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African Children's Right to Participate in their Own Protection Perspectives from South Sudan



The protection of children confronting adversity has become one of the central priorities of humanitarian interventions worldwide. The array of child-focused rights and protections established by international, regional and national frameworks provides a normative foundation guiding efforts to facilitate the (re)establishment of more secure conditions. Despite a rhetorical acknowledgement of participation as enhancing chil-dren's provision and protection rights, much of children's rights activism in Africa continues to emphasise a protectionist approach over an empowering one. Furthermore, actualising children's rights constitutes a formidable challenge in fragile countries like South Sudan where difficult postwar conditions are compounded by significant discrepancies regarding the treatment of children in the various applicable legal systems. Advancing the view of children's rights as a living practice moulded by children's everyday realities, this paper discusses the situation of South Sudan as illustrative of the dilemmas of upholding the right of conflict-affected children in Africa to participate in their own protection.
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2014 | doi 10.1163/15718182-02201003
African Children’s Right to Participate in their Own
Perspectives from South Sudan
Marisa O. Ensor
Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conict,
University of Tennessee, USA
Department of Anthropology – Program on Disasters, Displacement and
Human Rights, University of Tennessee, USA
The protection of children confronting adversity has become one of the central priori-
ties of humanitarian interventions worldwide. The array of child-focused rights and
protections established by international, regional and national frameworks provides a
normative foundation guiding eforts to facilitate the (re)establishment of more secure
conditions. Despite a rhetorical acknowledgement of participation as enhancing chil-
dren’s provision and protection rights, much of children’s rights activism in Africa con-
tinues to emphasise a protectionist approach over an empowering one. Furthermore,
actualising children’s rights constitutes a formidable challenge in fragile countries like
South Sudan where dicult post-war conditions are compounded by signicant dis-
crepancies regarding the treatment of children in the various applicable legal systems.
Advancing the view of children’s rights as a living practice moulded by children’s
everyday realities, this paper discusses the situation of South Sudan as illustrative of
the dilemmas of upholding the right of conict-afected children in Africa to partici-
pate in their own protection.
protection rights - participation rights - legal pluralism - South Sudan Child Act -
 - child soldiers - violence against children - child labour
Amanda J. Reinke
   ’ 
 () -
69 ’   
   ’   () -
1 Introduction
The protection of children growing up in the midst of political violence and
displacement has become one of the central priorities of humanitarian inter-
ventions worldwide. In conict situations like those that afect parts of the
African continent, protection is generally understood as referring to those
strategies that aim at reducing the risk and extent of harm to civilians – both
adults and children – and facilitating the (re)establishment of more secure
conditions. Child-centred agencies such as  and Save the Children have
tended to dene protection more broadly as ‘freedom from violence, injury or
abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation’ (O’Callaghan & Pantuliano, 2007,
2). Protection strategies seeking to reduce vulnerability, mitigate threats, and
safeguard civilians from human rights violations have become a common
objective of many humanitarian agencies operating in Africa and elsewhere,
including those with a child-rights focus.
Children’s right to participation, on the other hand, remains a complex and
contentious topic, especially in relation to controversial practices such as child
labour and the involvement of minors in armed conict – both of which
remain widespread and persistent socio-economic realities for many young
people around the world. In South Sudan, where child protection concerns
encompass both the imperative to protect the young from a wide array of
threats, and the need to protect civilians from violent and militarised youth,
the failure to recognise the simultaneous agentive capacity and potential vul-
nerability of children is particularly problematic. During most of the pro-
tracted conict, sharp distinctions between ‘civilian’ – the traditional focus of
humanitarian protection – and ‘combatant’ were often unreective of on-the-
ground conditions. Instead, the complex patterns of violence committed by
youth or against youth in South Sudan were inter-related and mutually consti-
tutive (Ensor, 2012a), underscoring the need to move beyond simplistic dichot-
omies of ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ (Hart, 2008, 12) and avoid a reductionist
rhetoric which fails adequately to reect the complex lived realities of children
in South Sudan. Fieldwork data reveal, for instance, that many young students
were attracted to the rebel movements in the region in response to the govern-
ment’s repressive stance towards them (Leonardi, 2007, 394), while others
joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army () ‘out of a combination of
honour and moral duty’ (Ensor, 2012a, 278). The militarisation of youngsters
resulted in the abandonment of former restraints on intra- and inter-ethnic
violence and contributed to civilians young and old being frequently targeted.
During the war, development objectives were subordinated to military goals
to the detriment of social services and local infrastructure. Both government
70   
   ’   () -
forces and armed opposition groups committed massive violations against
Sudanese children in all areas identied by the  Security Council’s
Resolution 1612 on Children and Armed Conict (, 2007, 7). War-time
child protection concerns in South Sudan included high rates of abduction,
the prevalence of child soldiers, the practice of forced early marriage, and the
situation of orphans and children with disabilities (/, 2004, 64).
Slave raiding, perpetrated by government-backed militia as a tool of war, fur-
ther contributed to debilitate and traumatise the population. Some s esti-
mate that up to 200,000 people, including women and children, were abducted
as forced labour or as a commodity to be traded in the north (, 2005,
40–41). The war seriously disrupted the provision of basic services on which
children’s wellbeing depends – i.e. education, healthcare, access to food and
clean water. The situation remains particularly dire for the approximately
50,000 children who were orphaned during the last 20 years of the war alone,
as well and for the 170,000 who became separated from their biological parents
(, 2011).
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement () was signed by the Government
of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (/) on
9 January 2005. It brought an end to the Second Sudanese Civil War, which
lasted more than two decades and reportedly resulted in over two million
casualties, including women and children (, 2009, 8). The Republic of
South Sudan (o) became an independent nation on 9 July 2011, following a
largely peaceful referendum that took place on 9 January of the same year in
which the people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly – by 98.3 per cent – to
separate from the North (Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, 2011;
o, 2011). Peace and independence, however, have been marked by further
protection concerns resulting from the region’s fragile post-war political situa-
tion and impoverished socio-economic environment.
The new Government of South Sudan (o) is likely to continue confront-
ing enormous challenges for years to come, including some of the worst human
development indicators in the world and the chronic violence and insecurity
that still afect large areas of the country. The inadequate provision of essential
services such as education, health and safe water is compounded by a lack of
basic infrastructure. Restricted access to services and markets continues to
hamper economic development and fosters conict over limited resources
(, 2011). A number of additional issues – unabated conict in several
areas of the country; incomplete implementation of Disarmament,
Demobilisation and Reintegration () initiatives for child soldiers; violence
against children; child labour; child marriage – further undermine the protec-
tive environment for children and young people in this beleaguered young
71 ’   
   ’   () -
1 Marisa O. Ensor conducted ethnographic research in four South Sudanese towns (Juba, Yei,
Magwi and Nimule) during three eld seasons (the summers of 2011 and 2012, and December/
January of 2012/2013).
country. Some of the legislation enacted in the post-, post-independence
period is explicitly child-centred and quite progressive, eliciting the praise of
the international child-rights community. A number of recent legal provisions,
however, reect a yet unresolved tension between international standards and
local understandings of the role of children in society.
