Seminar: “Interrogating Children’s Rights to Participate in Public Decision-Making” with Laura Lundy

Children’s right to participate in public-decision making is now well established in theory and in law. In practice, the right remains elusive with barriers to its realisation often linked to a lack of time or resources and/ or the capacity of both adults and children to engage meaningfully in participation processes. These challenges are magnified when the issues affect children on a global scale or pertain to an issue considered by many to be too complex for children to understand irrespective of its apparent impact on their lives. This paper will reflect on an attempt to meet these challenges and provide meaningful participation in the context of a study conducted with over 2000 children in 71 countries which adopted an explicit rights-based approach to the methods (Lundy and McEvoy, 2012). The research was commissioned to inform the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s forthcoming General Comment on Public Expenditure. The paper will offer some critical reflections on the process and outline the learning from it that is now being applied in subsequent global consultations.

Laura Lundy is a Professor of Education Law and Children’s Rights at Queen’s University, Belfast and a Barrister at Law. She is the Director of the Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s (www.qub.ac.uk/ccr), an interdisciplinary research collaboration on children’s rights. Her expertise is in law and children’s rights, with a particular focus on the implementation of the UNCRC, education rights, and children’s right to participate in decision-making. Her model for child rights-based participation is used widely and has been adopted by the Irish National Participation Strategy. The team at the Centre for Children’s Rights has recently completed a study on public expenditure and children’s rights involving over 2500 children in 71 countries globally funded by Plan International. With Professor Ursula Kilkelly of University College Cork, she is leading a two year study examining the role of NGO advocacy in advancing children’s rights funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies. She has provided advice and/or training on children’s rights to participate to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Child Rights Connect, UNICEF, Eurochild and the Council of Europe.

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Seminar: “Children’s Rights and the Vulnerability of the Child” with Jonathan Herring

Those who argue that children should not have the same rights as adults typically emphasise the vulnerability of children. It is commonly argued that their vulnerability provides a powerful reason why children need to be protected from harms in ways adults do not. Supporters of the claim that children should have equal rights to adults typically respond by challenging the claim that children are especially vulnerable, arguing that children are far more autonomous than is commonly assumed. In this paper I will argue that a more convincing response is not that children are less vulnerable than is commonly assumed, but rather that adults are more vulnerable than is commonly assumed. In short, the case for equal rights for all people, is better premised on the claim we should treat adults like children, than on the claim we should treat children like adults.

Jonathan Herring is Professor of Law at the University of Oxford. He has written extensively on criminal, family and medical law and has recently analyzed legal disputes over contact between children and parents and issues surrounding children’s rights.

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