The Scope of Children’s Participation Rights: A Critical Analysis

Article 12(1) of the UNCRC anchored children’s rights to participate in decision making. It reflects the core of the innovative approach that the Convention promoted, which recognised children as agents, who share the power to shape their own lives. Dr. Perry-Hazan will present some of her recent studies exploring youth participation in education and policy making. Based on these studies and others, she will present a work in progress which attempts to conceptualise the limits of children’s participation rights and their intersection with other rights and social interests. This work is embedded in recent critics of the scholarship on children’s participation rights for using participation as a taken-for-granted mantra, and even as a moral crusade.

The presentation will focus on children’s participation in the social field of education. It will address various cases exemplifying when and how participation may derogate children’s rights to equality, culture, protection, and non-participation, parental rights, teachers’ rights, and social interests. In all of these cases, participation reflects a Western, middle-class, neoliberal, and individualistic educational approach.

Developing various understandings of participation and participatory frameworks may mitigate most conflicts between participation rights and other human rights and social interests. However, other conflicts require a careful ad-hoc consideration regarding the adequate limits of participation which takes into account contextual factors, such as the circumstances of specific cases and the school’s characteristics. Such a balance between rights and interests is embedded in the human rights discourse, as rights are always interdependent, interconnected, and indivisible.