In spite of the multiple diculties they face, South Sudanese children have
traditionally exercised signicant independent – and interdependent – agency
in developing strategies for their own survival and that of their families.
Approaches seeking to promote the human rights of the children of South
Sudan must recognise the pivotal role that young people have always played as
actors in their society, avoiding unwarranted constructions of children as the
vulnerable passive recipients of adult protection and care. Indeed, the future
of this young African country depends in large part on the opportunities made
available to its children to full their right to participate in their own protec-
tion. The new government’s substantial dependence on international assis-
tance further underscores the need for the large number of international aid
workers operating in the country also to recognise and promote children’s par-
ticipation and protection rights.
Inspired by the theory of legal pluralism, this article presents some of the
ndings of a larger study of the interconnections between transitional justice,
displacement and sustainable peace, as experienced by war-afected children
and youth in South Sudan. We combine insights derived from an examination
of local norms and universal legal standards with eld research conducted in
South Sudan by one of the co-authors. While the larger study draws on ethno-
graphic and participatory research methods carried out with a range of local
actors, the present article is more specically framed as a contextual analysis
which aims at elucidating the legal, cultural, moral and practical dilemmas of
upholding conict-afected children’s right to participate in their own protec-
tion. Our overall project responds to the realisation that, although there has
been ample research on international and humanitarian responses to the
plight of children facing adversity and human rights violations, especially in
Africa (Holmes & Braunholtz-Speight, 2009; Save the Children, 2011; ,
2008), far less work has been done to document children’s own eforts to over-
come challenging circumstances, or examine their agency in attempting to
ameliorate their situation. By exploring the relationship between these two
72   
   ’   () -
concepts, the realities and complexities of children’s rights in fragile and war-
afected societies like South Sudan are brought to the fore.
Frameworks of Child Protection and Participation
Once largely circumscribed to the international law arena, the concept of pro-
tection has entered the mainstream of humanitarian action. Two main con-
ceptualisations of protection can be identied. The rst highlights physical
security and safety. People are kept safe when they are not attacked or threat-
ened with physical violence, and have adequate access to basic needs such as
food and water. Going beyond physical security, a second view of protection
emphasises the full range of human rights of afected individuals. In a process
initiated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and eventually
adopted by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, protection was dened as:
All activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in
accordance with the letter and spirit of the relevant bodies of law, namely
human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law’ (Giossi
Caverzasio, 2001). Thus dened, protection entails ensuring the full respect for
the human rights of the individual. In turn, incorporating a human rights
dimension into humanitarian work requires seeing people, both children and
adults, not as vulnerable beneciaries in need of assistance, but as empowered
individuals with a range of legally-established rights and entitlements. This
more recent view is based on the premise that protecting people at risk requires
not only keeping them alive, but also helping them full their rights to food,
education, health, shelter and all other aspects that provide the foundation of
a dignied and adequate standard of living.
Although right-based approaches to protection have become increasingly
dominant in modern socio-political and humanitarian discourses, their imple-
mentation is not without challenges. In efect, indiscriminate child protection
eforts risk restricting children’s constructions of their own future, especially in
a context of limited real-life options for securing livelihoods. The tension
inherent in the juxtaposition of children’s protection and empowerment (or
participation) rights has been a topic of debate at least since the emergence of
the modern human rights regime. The opening charter of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that childhood is entitled to special
care and assistance. Since then, the debate regarding children’s rights has
examined whether the role of the relevant human rights instruments is to
empower children or simply to protect them. This question goes back to the
roots of the children’s rights movement which juxtaposed the views of the
73 ’   
   ’   () -
‘child savers’, who emphasised children’s need for protection and care, and
those of the ‘kiddy libbers’, who advocated empowering children to develop
their own agentive capacities. Arguably, in war-torn societies and those emerg-
ing from violent armed conict such as South Sudan, a general focus on ‘child
saving’, in the positive sense of facilitating the entitlement of children to pro-
tection from life-threatening situations of violence and deprivation, seems jus-
tied. This should not, however, preclude eforts to empower children in terms
of, for instance, encouraging them to participate in decisions afecting their
own well-being (Kuper, 2000).
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child () and the
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (), two of the
main legal instruments establishing the principles of protection and participa-
tion, will both soon be celebrating their 25th anniversaries – in November 2014
and July 2015, respectively. The  was hailed as a signicant milestone in the
promotion of children’s rights at the global level, while the  was simi-
larly lauded for its ambition to ofer correctives and ll any gaps left by the 
with respect to the rights of African children. The  in particular has made
noteworthy advances in informing amendments to national constitutions as
well as leading to the introduction of children’s rights acts into the legislative
framework of a signicant number of countries in Africa and elsewhere. The
progress of these two international treaties has, however, been constrained by
a number of factors which have prevented their positive impact on the lives of
African children from being as signicant as had been hoped. Most notably,
the  stands accused of attempting to impose Western ideals on African
societies, while the  has paradoxically witnessed poor ratication by
African countries, including some which were involved in its formulation.
Overall, the international legislative framework regulating action on behalf of
children in contexts of armed conict and deprivation has been largely
informed by a protectionist approach which has tended to marginalise the
more emancipatory stances often favoured by afected children themselves.
Current perspectives on the role of these and related legal instruments rec-
ognise that children’s rights result from an imperfect compromise negotiated
at a certain point in time and in specic contexts by stakeholders with difer-
ing and often evolving interests. Thus, they cannot be limited to codications
of global standards into international or state legislation (Hanson &
Nieuwenhuys, 2013, 10), or even traditional practices and customary law which
may privilege local elites at the expense of marginalised groups. Instead, the
meaningful implementation of children’s rights must include attention to
the ways in which children actively practise those rights and protections in the
context of their lived experiences.
74   
   ’   () -
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
The adoption of the  in 1989 marked the beginning of a period of advocacy
to promote and legitimise children’s participation, in addition to their more
traditional protection and provision rights. Culminating years of international
eforts on behalf of children’s rights, the  represents the international stan-
dard for the establishment of both a legal and a moral code concerning chil-
dren worldwide. Together with the various other international and regional
documents focusing on the rights of children, the  constitutes a valuable
instrument for individuals and child-focused organisations working to pro-
mote a view of children as ‘independent, thinking subjects capable and deserv-
ing of a greater degree of participation’ (Hart, 1997, 11). Furthermore, this
approach allows for a view of children as separate, right-baring entities, not
mere extensions of their families (Ensor and Gożdziak, 2010, 25). As Special
Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais reminds us,
the  provides ‘a new vision of children’. It brings together the traditional
view of the child ‘as a vulnerable human being that requires protection and
assistance from the family, the society and the State’ (2000, 4), with the more
modern perception that she or he ‘is a subject of rights who is able to form and
express opinions, to participate in decision making processes and inuence
solutions, to intervene as a partner in the process of social change and in the
building up of democracy’ (ibid.). The participation of children ‘in all matters
afecting the child’ (, Art. 12) has thereby been enshrined in international
law. Furthermore, children’s participation is not only acknowledged as a right
in itself, as specically expressed in Article 12 of the , but also as a means
by which all other children’s rights may be realised (Lansdown, 2003).
