Goods produced in Israeli settlements are not “Made in Israel,” says European Court of Justice

“European Court of Justice” by Gwenaël Piaser is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled today France properly applied European Union (EU) law by requiring exporters of goods made in Israeli settlements to label their products accordingly. Israel is present in the territories it has held since 1967 as an occupying power under international humanitarian law. Therefore, the court reasoned, labeling products from those areas as “Made in Israel” would mislead consumers as to (a) the goods’ place of origin, and/or (b) Israel’s status as an occupying power, and not a sovereign entity, in those territories. 

The ECJ took note that settlements “give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by [Israel] outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.” Without specific language identifying products from the settlements, consumers in Europe would lack information they require to make “ethical considerations and considerations relating to the observance of international law.” Labeling must therefore specify, the court held, whether goods are made in Israeli settlements in addition to whether they originate in the territories Israel occupies. The court’s decision binds all EU member-states, and cannot be appealed. 

The labeling dispute has been ongoing since the European Commission issued an EU-wide notice in November 2015 interpreting a 2011 regulation on consumer food information promulgated by the European Parliament. Under the 2015 notice, EU member governments were advised to require goods imported from Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem to carry special labeling language, and to bar such goods from being labeled simply “Made in Israel.” (The Commission cannot impose new legal obligations on EU member states, but its interpretations of EU law serve as guidance for European governments.) Such regulation was necessary, the Commission reasoned, to apply the 2011 parliamentary rule in accordance with the EU’s position that Israel’s pre-1967 borders define its sovereign territory.

Critics were quick to condemn the interpretive notice as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu and others in his administration analogized the European Commission’s analytical distinction between Israel and its settlement outposts to Nazism. “In the past Jews were marked with a yellow patch, and today they are looking to mark our products,” Vered Ben-Sadon, a wine producer in a West Bank settlement, told Israel Radio. The American right-wing blogger Robert Spencer published an article titled “Nazism Returns: European Union to Put Warning Labels on Jewish-Made Products.” But many within Israel and abroad applauded the notice as a step toward curbing the settlement enterprise and reducing tensions in the region.  

France implemented the Commission’s notice one year later with a regulation directing that goods produced in Israeli settlements be labeled as such. The Organisation Juive Européene (European Jewish Organization) (OJE) and Psagot Winery, which “sources its grapes from five vineyards located near the [West Bank] settlements of Psagot, Kida, Har Bracha, Gush Ezion and Alon Moreh,” challenged the French rule as discriminatory before the Council of State. The French council referred the matter to the ECJ because it would turn on interpreting EU law, which is the ECJ’s purview. 

There, the case first came before Advocate General Gerard Hogan, who advised the court that “EU law requires for a product originating in a territory occupied by Israel since 1967, the indication of the geographical name of this territory and the indication that the product comes from an Israeli settlement if that is the case.” The Grand Chamber of the ECJ then received the case for consideration. 

The Israeli government has opposed this challenge from the outset. It urged Psagot and OJE to withdraw their complaints, fearing they would backfire by precipitating an ECJ ruling that would “create a more difficult reality” for settlement producers who have, until now, not been required by many European governments to comply with the EU labeling rule.  

“We expect European countries that value the peace process and that deem the relationship with [Israel] important not to implement the ruling in a manner that would damage our relationship,” an Israeli diplomatic source told the Times of Israel last month, anticipating the court’s decision. After the 2015 EU notice was issued, Israel temporarily suspended ties with EU bodies involved in the peace process with the Palestinians. Israel may respond with similar diplomatic measures should additional European governments issue labeling requirements in line with today’s ruling. Israel has also prepared a diplomatic and public relations campaign to mitigate the fallout from the case, encouraging EU members “to adopt a loose interpretation and implementation of the ECJ decision.” In the past the country has even lobbied U.S. lawmakers and policymakers to weigh in with the EU on its behalf. 

The EU and its members have taken a range of steps to differentiate between Israel’s sovereign, “Green Line” territory and the Palestinian territories it occupies. Some EU governments, Ireland for example, have discussed a ban on products from settlements as a next step to advance pressure on Israel’s settlement policy. Israel has long sought to brand such efforts, however, as the equivalent of rejecting Israel’s right to exist. Businesses like the home rental platform Airbnb have faced serious backlash for seeking to distinguish between Israel and Israeli settlements, including private legal challenges, threats of litigation by Israel’s Justice Minister, and blacklisting by U.S. state governments. Many U.S. states have enacted laws prohibiting boycotts of Israel, 17 of which specifically ban boycotts aimed at the territories Israel illegally occupies. 

