Summit to focus on getting homeless youth off the world's streets

The American Bar Association and human and children's rights organizations from around the world will hold the inaugural International Summit on the Legal Needs of Street Youth, June 16-17, at the law firm of Baker & McKenzie in London.

Around the world, a staggering 150 million children - ages 3 to 18 years old - live on the streets, according to the United Nations. And their numbers are growing. The Summit will cover the legal rights of street youth and discuss what the rule of law can do to protect this most vulnerable population of the global homeless.

"The ABA has long focused on this vulnerable population," ABA President William C. Hubbard said. "Two of the ABA's explicit goals are to 'hold governments accountable under law' and 'work for just laws, including human rights, and a fair legal process.'

"Children should not live on the streets and the law should not push children onto the streets, Hubbard added. "As lawyers, policymakers and advocates, we are obligated to use the law and policy to bring down the number of homeless youth and to not rest until it goes to zero."

Hubbard, along with ABA President-elect Paulette Brown, is in London for the 800th anniversary celebration of Magna Carta, June 11-16.

"Magna Carta is the foundation for the rule of law by which every citizen is subject to the law and has equal protection under law, including homeless youth, some of the most vulnerable members of society who need the protection of law," Hubbard said.

The hashtag for the conference is #RightsForStreetYouth.

In 1992, the United Nations issued a resolution on the Plight of Street Children, expressing concern over the emergence and marginalization of street children, and the acts of violence against them. The resolution called for international cooperation to address the needs of homeless children and for enforcement of international child rights laws.

Nearly 40 countries will be represented at the Summit with approximately 150 attendees in London and others participating via seven satellite offices of Baker & McKenzie in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Cairo, Madrid, Manila, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. Among the participants are: Casey Trupin, special advisor on Homeless Youth and the Law, ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty; Sarah Thomas de Benitez, CEO of Consortium for Street Children; and Judge Eduardo Rezende Melo, International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates in Brazil.

Homelessness is largely an urban phenomenon, but children end up homeless and living on the streets in every region of the world from developing countries to the most affluent. Abuse, the death of a parent, family breakdown, war, natural disaster or simply socioeconomic collapse leave many children destitute and forced to eke out a living on the streets.

Equipped with new research from lawyers from more than a dozen countries, this international and interdisciplinary gathering of legal experts and advocates will review best practices for addressing the global homeless street youth crisis, and consider policies that best serve them and the communities around them.

Published: Tue, Jun 16, 2015