Children’s participation has been one of the most debated and examined
aspects of the Convention on the Rights of the Child since it was adopted
by the  in 1989. Despite its widespread usage, there remains consider-
able lack of clarity about what is actually meant by participation in the
context of children’s rights.
, , 
Consequently, the right to participation is often regarded as largely aspira-
tional and not yet fully realised (Alderson, 2008). An important dimension of
the challenges involved in actualising children’s participation rights pertains
to the tension inherent in two of the general principles that constitute the cor-
nerstones of the  – the principle of ‘the best interests of the child’, estab-
lished by Article 3, and ‘the right to be heard and taken seriously’, primarily
associated with Article 12 (, 2008). Eforts to establish measures and poli-
cies to protect children from harm and ensure their safety and welfare must be
75 ’   
   ’   () -
balanced against children’s right to have their views and priorities given due
weight. Specically, the  General Comment No. 12 states that –
the concept of participation emphasises that including children should
not be a momentary act, but the starting point for an intense exchange
between children and adults on the development of policies, programmes
and measures.
  , , 
This extends beyond the mere right to be heard, and also ensures that chil-
dren’s participation will be given due weight and that their views will be taken
into account during decision-making processes.
Clearly, the uneasy and yet unresolved tension between the concept of par-
ticipation and the protectionist commitments of the best interest principle
can only be resolved in a contextualised manner. Diculties arise when, in
exercising their right to have a voice and be listened to, children choose to
engage in activities that would appear to be in conict with the best interests
principle (Ensor, 2012a). Views of children’s best interests guided by represen-
tations of young people as immature and dependent, which Gerison Lansdown
calls ‘the presumption of children’s incapacities’ (2010, 15), contribute to the
lack of clarity regarding what participation actually means in the context of
children’s rights (ibid., 12).
Recent scholarship on children, especially those living in Africa and other
regions of the Global South, reects a distancing from global top-down poli-
cies to grant children abstract rights, including a critical questioning of preva-
lent hegemonic interpretations of what children are entitled to. Pamela
Reynolds, Olga Nieuwenhuys and Karl Hanson, for instance, point out that
‘taking the child’s best interest as the leading principle of the …  clashes
with priorities that children themselves may set’ (2006, 291–2). Kristen Cheney,
on the other hand, argues that –
the problem of implementation … does not lie in the children’s lack of
morality and agency supposed by transnational children’s rights dis-
courses that emphasize a protectionist, “best interest” approach to the
fullment of the  over an empowering one. Rather, the problem lies
in adults’ use of children’s rights for their own self-interest’ (2013, 163).
Other authors emphasise the importance of considering children’s rights to
participation and protection as contextually and culturally situated. Writing
about the situation of Ethiopian children, in particular, Tatek Abebe (2013)
proposes the notion of ‘interdependent agency’ which highlights the
76   
   ’   () -
interrelatedness of rights, duties and obligations. The role of children in the
collective livelihood strategies common to many parts of Africa, Abebe
argues, contributes to a construction of children’s agency as interdependent
on the family and wider networks of long-term support. Agency, a fundamen-
tal component of participation, is therefore to be understood as a ‘socio-
culturally mediated capacity to act’ (Ahearn, 2001, 112); that is, an abstract
capacity whose actualisation is enabled and/or constrained in practice by
socio-cultural structures and discourses.
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
The  was followed by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the
Child (). The  was adopted in 1990 by the Organisation of African
Unity (), currently known as the African Union (), and entered into
force in November 1999, becoming the rst regional treaty to address
children’s rights. Like the , the  establishes a wide range of civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights, and acknowledges that child
participation is often an efective strategy for children to achieve their provi-
sion and protection rights. Both the  and the  also require that chil-
dren be protected during armed conict in accordance with international
humanitarian law. The  further adds, ‘Such rules shall also apply to chil-
dren in situations of internal armed conict, tension and strife’ (Article 22(3))
(Galperin, 2002, 116–17).
The African Charter was established is response to the perception that
African countries had been under-represented in the drafting process of the
, leading to the belief that a regional treaty would help to better address
the particular realities of children in Africa (Viljoen, 2000). Article 11of the
, for example, encourages the provision of an education model which
strives for the ‘preservation and strengthening of positive African morals, tra-
ditional values and cultures’ (para. 2(c)) as well as the ‘promotion and achieve-
ments of African Unity and Solidarity’ (para. 2(f)). The  also species
the responsibilities that children have to their families and society as a whole.
The resulting document enumerates, in Article 31, the responsibilities of chil-
dren, including preserving and strengthening cultural values, respecting par-
ents, elders, and superiors, and working for a cohesive family, among others.
The  is therefore not only shaped by views of the rights of children uni-
versally, but also seeks to detail the rights and responsibilities of African chil-
dren more specically.
Other scholars have contended that ‘the two pieces of legislation are com-
plementary and both provide the framework through which children and their
welfare are increasingly discussed in Africa’ (Olowu, 2002, 128). Indeed, both
77 ’   
   ’   () -
instruments are predicated on the same four cardinal principles: (1) non-
discrimination (Article 2 of the  and Article 3 of the Charter; (2) the best
interest of the child (Article 3 of the  and Article 4 of the ); (3) the
right to life, survival and development (Article 6 of the  and Article 5 of the
); and (4) the principle of participation (Article 12 of the  and Article
4(2) of the ). Overall, the African Charter ‘uses the language of the provi-
sions of the Convention in great detail in framing the content of the rights,
with striking similitude’ (ibid., 128), although some notable diferences are also
While both the  and the  dene children as human beings under
the age of 18 years, the  contains a proviso allowing for the age limit to be
adjusted in order to accommodate local circumstances under which a child
may attain her legal majority at an earlier age. No such qualication exists in
the . In other words, the denition provided by an international instru-
ment like the  can be seen, in this respect, as more exible than that con-
tained in its regional African counterpart, countering a frequently voiced
criticism of universal denitions of the child as too rigid and unresponsive of
local realities. Some authors, on the other hand, see the unyielding cut-of age
of the  as a positive feature, as it theoretically ensures special protection
to all juvenile ofenders under the age of 18 (Oluwu, 2002, 130). Similarly, while
the  outright prohibits both the military recruitment, and the betrothal
or marriage of all children (Articles (22(2) and 21(2), respectively), the 
allows the military recruitment of children above 15 years of age (Article 38),
and does not explicitly refer to child marriage. Unlike the , which con-
structs children as independent subjects, the African Charter’s stronger
emphasis on protection and provision has been interpreted as highlighting
children’s interdependence. Children’s rights and obligations are considered
simultaneously, which ‘has important obligations for placing children within
the context of their families and communities as well as for exploring rights
from the perspective of duties and responsibilities’ (Abebe, 2013, 88).