And last week the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the government’s deportation of Human Rights Watch’s Israel Palestine director Omar Shakir under a theory holding criticism of business activity in settlements to constitute advocacy for boycotting Israel, which is grounds for deportation under a 2017 amendment to Israel’s Law of Entry. “By the logic of the Israeli Supreme Court, EU officials promoting [the ECJ] ruling or supporting labeling of settlement goods should also be deported from Israel,” said Shakir on Twitter today.

Today’s ruling provides the French Council of State with a binding interpretation of EU law, according to which it must dispose of the complaints brought by OJE and Psagot. All other courts in EU member states will be likewise bound by the ECJ’s finding that labeling language identifying goods from the occupied Palestinian territories and Israeli settlements is mandatory.

The Mexican Supreme Court’s latest abortion ruling In between formalities, a path to decriminalization

by Estefanía Vela Barba

On May 15, 2019, the Mexican Supreme Court handed down its latest ruling on abortion, now available in English.  The good news is that the Court’s First Chamber held that denying women access to abortion violates their right to health. The bad news is that it still did not explicitly deem abortion criminalization unconstitutional —although it certainly laid the groundwork for it. Because of this, the ruling is worthy of revision, especially for an international audience, given its constant use of international law to underpin its arguments.

The case is related to a woman’s petition to federal health authorities to terminate her pregnancy on the grounds that it posed a risk to her health. Her petition was denied by authorities, who argued that the General Health Law did not provide access to abortion. Although she opted for an abortion in Mexico City, where it is decriminalized and provided for as a free service, she nonetheless challenged their decision through an amparo, arguing that the authorities’ denial violated her right to health.

The district court first dismissed the matter on a technicality, holding that, even if she were right on the merits, the ruling would have “no effect whatsoever because the subject matter of the government action being challenged had ceased to exist” Why? Because she had already terminated the pregnancy.  If the point of an amparo is to stop or reverse an unjust ruling, there was nothing to reverse or to stop here. The deed was done. No justice could be served. The plaintiff challenged this decision too, finally reaching the Supreme Court, who thus had to decide on two issues: could she challenge the health authorities’ refusal even though she had terminated her pregnancy? And if she could, was she right about the merits?

In Mexico, the procedural question was of paramount importance. The amparo has a long history of being interpreted in quite restrictive terms, allowing form to take precedence over substance. In the case of abortion, this interpretation made it impossible for women to ask for redress, given that no matter what they chose – ending or continuing the pregnancy – the amparo would always be rendered meaningless given that a ruling generally takes more than 9 months to materialize (the case at hand, for example, took a total of six years to be resolved).

On this first issue, the Court decided that procedural rules had to be interpreted from “a gender perspective,” which includes analyzing apparently gender-neutral provisions for the disparate impact they could have on men and women. The Court ruled, in other words, that we need to take CEDAW’s prohibition of indirect discrimination seriously.

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UN Rapporteur denounces abuses against women during childbirth

by Alisha Bjerregaard and Christina Zampas

On October 4, 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović, presented her latest report, “A human rights-based approach to mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services, with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence.”  The first U.N. report of its kind, it addresses human rights abuses experienced by women during facility-based childbirth “as part of a continuum of the violations that occur in the wider context of structural inequality, discrimination and patriarchy.”   The report states unequivocally that: “Women’s human rights include their right to receive dignified and respectful reproductive health-care services and obstetric care, free from discrimination and any violence, including sexism and psychological violence, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and coercion.”

Women and girls have long experienced mistreatment or even violence when delivering children in healthcare facilities around the world; however, these abuses have been shrouded in silence and stigma and rarely framed as human rights violations.  As the report underscores, this is partly due to harmful gender stereotypes about “women’s decision-making competence, women’s natural role in society and motherhood[, which] limit women’s autonomy and agency,” and how such stereotypes are “further justified by the belief that childbirth is an event that requires suffering on the part of the woman.”  Essentially, her “physical and emotional health is not valued.”

