Law of Peace(making) and Transforming Children’s Invisibility

Courtesy of the Blog of the Groningen Journal of International Law (August 22, 2017).

The law of international human rights came into being through an international peacemaking process, in particular the successive processes that gave birth to the Charter of the United Nations. The law as developed affirms children’s legal standing and agency as subjects of human rights. There is a concomitant international obligation to affirm the same in relation to the successive processes of peacemaking and give effect to those rights through the resultant agreements, as recalled by treaty and Charter bodies. Yet children are mostly invisible in such processes. Its extent is laid bare by a cursory review of collections of peace agreements. Of the close to eight hundred peace agreements in the United Nations database, for example, approximately ninety-five include a reference to children. The extremity of their invisibility raises a multiplicity of questions. Is it justified from the perspective of the law of peace(making)? May children’s human rights yield to the pursuance of peace?  And if not, why are children (mostly) invisible in peacemaking? These questions sparked and structured a probe of peace processes from a juristic, human rights and child rights perspective. Continue reading

Child trafficking in the fishing industry on Lake Volta

Challenging Heights is an anti-trafficking, anti-slavery, children’s rights NGO located in Winneba, Ghana, approximately an hour and a half outside of Accra, the capital. Inspired by the president and founder’s own experience being trafficked and enslaved as a child, the organization serves source communities, which are communities where children are trafficked from, in order to achieve its strategic goal of ending child trafficking in the fishing industry in Ghana in five years and ending child slavery in the fishing industry in Ghana in ten years.

 

During the Advocates Program, Challenging Heights provided an in-depth overview of every aspect of the organization. Each day, I was amazed by the breadth (and depth) of the organization’s programs. Not only does Challenging Heights rescue children from Lake Volta, rehabilitate them in a shelter, reintegrate them with their families and monitor them after reintegration, it also provides livelihood support to reintegrated children’s families as well as other vulnerable children’s families, conducts a youth empowerment program to tackle the root cause of poverty, campaigns against corporal punishment and child marriage, conducts alternative dispute resolution with slave masters to make sure children are given what they are owed for their labor, distributes 80,000 Tom’s shoes a year to schoolchildren, supports education with its newly independent Friends International Academy, conducts research projects on issues connected to its programs, and advocates for children’s rights locally, nationally and internationally.

 

The passion of the staff members of Challenging Heights layered each and every session throughout the Advocates Program. The communications officer, in the campaign against child marriage, hands out flyers that include her personal phone number so that people in danger of being married as a child or who know a child in danger of being married can call her for help. The rescue team risks their own lives to go out on the lake to rescue trafficked and enslaved children from slave masters. The shelter manager reminded us of the realities and challenges of shelter life, but when asked about her greatest success said, “Every single day when I see children laughing it’s a success. Even when they are crying, it’s a success because they can express their emotions”.

 

Despite the dedication and passion of Challenging Heights and its staff, slave masters and traffickers continue to traffic and enslave children without legal repercussion. In 2016, there were no convictions under Ghana’s anti-trafficking law, due to insufficient resources devoted to collecting evidence which hinders investigations according to the State Department.  Challenging Heights staff was certain Ghana would be moved to the Tier 3 watch list for trafficking in persons this year due to the government’s lack of action. However, the State Department granted Ghana a waiver because of a written plan that would have an impact if implemented. The Trafficking in Persons watch list levels are based on minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons the US State Department created.

 

Continue reading

The bare knuckled fight for rights

The past year has been the bleakest of years. At least, for those of us, who believe we are stronger together. And in invoking that particular slogan, I speak more broadly than the US election.  Today many of those acts of international and regional solidarity born and crystallised by war are under threat, or seem so. Under threat by seeming disregard for their ‘founding impulse’ and the laws they constituted. Therein, I invoke, the micro aggressions unleashed by transatlantic  electoral processes, and the macro aggressions enacted in the town lands of constituent members of the UN, most luminously Syria, but not exclusively. Held there are acts of international lawlessness: violations of the laws international human rights and armed conflict, as documented by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, among others. Those acts, then, have laid bare the omnipresent forces of regression, and in doing so, exposed previously supposed certitudes about international law and its protective capacity as tenuous.

Yet the phoenix will rise, is already rising. Engagement and re-engagement with law has already begun. And this will be as Gina Miller  and Sally Yates both know to their cost, ‘a bare knuckled fight’.  And there I quote Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.  It may seem a paradoxical metaphor for High Commissioner for Human Rights. And yet it has always been so: rights have seldom been gifted; they have always been fought for. Still this is a twenty-first century fight few imagined; a battle seemingly to safeguard rather than demand more from the laws of international human rights and armed conflict.  And, if it is to prevail, the fight must be broader and deeper than ever before. It was after all, born, at least in part of a failure of those circles of solidarity, and their constituent members, to embody the precious pledges of their foremothers and forefathers, intra and inter state. Continue reading

International Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Child Participation: from Social Exclusion to Child-Inclusive Policies (Oxford 2015)

Cover for<br /><br />
International Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Child Participation<br /><br />
Edited by Tali Gal & Benedetta Faedi Duramy

The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has inspired advocates and policy makers across the globe, injecting children’s rights terminology into various public and private arenas. Children’s right to participate in decision-making processes affecting their lives is the acme of the Convention and its central contribution to the children’s rights discourse. At the same time the participation right presents enormous challenges in its implementation. Laws, regulations and mechanisms addressing children’s right to participate in decision-making processes affecting their lives have been established in many jurisdictions across the globe. Yet these worldwide developments have only rarely been accompanied with empirical investigations. The effectiveness of various policies in achieving meaningful participation for children of different ages, cultures and circumstances have remained largely unproven empirically. Therefore, with the growing awareness of the importance of evidence-based policies, it becomes clear that without empirical investigations on the implementation of children’s right to participation it is difficult to promote their effective inclusion in decision making.

This book provides a much-needed, first broad portrayal of how child participation is implemented in practice today. Bringing together 19 chapters written by prominent authors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel, the book includes descriptions of programs that engage children and youth in decision-making processes, as well as insightful findings regarding what children, their families, and professionals think about these programs. Beyond their contribution to the empirical evidence on ways children engage in decision-making processes, the volume’s chapters contribute to the theoretical development of the meaning of “participation,” “citizenship,” “inclusiveness,” and “relational rights” in regards to children and youth. There is no matching to the book’s scope both in terms of its breadth of subjects and the diversity of jurisdictions it covers. The book’s chapters include experiences of child participation in special education, child protection, juvenile justice, restorative justice, family disputes, research, and policy making.

The book is available on Oxford University Press and Amazon.

On the Job! Child Rights International Network (CRIN) seeks Legal Research Assistant

From CRIN comes this posting:

CRIN is looking for a Legal Research Assistant to support our ‘access to justice for children’ project.

CRIN is conducting a global research project examining the ways that violations of children’s rights can be challenged at the national level and how national legal systems are set up to help or prevent children from accessing justice. More information on the project is available at: http://www.crin.org/en/home/law/access

We are looking for someone to assist primarily with reviewing and editing the country reports and undertaking further legal research. The Legal Research Assistant will also contribute to analysing the findings and preparing a global report and ranking, and assist with other legal research tasks and analysis as required.

CRIN is a small international children’s rights advocacy network based in central London. Aside from sharing our values, we are looking for someone who takes initiative, is flexible, creative, and wants to work in a multicultural environment.

We will provide you with the opportunity to work as part of a small team of dedicated and passionate people and the chance to shape and contribute to a growing and exciting new area of children’s rights advocacy.

For more information on how to apply, see https://www.crin.org/en/home/about/work-us/legal-research-assistant.