The  has been described as ‘the most progressive of the treaties on
the rights of the child’ (Van Bueren, 1995, 402). Nevertheless, contemporary
realities in much of Africa, including South Sudan – i.e. Africa is the region
further behind on most of the child-related Millennium Development Goals
(Ensor 2012b, 2), and both child soldiering and child marriage remain wide-
spread practices – constitute a sobering reminder of the urgent need to move
from standards setting to actual implementation. Interpretation of the various
provisions contained in these frameworks demands both normative and
empirical analysis not only to elucidate the spirit of the legal standards, but
also to identify the socio-cultural and economic circumstances that frame the
78   
   ’   () -
multiple domains of African children’s lives and determine whether and how
legal provisions can be translated into local action.
The South Sudanese Normative Context
Translating the legal provisions established by treaties such as the  and the
 into practice remains a formidable challenge in countries like South
Sudan where the protection and well-being of children is threatened by di-
cult post-conict realities. An encouraging – if not unproblematic – develop-
ment for those seeking to promote the rights of African children, the Southern
Sudan Child Act was signed into law in October 2008 by President Salva Kiir
(Southern Sudan Gazette, 2009) in recognition of the pivotal role that children
have always played as actors in South Sudanese society. Drafted with the sup-
port of , this Act enshrines the rights of children in South Sudan, and
establishes mechanisms for realising them, including child-friendly justice sys-
tems. Overall, the Child Act seeks to protect and extend the rights of children
in South Sudan, in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Interim
Constitution of South Sudan and international and regional instruments such
as  and the . The Interim Constitution prescribed that the o and
State governments should ‘adopt policies and provide facilities for the welfare
of children and youth and ensure that they develop morally and physically,
and are protected from moral and physical abuse and abandonment … [They
should] empower the youth to develop their potentials’ (Ministry of Education,
Science and Technology, 2009). This sentiment is echoed in the Transitional
Constitution which came into force in 2011 when South Sudan became an inde-
pendent nation. The new nation also counts with a legislative assembly, a
nascent police force, and a rapidly growing educational sector with four times
more children enrolled in primary school in 2011 than in 2005 (, 2011).
The applicable law in South Sudan currently incorporates an uneasy amal-
gam of normative frameworks, including the legislation decreed by the Chair
of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (the political branch of the )
before the ; the legislation enacted by the Southern Sudan Legislative
Assembly, which gives considerable prominence to customary law and tradi-
tional authority (Articles 5, 173); and the international human rights treaties
ratied by Sudan before South Sudan’s secession. These comprise a number of
 binding agreements, including the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
 Article 26(3) of the Interim National Constitution and Article 20(4) (b) of the Interim
Constitution of Southern Sudan provide that the rights set forth in international human
rights treaties ratied by Sudan constitute an ‘integral part’ of the constitutional Bill of
79 ’   
   ’   () -
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 18(a), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331 (concluded 23 May
1969; entered into force 27 January 1980).
and that on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Convention on
the Rights of the Child (Garms, 2009). Additionally, South Sudan signed the
 on 1 March 2013. Although at the time of writing it had yet to ratify this
Charter, state parties agree, upon signing an international instrument, to bind
themselves in good faith to ensure that nothing is done which would defeat the
purpose of the treaty, pending the decision on ratication. Thus, although the
 is not formally binding upon South Sudan, its provisions still carry sig-
nicant weight.
It is worth noting that, while South Sudan has in principle agreed to be
bound by the international human rights instruments to which it is a party,
their provisions do not form part of its domestic law unless they have been
specically incorporated into South Sudanese legislation. Reecting its English
common law heritage, the Interim Constitution of South Sudan has a ‘dualist’
approach to international law whereby treaty obligations are not part of the
domestic law unless they are ‘domesticated’ – that is, enacted into domestic
law. Nevertheless, some provisions established by international human rights
treaty articles already exist in the national legislation. These include many of
the provisions contained in the  which, as already discussed, are embed-
dedin the Transitional Constitution and in the Child Act (, 2013).
Signicantly, South Sudan has neither ratied nor signed the Convention on
the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination Against Women (). This is
a matter of concern in a country where gender-based inequalities confer
females lower status at all levels of society, and where the pervasive perception
of female youth primarily as property in dowry transactions is both linked to
under-valued schooling for girls and to high incidences of rape and domestic
violence which remain pervasive in the post-conict period. Another problem-
atic aspect of the South Sudanese normative context are the signicant dis-
crepancies manifest in the way children are treated in the various legal systems
(customary, domestic, international/human rights) currently in existence. The
conicting views towards issues of vital importance for children’s wellbeing –
such as violence against children; child labour; the military use of children –
evident in both legal frameworks and societal attitudes merit focused attention.
Both the  (Article 19) and the  (Article 16) oblige state parties to take
all appropriate measures to protect the children from all forms of violence,
maltreatment and abuse. Article 20 of the , however, has been inter-
preted as allowing parents to discipline their children as long as ‘domestic dis-
cipline is administered with humanity and in a matter consistent with the
80   
   ’   () -
inherent dignity of the child.’ South Sudan became the 30th country to pro-
hibit all forms of violence against children, including by parents, and has been
commended for its –
‘strong political commitment’ to violence prevention and the protection
of children’s dignity and physical integrity through the adoption of legis-
lation that encourages positive discipline and promotes the education of
children through non-violent means.
Together with Tunisia and Kenya, South Sudan is the third African state to
establish full prohibition (Santos Pais, 2011).
