Coordinators: Aoife Daly (University of Liverpool), Francesca Dominello (Macquarie University)
Description of the meeting
The notion of children’s rights has its genesis in the 19th century, but it was in the 20th century that concern to protect children’s rights increased and culminated with the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. It is the most ratified of all human rights instruments in the world. Nevertheless, while many children appear to have benefitted from such developments, there are many more who have not, at least to the same extent. Some of these include children experiencing social and economic disadvantage, Indigenous children, children with disabilities, and children who engage in activities which are unacceptable to adults such as crime and sexual activity. This international workshop seeks to bring scholars together to discuss ways of focusing on these issues and strengthening the rights-based approach to children.
The focus of this inquiry will be on legal responses to children who may not have benefitted as much as others from the CRC framework. Overall the objectives of the workshop will be to draw upon different disciplines including law, philosophy and social policy:
- to consider groups of children, as well as particular issues, that may be neglected in the rights framework;
- to consider ways in which the CRC approach can be redeveloped and enhanced, considering that it is an instrument developed 30 years ago, and after only the baseline standard for a minimum level of rights enjoyment;
- to gain better understanding of the rationale for a rights-based approach to children in law;
- to consider cross-disciplinary ways that children’s rights and interests could be better protected in law.
Participants will be encouraged to focus on various background considerations, such as:
- children are more likely to experience violence and poverty as compared with adults;
- children are considered ‘vulnerable’ in some legal contexts and often disempowered (e.g. in child protection, and yet over-responsibilised in others (such as criminal law);
- children’s autonomy rights are more controversial than protection/provision rights;
- the pursuit of certain social policies (e.g., maintaining law and order, upholding family values, reducing immigration) may take precedence over the rights of children.
The workshop will facilitate critical analysis of legal responses to children in a variety of contexts including (but not limited to) family law, criminal law and child protection proceedings. Participants will be encouraged to apply broader frameworks (i.e. beyond standard law and rights discourse) to the various challenges in the varied contexts in which children live. As children continue to face levels of violence and poverty for example, it will be asked whether non-discrimination frameworks or other theories and cultural worldviews should be more frequently drawn upon to enhance rights arguments and legal approaches.
In children’s rights discourse, and in human rights more generally, there is a tendency for experts to discuss and consider various issues separately in separate disciplines, such as law, philosophy, social science and so on. This event will in particular focus on bringing together individuals from different disciplines to contribute to the research in the area by considering new and more effective ways, both academically and practically, of approaching children’s rights issues.
This bringing together of different approaches will permit new ways of looking at children’s rights, and of solving problems which pose obstacles to effective tackling of issues. It will also permit the development of an area – children and the rights of the CRC – which is in danger of becoming stale and perhaps somewhat ineffective without new approaches and thinking between disciplines, and between both academics and practitioners. It can also set the scene for thinking around how we can more meaningfully involve children themselves in these discussions. It is intended that the event will spark the initiation of plans for a follow-up event, also at the Onati Institute, which involves children with the Basque country as participants and discussants on the same issues.
In examining these various issues, the workshop will be making a positive and original contribution to the children’s rights discourse by identifying ways to strengthen a rights-based approach to all children through an interdisciplinary examination of the law’s responses to diverse childhood experiences in contemporary times.