Although human rights bodies have denounced some of the abusive practices in the context of childbirth as violations of human rights, their decisions and statements have often been limited to specific abuses, such as forced sterilization and the shackling of incarcerated women, leaving many types of mistreatment “unaddressed or inadequately analyzed under international human rights law” (Khosla, Zampas et al., p. 132).  They have not articulated the rights violations as part of a wide range of abuses within the context of childbirth, nor the role of intersectional discrimination.

Human rights violations addressed in the report include: physical and verbal abuse; over-medicalization, including the overuse of caesarian delivery, episiotomy and oxytocin when not medically justified; symphysiotomy; forced sterilization; forced abortion; shackling of women; failure to respect privacy and confidentiality; procedures without anesthesia; a lack of autonomy and decision-making; and the post-childbirth detention of women for inability to pay their hospital bills.  This list is not exhaustive, the report notes, nor does it include violations outside healthcare facilities.

The report frames some of these abuses in the context of “violence against women,” as defined under international human rights law, while recognizing that not all mistreatment during childbirth constitutes violence against women.  Such assessment must be done on a case-by-case basis.  The report further acknowledges that some forms of mistreatment may constitute violence and may violate other human rights, such as rights to health, privacy, freedom from discrimination and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment.

Recognizing that mistreatment and violence against women during childbirth denies women autonomy and agency, the report places special emphasis on informed consent to medical treatment as “a human right and a safeguard against such violence.” Continue reading

Introducing Alisha Bjerregaard

We are pleased to welcome Alisha Bjerregaard, an independent consultant currently working as Acting Director of U.N. Advocacy at Women Enabled International, where she focuses on advocacy before U.N. bodies to advance the rights of women and girls with disabilities. She is also a Schell Center Visiting Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School.

Previously, Alisha was a Clinical Lecturer in Law and the clinical teaching fellow at the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School. She has also worked at the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she was a Legal Adviser in the Africa Program, based in Nairobi, Kenya.  There, she worked on advocacy and litigation strategies to advance reproductive rights in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.

Alisha has authored human rights reports documenting the impact of restrictive abortion laws in Ireland and Kenya and of mandatory pregnancy testing and expelling pregnant students from schools in Tanzania. She has also undertaken reproductive rights research and advocacy as a consultant for various organizations, including Amnesty International, Ipas and the World Health Organization.

Welcome, Alisha!



Meeting the needs of victims of sexual violence through reparations

Photo: The women of Sepur Zarco.

As part of the Women, Peace and Security #UN1325 ten year anniversary I was asked to speak at the UNSG Special Representative on Sexual Violence and the International Organisation for Migration’s organised event on reparations for sexual violence in New York (31st October). This is my talk reflecting on our project on the implementation of reparations at Queen’s University Belfast we have been working in seven countries emerging from conflict and spoken to around 400 individuals, including victims, perpetrators, reparation programme designers, as well as healthcare practitioners. As a registrar doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology in Northern Ireland, I have been approaching reparations from a medico-legal perspective, in particular with victims of sexual violence. I have been asked to speak on the immediate and important needs of victims and a helpful way to approach these issues is through a series of questions: who; what; when; and how?

Who to repair?

In relation to the who; this speaks to who are the eligible victims and beneficiaries of reparations. There are three key tensions here.

First we need to appreciate the differentiated impact of harm and resultant needs on an individual and community; this will affect how they understand, express and engage on reparations. Vulnerable, rural and marginalised groups such as LGBTQI+, those based on gender identity, children, elderly, and those with disabilities may not have the time or resources to engage on reparations, fill in forms or be aware that they could be eligible. Moreover such individuals can suffer prolonged and multiple forms of sexual violence, due to their vulnerability and marginalisation. It may be best to prioritise such individuals when it comes to receiving certain forms of reparation in order to mitigate their harm from worsening.

A related issue is how do we support such vulnerable or marginalised individuals from engaging and benefiting from reparations, as they often do not have sufficient evidence or paperwork to support their claims. In Peru’s domestic reparation programme, a lower evidentiary threshold is used for sexual violence based on ‘good faith’, in which their statement is taken and then corroborated by relevant news or other sources. Whereas in Nepal victims of sexual violence were excluded from the reparation programmes, and when we spoke to the government they said that this was because they did not come forward. So we also need to create a conducive space for victims to speak about reparations.