Prohibiting legislation was originally enacted in 2005 by the Interim
Government of Southern Sudan, in article 21 of the Interim Constitution of
Southern Sudan. Prohibition was subsequently conrmed in article 21 of the
2008 Child Act, as well as in the Transitional Constitution. Article 17 of
this Transitional Constitution prohibits all corporal punishment and estab-
lishes that ‘Every child has the right … to be free from corporal punishment and
cruel and inhuman treatment by any person including parents, school admin-
istrations and other institutions….. Both the Government and the Sudan
People’s Liberation Army (), however, have long been favourable to
the role of customary law and traditional justice mechanisms, whose princi-
ples and practices view the young as competent and capable but also condone
the harsh treatment of children perceived as in need of chastising. South
Sudanese customary law in fact prescribes lashings as a suitable punishment
for certain ofences committed by children, and some local Chiefs’ Courts
reportedly follow the principle that ‘anyone under eighteen can be ogged, but
not imprisoned’ (Leonardi et al., 2010, 59). The conicting views towards vio-
lence against children evident in both legal frameworks and societal attitudes
constitute one issue that has attracted considerable attention, but remains
Similarly noteworthy is section 25 of the Child Act, which places the
minimum age for paid employment at 14 years. This provision meets the
requirements of the International Programme for the Elimination of Child
Labour (), which was established in 1992 as part of the International
Labour Organisation’s () global eforts against child labour. ‘The primary
policy instruments related to these eforts include the  Convention 138,
the  Convention on the Rights of the Child, the  Convention 182’
(Ensor, 2011, 412–5). Additionally, South Sudan ratied both C138 – also known
as the Minimum Age Convention – and C182, the Worst Forms of Labour
Convention – on 29 April, 2012. The o has been widely praised in human
81 ’   
   ’   () -
rights and child-advocacy circles for accepting these international legal com-
mitments. Local realities in this impoverished country, however, warrant the
cautionary remark that ‘age thresholds, because of the efect of their legal
validity, lend themselves to the universal, prescriptive application of children’s
rights in ways than can undermine the ability of the young to act in their own
best interests’ (O’Neill, 2013, 94), as we discuss in the following section.
Considered a ‘worst form of child labour’ as well as an international crime,
child soldiering became a widespread occurrence in South Sudan owing to a
combination of traditional practices and war-time imperatives. At the height
of the conict, inter-agency assessments identied at least 17,000 children
associated with armed groups, many of whom were directly involved in ght-
ing (Save the Children et al., 2002). The Peace Agreement included explicit pro-
vision for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration () eforts,
which also constitute one of the key priorities of the South Sudan Development
Plan (2011–2013). The Child Act prohibits the recruitment and use of children
in armed conict, seeking to ‘extend, promote, and protect the rights of chil-
dren in South Sudan’ (Southern Sudan Gazette, 2009, 11). Child-focused 
programmes are being promoted by the Government, various  agencies,
and other aid organisations operating in the country. Indeed, child soldiers –
formally referred to as Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups –
are identied as one of the main sub-groups targeted for specic attention in
the overall  process (Republic of South Sudan, 2011). Hampered by limited
funding, and reecting an emphasis on victimhood contrary to local percep-
tions of the young as capable actors, ‘child ’ as these eforts are commonly
known in South Sudan, is facing signicant diculties.
As Karl Hanson and Olga Nieuwenhuys remind us, ‘law always represents an
unstable translation of ideas of right and wrong that exist in the real world and
are based on lived experiences’ (2013, 3). In the specic context of armed con-
ict and post-conict recovery, international law –
is but one of the many possible understandings of the rights of the child
along with … local conceptions, such as those embodied in the social
practices of young people that express diferent forms of agency during
armed conict (ibid., 10).
Prevalent conditions in post-war South Sudan underscore that children’s
rights, including their right to participation and protection, cannot be limited
to codications in international or state legislation, nor to interpretations
ofered by humanitarian and child-advocacy organisations.
82   
   ’   () -
South Sudanese Children’s Rights as a Living Practice
The situation of children and youth in South Sudan remains at a critical junc-
ture in the post-independence period. After years of sufering – and, in some
instances, committing – a wide range of human rights violations and severe
deprivation during the war, their access to protection and opportunities for
meaningful participation in social life requires sustained attention. As is the
case in most societies in Africa and other regions of the developing world,
South Sudanese children are assigned gender- and age-based responsibilities
and social roles which are valued and necessary for survival. They also support
the maintenance of reciprocal relationships – if typically highly unequal, espe-
cially in the case of females – within their families and extended clan networks.
For older adolescents, successful participation in the economic arena may lead
to their empowerment, and constitute a necessary condition for proper entry
into moral adulthood. In this context, ‘[t]he conceptualization of working chil-
dren as the powerless victims of exploitative labour forces as is assumed in chil-
dren’s rights discourse is dicult to sustain when research takes into account
children’s own perspectives on what they do’ (White, 1999; Woodhead, 1999, as
cited in O’Neill, 2013: 93). Consequently, the enforcement of minimum-age reg-
ulations proscribing children’s participation in activities that could be charac-
terised as ‘labour’, such as those established by the various  Conventions as
well as South Sudanese domestic legislation, is highly problematic.
Children’s work contribution often constitutes an essential part of a house-
hold survival strategy. For children in especially dicult circumstances …
the prospect of gaining some control over their own lives and having access
to an independent source of income can be both household-sustaining
and self-arming. On the other hand, these kinds of situations also show
an increased potential for children to be compelled to engage in forms of
hazardous labour in an efort to ensure their own survival and that of their
 , –
Signicantly, one of the activities specically prohibited by the Child Act is
any ‘herding which jeopardizes the interest of the child’ (ibid., 22). Cattle
rearing, however, constitutes an important livelihood strategy throughout
South Sudan, and forms the basis of economic exchanges and social interac-
tions such as paying the bride price necessary for marriage. Children’s partici-
pation in cattle keeping is also an important signier of their daily lifeworlds,
and constitutes a vital and welcome contribution to South Sudanese social
83 ’   
   ’   () -
and economic life. It is, nevertheless, imperative to recognise that the positive
socialisation and contribution to survival that participation in livelihood
activities confers to children may occur simultaneously with abuse and
exploitation. Clearly, child labour is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon
requiring systematic attention to the socio-economic, cultural, and physical
environment in which children live and work. Moreover, war-time imperatives
have led in many cases to a disruption, if not a complete obliteration, of tradi-
tional social and economic roles.
War-afected youth in South Sudan epitomise the social struggles that are
powerfully shaping this new African country. Rather than humbly embracing
subordinate, dependent social positions, South Sudanese youngsters are
increasingly resisting co-optation by those who seek to re-establish an unwel-
come gerontocratic social order. Demobilised child soldiers, returning refugee
children, and other groups exposed to foreign values and the possibilities
ofered by international assistance, represent the vanguard of hybrid youth
cultures which embody the multiple contradictions of daily life in post-
independence South Sudan. Many are ocking to urban areas in search of
better opportunities, and choose urban unemployment over life under the rule
of their elders in the impoverished countryside (Ensor, 2013a). The majority
lack the academic credentials and skills required to compete for the scarce
available jobs. Indeed, in spite of noteworthy post- improvements, educa-
tional opportunities in South Sudan remain among the lowest in the world;
this country also has some of the lowest primary school enrolment rates,
highest dropout rates and widest gender disparities worldwide. Less than half
of the primary school-aged children are in school, and only 27 per cent of the
population is literate (, 2012, 6–8).
Responding to these conditions, the o has often proclaimed that the pro-
vision of basic education would constitute one of its main priorities in the post-
conict period, and a multitude of s operating in South Sudan has stepped
in to ll the void in skills training. Those espousing a child rights perspective
emphasise that education fulls both protection and participation objectives
for war-afected children. Among other benets, education is assumed to
reduce inequality, poverty and disease; mitigate conict and crisis; and pro-
mote human capability and achieve social justice. Others have contended that,
education should not be about producing a labour force to serve the
requirements of global capital. Instead, it ought to be about providing
skills and knowledge to members of a community so that they are able to
understand each other and their connections with wider communities.
