Lecture on Children’s Rights by Dr. Jason Hart


By Nada Abu Sbeih


The Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II School of International Studies and the Center for Strategic Studies hosted Dr. Jason Hart – a social anthropologist from the University of Bath and a John Willis Teaching Award winner – on Tuesday November 21st. He delivered a lecture titled, “Children’s Rights: History, Theory, and the Context of Mass Displacement,” to a packed room of 120 attendees. The event was co-organized by Dr. Shadaab Rahemtulla and Dr. Sara Ababneh.


Much of Dr. Hart’s work is centered around people who live on the margins of society, especially young people and children. He explores this theme in the context of the Middle East, particularly in terms of occupied Palestine and Jordan.


The lecture addressed the issue of children’s rights in the Middle East; the emergence and development of children’s rights since the eighteenth century; and the impact of war on children and their rights.


The emergence of children’s rights, as a discourse, was closely tied to the atrocities of war and its aftermath, most notably World War I. ‘Children are victims of collective punishment,’ Dr. Hart stated.  Although the state started to relate to children since the mid-eighteenth century, he stressed that their rights are not only a government’s responsibility, but also a universal concern. However, the full emergence of the rights of the child did not come about until the signing and ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989 by all member states except the US.


Focusing on one aspect of the convention which is education, Dr. Hart emphasized that securing children’s rights in this area is not simply about changing attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors, but also, and more significantly, about states changing the material, socioeconomic challenges that face everyday people, particularly the poor. He critiqued an aspect of the convention which stated that the hosting country should primarily shoulder the burden or responsibility of protecting the rights of refugees, of which children’s rights are part and parcel. For him, this is problematic, since many Western governments and their imperial interventions have been key causes for such mass displacement in the first place. He also critiqued how the convention overlooks the importance of considering the reality of the hosting country. Many hosting countries, such as Jordan, are already poor. That is to say, hosting countries themselves face many challenges in protecting refugee children’s rights (not to mention the rights of their own child citizenry) and hence other bodies need to also shoulder the burden, such as Western governments, the countries of origin, UN bodies, and international organizations.


Another problem that did not escape his notice was the corruption of many big, corporate donors such as IKEA and Facebook, which happily donate to children’s rights organizations – and benefit from the positive publicity of doing so – while, at the same time, having a history of tax avoidance. This means that states will have significantly fewer resources to fund key institutions that affect children, such as education (i.e.: providing quality teacher training and equipping schools with adequate facilities). Advocating and safeguarding children’s rights, therefore, is not an isolated, single-issue project, but rather requires thinking critically, broadly, and politically about children and their contexts.



Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II School of International Studies
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