Second the notion of ‘conflict-related sexual violence’ or rape as a weapon of war, while useful in bringing attention to the issue, is problematic in framing the totality of sexual violence that occurs during wartime. Reparations solely based on rape as a war tactic risks neglecting sexual violence in detention centres, homes and private spaces, where the perpetrators are often known to the victim and who are taking advantage of the disorder caused by conflict to carry out sexual violence.  By way of example, in Northern Ireland, victims of sexual violence were ineligible for compensation when the perpetrator was under ‘the same roof.’  These victims have needs that should fall into a reparation programme. While these two forms of sexual violence might appear to be different, they have the same source, i.e. patriarchy. Therefore, it makes sense to generate reparation programmes that include both categories, if reparations are serious about contributing to tackling the root causes. In addition, in prolonged conflicts, perpetrators can also be victims of sexual violence and need to be included in reparation programmes. In practice they are often excluded, due to their role in victimising others, such as in Colombia and Peru, leaving a situation where some sexual violence is implicitly justified and not redressed.

Third some victims of sexual violence may not define themselves on their direct violations they have suffered themselves, but rather on the other harm that has been caused to them and the resulting needs. For instance, we spoke to some victims of sexual violence in Nepal, who were demanding justice for family members who were tortured or disappeared. This is not to suggest that needs for sexual violence are secondary or binary with other violations, but that victims and survivors may see these other issues as more pressing. So we have to be careful that in highlighting sexual violence and making it visible that we are not invisibling or simplifying victims’ experience and needs. This leads us on to what to repair?

What to repair?

Sexual violence encompasses a range of violations which a reparation programme should be attuned to. As such, reparation is for the harm as a result of the violation, which may give rise to certain needs. If we approach this in terms of the potential spectrum of needs, as we heard this morning victims and survivors can have physical, psychological, social, economic and moral needs. However not all of these can or should be met by a reparation programme, and be better provided by other actors or programmes. That said if we think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, victims may require their basic needs of survival and security be met before, such as feeding and supporting themselves and their family, or waiting until the end of hostilities, before they can take the time to engage on reparation, truth and justice issues. However for other victims, needs are not necessarily progressively ordered in this way and very much depends on the context.

From our fieldwork three common needs stood out that could be met by a reparation programme:

  1. First, mental health support which can be delivered through a range of actors and services, from psycho-social interventions, psychotherapy and medication.
  2. Second sensitization to the issue of transitional justice and pathways for redress, in order to help victims to articulate their needs on a rights and reparation basis.
  3. Third for those suffering serious injuries or health complications as a result of sexual violence, specialised medical care is often needed. This needs to be appropriate as far as possible. From my own practice and speaking to other medical practitioners in Uganda, fistula surgeons may be required to repair traumatic genital fistula as a result of rape; however, the majority of genital fistulas are the result of obstetric factors, such as prolonged or obstructed labour without access to appropriate medical care. Accordingly, such needs may not always fit within the parameters of a reparation programme.

The ‘what’ issue is also connected to the appropriate timing and sequencing of providing measures, as it may be beneficial to implement some forms before others, such as medical rehabilitation.

When to repair?

Time can be a mitigating factor for speaking about loss and trauma, but it can also exacerbate the physical and psychological harm caused when not redressed, allowing it to fester. In dealing with the health consequences from sexual violence some needs are time-critical, such as providing prophylaxis for HIV (72 hours), Hepatitis A and B vaccines, emergency contraception within 120 hours… Where programmes do exist they may also take years to be fully attuned to the needs of victims, currently Colombia is updating its Protocol on Medical Assistance to Victims of Sexual Assault, to include specific guidelines for armed conflict victims to ensure a comprehensive response to those who may have long-term medical needs.

It also takes time for victims to become mobilised. In Peru, victims of forced sterilisation by the state were excluded from engagement on the truth commission and reparation programme, which were set up for victims of the conflict and Fujimori regime. It took time for them to comprehend how their rights were violated, become organised and to recover, due to surgery complications some of those experienced.

At the same time it may be too soon after the violations for victims to be engaged on reparations when the impact of the harm has not fully manifested itself. For instance in Northern Ireland, many victims who were left seriously injured and disabled including those violently raped, were often judged to have a life expectancy of 15 years in the 1970s for the amount of their compensation, yet 45 years on they are still alive and left in poverty, as some have said to us they now feel like ‘beggars’.