  ., , 
84   
   ’   () -
Implementation of viable educational, vocational and related employment
opportunities is, however, facing signicant challenges. The many educational
and training programmes that are being established throughout the country
operate without any overall framework, using diferent curricula, varying dura-
tions and diverse methods of certication. Furthermore, few discernible
attempts have been made to link graduates with employment opportunities.
While the informal sector is growing rapidly throughout the country, especially
in larger urban centres, a study by the Women’s Refugee Commission found
that private businesses report a preference for foreign, more skilled employees,
and are bringing in young workers from neighbouring countries (, 2010, 11).
The challenge is thus not limited to providing schooling for pupils, but cre-
ating adequate incentives to justify the efort. Pushing families to make consid-
erable investments as they struggle to send their children to school when
suitable employment is unlikely to become available after graduation would
only cause further strain on parents, and increase the frustration and disafec-
tion of the young. In light of these challenges, the hope that providing young
people with the necessary skills will turn them into responsible citizens and
productive members of the labour force has been paired with parallel fears of
renewed tensions and conict is case of a failure to do so (World Bank, 2007).
As discussed elsewhere, ‘the tension inherent in the juxtaposition of chil-
dren’s right to protection and to participation is most starkly manifested in the
context of armed conict’ (Ensor, 2013, 153). In South Sudan, many child sol-
diers report having made a conscious choice to ‘ght for causes they believe,
often justiably, to be in their political and socio-economic best interests’
(ibid., 157), countering the prevalent discoursive production of war-afected
youngsters as passive vulnerable victims. It is also worth noting that, prior to
demobilisation, young soldiers’ army salaries constituted a vital source of
income on which many households relied for survival. Local constructions of
childhood and youth have thus been placed at odds with a new, inconsistently-
framed social order where acceptable practices for young people are narrowly
circumscribed, compounding the challenges of reintegrating thousands of
child soldiers into civilian society.
Unsurprisingly, demobilisation eforts, especially when not supported by an
efective reintegration component, are perceived as an unwelcome and unjus-
tiable intrusion of international norms on local realities. Discouraged by the
lack of viable options ofered by civilian life, many ex-combatants are report-
edly joining irregular militia groups after compulsory demobilisation.
Indeed, one ’s greatest challenges is ofering opportunities
that deter the delisted children from re-joining another armed group
85 ’   
   ’   () -
as a way to secure some nancial security for themselves and their
, , –
The lack of progress bringing the  process to completion remains an
underlying cause of insecurity and protection concerns in a country where the
possession of weapons continues to be perceived as essential for safety and
Overall, the actions taken to promote the welfare of children categorised
as vulnerable in South Sudan appears to be favouring a protectionist reading
of children’s rights which risks reinforcing the denial of their agency.
Paradoxically, normative protectionist eforts are restricting children’s par-
ticipation in activities such as cattle herding which have traditionally consti-
tuted an important component of their habitual lifescapes, while current
realities fail to provide viable employment opportunities for the older adoles-
cents and youth legally authorised to work. Youth’s marginalisation from
‘mainstream economic life, political acknowledgment, and civic responsibil-
ity’ (Comarof & Comarof, 2005, 29) represents a potential threat to peace
and stability in South Sudan. On the other hand, children and youth in this
country have often demonstrated a remarkable ability for constructive
engagement with a variety of societal conditions, adverse or otherwise. Given
the important and active role societally ascribed to the young, often accus-
tomed to navigating the profound challenges associated with growing up in
an environment of uncertainty and deprivation, eforts at promoting chil-
dren’s rights must move beyond traditionally limited approaches to child pro-
tection. Meaningful opportunities for children and youth to full their right
to participate in the decisions that afect their lives should be also provided.
Concluding Thoughts
The shared normative beliefs that legitimise human rights in Africa – including
children’s rights to participation and protection – reect a uctuating relation-
ship between the rigidity of codication and the exibility of lived experi-
ences. The contrast between legal principles and daily practices is starkly
revealed in fragile transitional nations like South Sudan, a country which has
been experiencing a rapid and rather chaotic process of state-building since its
9th July 2011 independence. The glaring discrepancies manifest in the various
legal frameworks currently applicable to children in South Sudan are a reec-
tion of the new Government’s struggles to solidify its nascent legitimacy, both
86   
   ’   () -
domestically and as a new member of the global community of sovereign
nations. These momentous changes and state of ux are also characteristic of
many other parts of the African continent.
Africa … grapples with issues of national sovereignty and localized cul-
tures in relation to universal human and child rights protocols and instru-
ments … Africa is pregnant with possibilities waiting to be born as some
of [its] countries re-shape their destinies and re-write their histories.
  , 
In an unequal global order, post-conflict and other fragile nations in the
developing world may succumb to efforts by more powerful actors to
impose hegemonic universalising interpretation of human rights which
may or may not reflect local realities. A rigid and manipulative instruman-
talisation of rights which fails to respond to the social practices of children
would serve to constraint rather than expand children’s options (White &
Choudhury, 2007). As the previous discussion has illustrated, the , the
, and the Child Act contain dissonant views regarding participation
and protection, contributing to the o’s dilemmas regarding the adop-
tion of the legal standards establishing the rights of children in their fledg-
ling country.
At the implementation level, the provision of conict-afected children in
South Sudan has tended to fall within the sphere of non-governmental action.
‘We can measure the performance of policies and programs in Africa, whether
by governments, international organizations or s, against the standard of
what they provide for Africa’s children and youth’ (Jonsson, 2002, vii). While
the development of services for children has increasingly acknowledged the
importance of children’s voices and perspectives, much current humanitarian
programming continues to ignore the child’s voice, stemming from a common
failure to represent children as simultaneously vulnerable and competent.
There are no internationally accepted criteria for the qualications of aid
workers or for the supervision of interventions, and few cases in which projects
targeting children are subjected to comprehensive inspection. Most profes-
sionals who work with children (i.e. social workers, educators, lawyers, health
care providers) are ‘accustomed to making assumptions about the needs of
children and what is best for them’ (Smith, 2007, 3). Finding that the pro-
grammes established for their benet do not always satisfy their needs, chil-
dren often ‘shop around’ among projects in search of the best ofering of the
services they seek.
87 ’   
   ’   () -
4 Article 3(3). States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible
for the care or protection of children shall conform to the standards established by compe-
tent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of
their staf, as well as competent supervision.
Article . States Parties recognize the right of a child who has been placed by the com-
petent authorities for the purposes of care, protection or treatment of his or her physical or
mental health, to a periodic review of the treatment provided to the child and all other cir-
cumstances relevant to his or her placement.
