17 Nov 2010

The Child as ‘Democratic Citizen’

In what promises to be an intriguing insight, in the paper titled "The Child as ‘Democratic Citizen’ – Challenging the ‘Participation Gap’" Aoife Nolan examines the role and position of children in democratic institutions. Taking note of provisions under various Constitutions wherein children have been given a special right of participation in the governance of the country, the paper examines the "relatively low priority accorded to children’s participation rights in constitutional schema". Thus compared against the backdrop of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the paper brings to fore the "a consistent concern with the linkage between participation and the evolution/development of the child as a current and/or future citizen". 

Further commenting that "the denial of children’s participation in democratic decision-making processes not only poses a serious obstacle to the conceptualisation of children as full ‘citizens’ but undermines the legitimacy of the outputs of so-called representative democratic decision-making bodies in relation to children’s rights issues", the paper examines key issues in this area to inter alia call upon the "Committee on the Rights of the Child to lead the way in relation to children’s democratic participation and citizenship". In all, the paper provides interesting insights on the issue.

The abstract reads as under;
This article centres on the position of children as ‘democratic citizens’. Incorporating discussions of key aspects of democratic and citizenship theory, it considers the ways in which children may interact with, and contribute to, the exercise of political power in democratic societies. Having briefly discussed the position of children vis-à-vis democratic processes, the author focuses on that provision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which is arguably of greatest use in terms of serving as a springboard for children to input into democratic decision-making processes that affect them: Article 12 CRC. The author proceeds to consider the approach of the Committee on the Rights of that Child to children’s participation rights under the CRC, arguing that the Committee has failed to construe and apply Article 12 in such a way as to address effectively children’s exclusion from democracy. This gap in the Committee’s jurisprudence necessarily filters down into the practice of states. The article concludes by highlighting key points that should be borne in mind when arguing in favour of particular mechanisms and structures aimed at increasing child participation in democratic decision-making and hence strengthening their democratic citizenship.

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