The ongoing Syrian peace process typifies the extremity of children’s invisibility in peacemaking. To date, children — 43% of the population — are mostly invisible within the peace agreements that constitute the process. Yet there is an international legal obligation to affirm children’s legal standing and agency as subject of human rights in relation to the successive processes and make those rights effective through the resultant agreements. The paper aims, first, to critically probe the peace process from a juristic, human rights and child-rights perspective and, second, apply the findings of connected probes (see papers below) to the context and thereby, illuminate the legal and political opportunities for ensuring the process is constitutive of children’s rights.
The successive processes and agreements that constitute peacemaking are repeatedly transformative of international human rights claims. They are seldom integrative of children’s specific international human rights claims, however. The extremity of their invisibility is laid bare by a cursory review of collections of peace agreements. Yet international human rights law affirms children’s right to have rights, in particular, their international legal standing as subjects of human rights. There is thus an international legal obligation to give effect to their rights in and through peacemaking, as affirmed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and underwritten by the Security Council. The paper aims to critically and constructively assess peace processes from a child rights perspective. Towards this aim it co-opts a feminist legal method and reframes it to the position of children and the context of peacemaking: it applies the child question to the peace processes of South Africa and Northern Ireland. In doing so it reveals and yields legal and political opportunities for ensuring the staged process of peacemaking is constitutive of children’s rights.
Held within the staged process of peacemaking is a promise of a new beginning. It is latent within its sui generis legal form, and the often layered human rights transformation at its substantive epicentre. For the most part, children are invisible in the successive agreements that constitute peacemaking. Yet there is an international legal obligation to affirm children’s legal standing as subjects of human rights in relation to the successive processes, and makes those rights effective ‘in’ and ‘through’ the resultant agreements. The paper aims to support the process of seizing ‘the radical progressive potential of peace processes’ for children. Towards this aim it draws on and distills the findings of connected probes of peace processes from a child rights perspective and develops them with regard to broader scholarship on human rights and children’s rights. It offers six suppositions as to why children are mostly invisible in peacemaking and concludes by inverting these into six principles for giving effect to children’s rights in and through peacemaking.