Attention to the provisions of Articles 3(3) and 25 [of the ] should
raise questions about the way projects are managed and supervised and
the responsibility for checking references and qualications ….
, , 
While this requirement would be essential in any situation, it is particularly
critical in contexts like South Sudan, where children’s realities are so challeng-
ing and the reliance on international assistance so vast.
Children in South Sudan continue to face multiple protection risks stem-
ming from the impact of the prolonged armed conict. Displacement, poverty,
and limited social and economic opportunities coupled with pervasive insecu-
rity, all have undermined the protective environment for children and young
people in this country (, 2011). There is an increasing gap between the
needs and aspirations of young people and their capacity to achieve them. As
the case of South Sudan illustrates, promoting the best interests of children in
post-conict situations must include a balanced attention to both their par-
ticipatory and their protection rights. Protective approaches that make the
young dependent on adult support may increase children’s vulnerability when
adult protection is no longer available. Responsibly promoting opportunities
for child participation, on the other hand, requires appropriate recognition of
the potential risks involved. In highly ethnically and culturally heterogeneous
African countries like South Sudan, child-inclusive participatory approaches
also require addressing power diferentials among children that result from
variables such as ethnicity, gender, age, religion and geography. Attention to
these issues is crucial not only in terms of child protection, but also in the
interest of peace and the security of the society at large. History shows that
young people sufering from political and socio-economic disenfranchisement
can be more easily subjected to political manipulation and induced to resort to
violence. It is thus vital that the evidence of good practices safeguarding
children’s participation and protection rights in this and other post-conict
88   
   ’   () -
situations be collected and disseminated as part of the global eforts to pro-
mote children’s resilience to humanitarian crises.
As our study has highlighted, African children are not the passive recipients
of the ideas, policies or interventions generated by others. Thus, ‘if [African]
children’s rights are to be entrenched, children should be party to the shaping
and implementation of these rights’ (Hanson & Nieuwenhuys, 2013, 5).
Fostering South Sudanese children’s demonstrated potential for practical self-
determination must thus be a core aspect of post-independence programming
if South Sudan is to become a peaceful and prosperous society where children’s
rights to both protection and participation are upheld, and young people can
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... while the CRC acknowledges children's vulnerabilities and their more traditional protection and provision rights, it also promotes children as active citizens who have agency and can make decisions about their best interests (Ensor & Reinke, 2014). ...
... At present, however, commitment to honor children's participation in decisions that affect them is rhetorical rather than actual. Ensor and Reinke (2014) identify lack of commitment to meaningful child participation as the principal reason why child rights approaches emphasise paternalistic protection over child empowerment. In other words, and as I argue throughout this chapter, the elevation of securitised protection strategies does not just distract from meaningful post-war reintegration assistance; it thwarts them. ...
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Policy responses to child soldiering focus on criminalising recruitment and preventing re-recruitment of children who have already fought in war. These dominant remedial measures are rooted in legal approaches that reflect securitised strategies; namely, symbolic prosecution of child recruitment as a war crime to deter future child recruitment. Yet, criminalisation has had minimal impact on conflict-affected children and has failed to prevent child soldiering. Moreover, criminalisation produces tradeoffs with assistance programmes for former child soldiers. Despite recognition that children should participate in decisions affecting their well-being, child reintegration efforts rarely consult children about key decisions, let alone conceptualise ways to encourage their active participation in decision-making. Meanwhile, programs designed to help children after war remain short term and ill-suited to children’s own post-war needs and aspirations. Designing more effective post-war reintegration assistance will likely require recognising child agency and breaking up the monopoly that criminalisation strategies currently possess.
... This narrative may be empirically correct (e.g. Kilkelly and Donnelly, 2011;Ensor and Reinke, 2014;Jones, 2017) but its consistency does not suggest the field is moving beyond this critique. Reasons could be the familiarity of the predominant focus and conceptual development. ...
Children and young people’s participation is an ever-growing demand. Thirty years on from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’s adoption, however, fundamental challenges continue for participation that are widely recognised cross-nationally but remain stubbornly consistent. As a way in to considering the children and young people’s participation literature more generally, all articles referring to participation in their titles were identified from The International Journal of Children’s Rights . These 56 articles were analysed to identify trends, challenges and opportunities. The analysis found: a remarkably consistent narrative on participation over the 30 years; limitations on domains considered, geography and conceptual clarity; and far more written about challenges than solutions. Drawing on these findings and considering the participation literature more generally, the article recommends that the field expands its geographic and intellectual boundaries, uses powerful concepts like agency, competency and autonomy with greater precision, and explores fresh ideas like child protoganism, activism and children as human rights defenders.
... while the CRC acknowledges children's vulnerabilities and their more traditional protection and provision rights, it also promotes children as active citizens who have agency and can make decisions about their best interests (Ensor & Reinke, 2014). ...
The common image of children as vulnerable and needing protection has been destabilized over the past decades. The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) has promoted the concepts of children's rights and of children as active citizens who can make decisions about their best interests. Although the CRC encompasses the three P's approach: participation, protection and provision, questions remain as to the interactions of these rights, especially how they can supplement each other and contribute to better well-being for children. This interaction is especially relevant in cases of children in vulnerable situations, such as maltreatment. Over the years the professional discourse on child maltreatment has been focused mostly on protection and provision. Here we discuss the interaction between protection of maltreated children and their participation. Five aspects of child participation in the field of child maltreatment will be presented: children's participation in the definition of child maltreatment phenomena; children's participation in measuring the prevalence of child maltreatment; children's participation in clinical assessments; children's participation in in the decision-making process in child protection system; and children's participation in the efforts to prevent child maltreatment.
... 22 However, chil­ dren's rights remains a complex and contentious topic, which includes controversial practices such as child la­ bour and the involvement of minors in armed conflictboth of which remain widespread and persistent so­ cio-economic realities for many young people around the world. 26 ...
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Introduction: Children are influenced by different environments – home, friends, school, community, society, and the existence and availability of various services – and child well-being is the outcome of the interrelationships between the child and these environments. The military is one of the environments that shapes the well-being of children in military families, and the environments interact with each other. Methods: Our main assumption is that the effect of military environment on child well-being may vary in different societies depending on the general social security system. We describe how the military children’s well-being is embedded in military systems, which in turn is embedded in welfare state. The main question is how the well-being of children from military families varies across countries and how much variation can be explained by the interplay between military systems and different welfare regimes. Results: We begin by describing the differences in welfare states and military systems, and then give a short overview of children’s well-being in the context of different welfare regimes (e.g., availability of public child care, health care, and access to education and extracurricular activities). Discussion: Next, we look at the interplay between the military and welfare regimes and, finally, we show how the well-being of military children is supported across countries by their different welfare regimes.
