(Havana) two complementary instruments were accepted.
The fact that the interest in the legal protection of children has begun
to increase only recently, can certainly help explain why the UN recommendations
in this field too are of recent date.