UNICEF en Universiteit Team UNICEF en Universiteit Team

UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights


The UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights is established in 2012 and the result of a unique collaboration between Leiden University, UNICEF the Netherlands and the Leiden University Fund. It promotes academic research and education for students and professionals in the field of international children’s rights.

Mrs. Dr. Graça Machel, women’s and children’s rights advocate and honorary doctor at Leiden University: “I have a long relationship with UNICEF in numerous countries, but I believe this is one of its kind. Having this Chair: it grounds children’s rights into the academic effort. Not only as something which you could consider secondary, but it to be in the center.”   

Unique in the world

UNICEF the Netherlands and Leiden University have been working together for 10 years to expand and spread knowledge about children's rights. Students come from all over the world and specialize in the field of children's interests and rights from a legal perspective. The UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights, which Professor Ton Liefaard holds at the Leiden Law School, is unique in the world. International children's rights is a distinctive, dynamic and complex area of law that requires tailored research and education for both students and professionals. The UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights fulfills this need, thereby playing a crucial role in protecting children's rights, both in the Netherlands and across the world" said Professor Ton Liefaard

More knowledge every year

“With the Chair, UNICEF is contributing to a new generation of professionals who know how important it is to view things through a children's rights lens. This is crucial for the protection of children all over the world," says Suzanne Laszlo, director of UNICEF the Netherlands. In ten years, two master's programs have been set up. The Master's in Child Law is aimed at Dutch students and the Master of Laws Advanced Studies in International Children's Rights applies to international students and is the only program in the world that offers a law degree in the field of international children's rights. Suzanne Laszlo: “The alumni spread knowledge about children's rights worldwide. This is very valuable!”

 "As an alumni of the LLM and current PhD researcher, I am honoured to witness the efforts of the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights in sowing the seeds of children’s rights across the world by investing in providing knowledge and education to students from far and wide. Coming from South Sudan, I know very well how important this is” – Lucy Ataro Opoka, PhD Candidate and alumna.

Afgestudeerden en professoren

In September 2023, 21 students received their well-deserved diploma in Advanced Studies in International Children's Rights from Leiden University. Armed with knowledge, passion and dedication, they are poised to become the next generation of leaders in this field.

Education and Research

  • The Frontiers of Children's Rights Summer School has been taking place annually since 2013. This post-academic program provides knowledge and insight into the meaning of international children's rights. Participants engage in discussions with renowned international experts, academics and world leaders during interactive seminars and workshops on themes such as migration, youth justice, alternative care, climate change, international crises and conflicts, and digital technologies.
  • The biennial Children's Rights Moot Court offers students the opportunity to engage with each other at an international moot court dealing with complex and highly topical children’s rights issues. The fifth edition took place in June 2023, dealing with a fictitious case on the climate crisis.
  • The Leiden Children's Rights Observatory, set up by the UNICEF Chair, is a freely accessible (open access) platform for the analysis of children's rights jurisprudence, which contributes to access to justice for children.
  • Together with the University of Curaçao, the UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights has established the Caribbean Center for Children's Rights, which offers an educational program for students and professionals in the Caribbean region.
  • The UNICEF Chair conducts research and provides advice to external clients such as UN organizations, the European Commission and the Council of Europe, and WODC of the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ombudsman for Children.

Network and Partnerships

Building partnerships and networks among children's rights practitioners, scholars and professionals is essential in creating a robust and effective ecosystem for the protection and promotion of children’s rights at the international, regional and national levels. Children's rights encompass a wide spectrum of issues, from education and healthcare to protection against violence and access to justice. By collaborating across disciplines and organizations, practitioners, scholars and professionals can share knowledge and resources to address these complex challenges comprehensively. These partnerships enable a more coordinated and holistic approach to advocacy, policymaking, and direct support for children, ensuring that their rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled in every corner of the world. Thereby, the UNICEF Chair aims to build on existing networks and partnerships and new collaborations to ensure that together, these dedicated individuals and organizations form a powerful force in championing the rights of children and improving their quality of life.


Leiden University, the Leiden University Fund (LUF) and UNICEF the Netherlands have jointly committed themselves to the financial support of the Chair and to further fundraising for scientific and other activities of the Chair. To this end, the LUF has set up a fund called the UNICEF Fund Chair Children's Rights.

Other professors and chairholders involved include:

Prof. Dr. Ann Skelton – Professor of Children’s Rights in a Sustainable World and Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Prof. Dr. Mariëlle Bruning – Professor of Child Law, with a focus on Dutch child law and child protection.

Prof. Dr. Simone van der Hof – Professor of Law and Digital Technologies with a focus on the intricate relationship between children’s rights and digital technologies.

Prof. Dr. Judi Mesman - Professor of the interdisciplinary study of societal challenges with a focus on youth and society, and studies the intergenerational transmission of attitudes and behaviors regarding social justice themes.

Prof. Dr. Mirjam Sombroek – Professor of Law and Health at the Institute of Private Law.

Prof. Dr. Marleen Dekker – Professor of Inclusive Development in Africa at Leiden University and Director of the African Studies Centre Leiden.

Prof. Dr. Jaap E. Doek – Emeritus Professor Family and Child Law, VU University Amsterdam, and former Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.