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The Global Justice Index is a multiyear research project conducted at the Fudan-IAS to conceptualize and measure each country’s contribution to achieving greater global justice. In 2019, we completed our research project on first-year achievements, with the rankings of nation-states at the global level based on data from 2010 to 2017. This was published titled the “Global Justice Index Report” in Chinese Political Science Review (Vol. 5, No. 3, 2020). The “Global Justice Index Report 2020” is the second annual report based on our work analyzing data from 2010 to 2018, which was concluded in 2020. In order to better measure each country’s performance and contribution to achieving greater global justice, compared to the first edition published in 2020, we have improved the model, added the refugee issue to expand the issue areas to 10, and added new indicators, regional analysis and comparison in this report. The report comprises five main sections. In the introduction, we discuss the development of the conceptual framework and evaluative principles to justify our selection of dimensions and indicators for measurement. Next, in the section of methodology, we discuss the production, normalization, and aggregation of the raw data and the generation of the final results. In the findings section, we report the data, indicators and our results for the ten issues, and provide regional comparisons. And then, in the following section we present the main results, and report the ranking of each country’s contribution to achieving greater global justice. In the final section, we discuss the applications and limitations of the index, and its potential further research trajectories.
Young people are among the most severely impacted by conflict and as such many post-conflict initiatives are aimed at assisting them. Yet the impacts of these initiatives on young people's ability to successfully overcome the adversity they faced during conflict are not fully understood. This paper attempts to examine these impacts by conceptualising post-conflict initiatives as enmeshed within young people's social environments. It argues that post-conflict initiatives are intimately connected to broader processes of exclusion from social systems such as the family. While these systems had previously served to protect young people against adversity, conflict and post-conflict initiatives have disrupted their ability to continue this mission. In particular, the structure and function of the family system are examined to demonstrate the types of disruptions that have taken place that have ultimately negatively impacted the landscape in which young people develop.
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Tanzania is one of the jurisdictions in Africa that follow an adversarial criminal justice system. Despite a number of problems associated with the fact that the criminal justice system over-utilises imprisonment, there is still a lack of diversionary measures to complement the system. This article investigates restorative justice as a complementary system to the Tanzanian criminal justice system, arguing that the law, including the constitution of the country, favours the application of restorative interventions. Invoking restorative justice mechanisms can, inter alia, relieve over-laden courts from the backlog of minor cases, and can help the government salvage funds by reducing the number of incarcerated offenders. It is further argued that restorative justice approaches that have been articulated in some juvenile justice systems in Africa can be adapted to suit the Tanzanian restorative approach for child and adult offenders.
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With 70% of its people under the age of 30, and approximately 147 million children under the age of five (UNICEF 2008, 49), Africa1 is the world’s youngest continent. Informed understandings of the implications of this so-called African “youth bulge” have been hampered by the shortage of detailed research on the issue. Inquiry into the lives and social circumstances of children and youth around the world has increased significantly in recent decades, spearheaded by the emergence of a “social science of childhood” in the 1980s and the widespread ratification of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This evolving focus of investigation on children issues, however, has been largely confined to the Global North. The limited corpus of reliable research on Africa’s youngest citizens has tended to adopt a negative outlook. Given Africa’s turbulent realities, this pessimistic viewpoint is not entirely unwarranted, but, as the chapters in this book illustrate, it fails to acknowledge encouraging current trends toward brighter possibilities.
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In the globalized world of the twenty-first century, migration has become a powerful social force affecting families and individuals of all ages. The precise number of migrant children is unknown, but commentators have argued that “in some countries the percentage of young people migrating can be as high as 50 percent” (Dall’Oglio, 2008: 1). A World Bank study estimated that 330,000 children between 6 and 17 years of age—9.5 percent—lived away from their parents (Kielland and Sanogo, 2002). Of these, 160,000 had migrated for work. Some child migrants cross international borders; others migrate within their countries of origin. Some are fleeing persecution by oppressive governments or recruitment by insurgent guerillas. Others are victims of abuse, caught up in human trafficking operations for sexual or labor exploitation. Still others migrate in search of family reunification or are motivated by social imaginaries which include the possibility of a better life elsewhere. Indeed, many youngsters migrate willingly and perceive the migratory experience as an opportunity to enhance their social and economic status, as well as facilitating their transition to adulthood (Jeffrey and McDowell, 2004; Punch, 2007).
Save the Children commissioned research into the rights of children aged 0-8 years. This expanded second edition has many international examples of children's rights, from birth, to provision, protection and participation, of young children as people, the adults' beliefs and feelings, methods and levels of consulting them, and of working together and sharing decisions. The book ends with key messages from the evidence and experience.
Since the 1950s when most African countries gained political independence, schooling has presented very difficult challenges. In the discussion of these challenges, however, the issue of diversity has received relatively little attention. Schooling and Difference in Africa aims to understand how differences such as ethnicity, class, gender, language, religion, and disability play out in African schools systems, and more specifically in Ghana. Together, George J. Sefa Dei, Alireza Asgharzadeh, Sharon Eblaghie Bahador, and Riyad Ahmed Shahjahan promote ‘educational inclusion’ in the context of African schooling. The aspects of diversity explored in this study include: minority / majority relations, race, ethnicity, gender, language, class, religion, and physical (dis)ability. The authors build their analyses of these issues around a series of interviews, which project a perspective that policy makers and administrators rarely seek out. By studying the challenges of inclusive education in Ghana and, further, by making comparisons with the Canadian context, this volume seeks to shed light on the ongoing struggle for an empowering school system in Africa and elsewhere.
Recent years have witnessed a significant growth of interest in the consequences of political violence and displacement for the young. However, when speaking of "children" commentators have often taken the situation of those in early and middle childhood as representative of all young people under eighteen years of age. As a consequence, the specific situation of adolescents negotiating the processes of transition towards social adulthood amidst conditions of violence and displacement is commonly overlooked. Years of Conflict provides a much-needed corrective. Drawing upon perspectives from anthropology, psychology, and media studies as well as the insights of those involved in programmatic interventions, it describes and analyses the experiences of older children facing the challenges of daily life in settings of conflict, post-conflict and refuge. Several authors also reflect upon methodological issues in pursuing research with young people in such settings. The accounts span the globe, taking in Liberia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Peru, Jordan, UK/Western Europe, Eastern Africa, Iran, USA, and Colombia. This book will be invaluable to those seeking a fuller understanding of conflict and displacement and its effects upon adolescents. It will also be welcomed by practitioners concerned to develop more effective ways of providing support to this group.
Building on recent human rights scholarship, childhood studies and child rights programming, this conceptual framework on children's rights proposes three key-notions: living rights, or the lived experiences in which rights take shape; social justice, or the shared normative beliefs that make rights appear legitimate for those who struggle to get them recognised; and translations, or the complex flux between different beliefs and perspectives on rights and their codification. By exploring the relationships between these three concepts, the realities and complexities of children's rights are highlighted. The framework is critical of approaches to children as passive targets of good intentions and aims to disclose how children craft their own conceptions and practices of rights. The contributions offer important insights into new ways of thinking and research within this emerging field.