On the other hand reparations can equally be too late, such as in the Bemba case at the ICC, that while the defendant was later acquitted, the reparation process started some fifteen years after the mass rapes. This meant that many victims had died from sexual transmitted diseases or left in terrible hardship and rejected from their communities by the time reparations were about to be determined. This underlines the significance of how we can coordinate timely approaches to repairing victims’ harm, and how far?

How far?

In meeting victims’ needs we also need to think about how far we need to go in redressing the harm of the past, present and future. We saw that victims of sexual violence need physical and psychological rehabilitation, but how will this work in practice when there is no infrastructure or specialised medical staff in their region. Do they travel, risking being exposed, will their costs be covered, and what does this say about the sustainability and local development of healthcare provision if these violations occur again? Reparation and redressing sexual violence not only require measures such as rehabilitation and compensation, but also institutional and legislative reform. Some of these reforms may not occur during the lifetime of the direct victim, so how do we address these issues today?

If we are concerned about meeting victims’ needs we also have to engage with difficult issues of changing laws around sexual and reproductive rights such as abortion, that women’s lives are not put at further risk if they choose to have a termination of pregnancy after being raped. In Northern Ireland we have only this month decriminalised our abortion law, where previously women who were raped had to travel to another country to obtain such a service.

To conclude

Ultimately we have to be modest on what reparations can and cannot do. Not only to make them feasible, given the resources that they can muster, but also in being honest to victims in informing their expectations and that certain needs require action sooner rather than later. As such, it can be helpful to map out the harm victims have suffered and their needs, to demonstrate why better co-ordination should exist between assistance and reparation.

We need to recognise that in claiming for reparations, it takes time, to decipher the: who, what, when and how. Therefore, when reparation programmes are implemented for victims of sexual violence, there needs to be sensitivity to potential obstacles. If claims for reparations are time-barred, some victims may miss the opportunity or they may feel that are not ready to engage in these processes within a designated time period. Further still, some victims of sexual violence may not want to claim reparations or come forward, and so respecting their choices is important. That said, the process of demanding reparations can be a significant pathway for victims to vindicate their good name and seek measures to alleviate the consequences of sexual violence.

Finally, having the correct legal, political and social tools to apply pressure to the state to implement reparations are key. Human rights is a useful framework here in that it gives us tools to hold the state to account to ensure victims’ right to remedy and reparation, but also respects victims’ agency and dignity. This can be seen by the courageous struggle of the women of Sepur Zarco in Guatemala where after years of campaigning with civil society allies they manage to secure the conviction of those responsible for the sexual enslavement as well as an order on reparations. So in demanding reparations for victims of sexual violence, we are not seeing them as dependants with needs, but as dignified human beings with agency and rights. The role for us is to find a way to support victims in their campaign, by echoing their voices and putting pressure on states to ensure their rights to reparations.





Protecting children’s digital bodies through rights

The recent incident of a UNHCR official tweeting a photo of an Iraqi refugee girl holding a piece of paper with all her personal data, including family composition and location, is remarkable for two reasons. First, because of the stunning indifference and perhaps also ignorance displayed by a high-ranking UN communications official with respect to a child’s personal data. However, the more notable aspect of this incident has been the widespread condemnation of the tweet (since deleted) and its sender, and her explanation that it was “six years old”. While public criticism has focused on the power gap between humanitarians and refugees and the precarious situation of Iraqi refugees, this incident is noteworthy because it marks the descent of a new figure in international aid and global governance: that of children’s digital bodies.

Because children are dependent, what technology promises most of all is almost unlimited care and control: directly by parents but indirectly by marketing agencies and tech companies building consumer profiles. As explained by the Deborah Lupton, in the political economy of the global North (and, I would add, the global East), children are becoming the objects of a multitude of monitoring devices that generate detailed data about them. What are the possible negative ramifications in low resources contexts and fragile settings characterized by deep-seated oversight and accountability deficits?

The rise of experimental practices: Ed. Tech, babies and biometrics

There is a long history of problematic educational transplants in aid context, from dumping used text books to culturally or linguistically inappropriate material. The history of tech-dumping in disasters is much more recent, but also problematically involves large-scale testing of educational technology platforms. While practitioners complain about relevance, lack of participatory engagement and questionable operability in the emergency context, ethical aspects of educational technology (Ed. Tech), data extraction—and how the collection of data from children and youth constitute part of the merging of aid and surveillance capitalism—are little discussed.

Another recent trend concerns infant biometric identification to help boost vaccination rates. Hundreds of thousands of children die annually due to preventable diseases, many because of inconsistencies in the provision of vaccine programs. Biometric identification is thus intended to link children with their medical records and overcome the logistical challenges of paper-based systems. Trials are now ongoing or planned for India, Bangladesh and Tanzania. While there are still technical challenges in accurately capturing the biometric data of infants, new biometric techniques capture fingers, eyes, faces, ears and feet. In addition to vaccines, uses for child biometrics include combatting aid fraud, identifying missing children and combatting identity theft.

In aid, data is increasingly extracted from children through the miniaturization and personalization of ICT technology. Infant and child biometrics are often coupled with tracking devices in the form of wristbands, necklaces, earpieces, and other devices which the users carry for extended periods of time.

Across the board, technology initiatives directed at children are usually presented as progress narratives, with little concern for unintended consequences. In the economy of suffering, children and infants are always the most deserving individuals, and life-saving interventions are hard to argue against. Similarly, the urgency of saving children functions as a call to action that affords aid and private sector actors room to maneuver with respect to testing and experimentation. At the same time, the mix of gadget distribution and data harvesting inevitably become part of a global data economy, where patterns of structural inequality are reproduced and exacerbated.

Children’s digital bodies

Despite the massive technologization of aid targeting children, so far, no critical thinking has gone into considering the production of children’s digital bodies in aid. The use of digital technologies creates corresponding “digital bodies”—images, information, biometrics, and other data stored in digital space—that represent the physical bodies of populations affected by conflict and natural hazards, but over which these populations have little say or control. These “digital bodies” co-constitute our personalities, relationships, legal and social personas—and today they have immense bearing on our rights and privileges as individuals and citizens. What is really different about children’s digital bodies? What is the specific nature of risk and harm these bodies might incur?

In a non-aid context, critical data researchers and privacy advocates are only just beginning to direct attention to these practices, in particular to the array of specific harms they may encounter, including but not limited to the erosion of privacy.

Technology initiatives directed at children are usually presented as progress narratives, with little concern for unintended consequences.

The question of testing unfinished products on children is deeply contentious: the possibility that unsafe products may be trialed in fragile and low resource settings under different requirements than those posed by rich countries is highly problematic.  On the other hand, parachuting and transplanting digital devices from the global North and East to the global South without any understanding of local needs, context and adaption practices is—based on the history of technological imperialism—ineffective, disempowering, a misuse of resources and, at worst, could further destabilize fragile school systems.

Very often, in aid tech targeting children, the potential for digital risk and harm for children is ignored or made invisible. Risk is phrased as an issue of data security and malfunction and human manipulation of data. Children—especially in low-resource settings—have few opportunities to challenge the knowledge generated through algorithms. They also have scant techno-legal consciousness with respect to how their personal data is being exploited, commodified and used for decisions about their future access to resources, such as healthcare, education, insurance, welfare, employment, and so on. There is the obvious risk of armed actors and other malicious actors accessing and exploiting data; but there are also issues connected to wearables, tablets and phones being used as listening devices useful for surveilling the child’s relatives and careers. It is incumbent on aid actors to understand both the opportunities posed by new technologies, as well as the potential harms they may present—not only during the response, but long after the emergency ends.

Conclusion: time to turn to the CRC!

The mainstreaming of a combination of surveillance and data extraction from children now taking place in aid, ranging from education technology to infant biometrics means that critical discussions of the ethical and legal implications for children’s digital bodies are becoming a burning issue.

The do no harm principle is a key ethical guidance post across fields of development, humanitarianism and global health. The examples above illustrate the need for investment in ethics and evidence on the impact of development and application of new technologies in low resource and fragile settings.  Practitioners and academics need to be alert to how the framing of structural problems shifts to problematizations being amenable to technological innovation and intervention and the interests of technology stakeholders.  But is that enough?

The Children’s Rights Convention of 1989 represented a watershed moment in thinking children’s right to integrity, to be heard and to protection of their physical bodies. Article 3.1 demands that “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” Time has now come to articulate and integrate an understanding of children’s digital bodies in international aid within this normative framework.


This blog was initially posted at