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Childhood & Youth Studies: Elizabeth Lefebvre and Sharon Park, Mar. 27, 2014


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Q&A

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Objects to be protected, not subjects with rights: examining the appropriation of the CRC and ACRWC in Ugandan policy

Elisabeth E. Lefebvre, Instructor, Organizational Leadership, Policy, & Development

CRBPIn the past two decades significant attention has focused on children’s rights and welfare. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990 by all but three UN member states spawned other international, regional, and national legal codes with the expressed purpose of addressing children’s rights. Attention to children’s rights has not resulted in a concomitant recognition of those rights, however. This presentation investigates the discourses surrounding children’s rights in Uganda. The paper uses critical discourse analysis to examine the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and other Ugandan national policy documents. In doing so, the paper explores the influence of international and regional (African) understandings of children’s rights on Ugandan children’s policies, as well as how they might manifest themselves in practice. The findings suggest that discourses used by international, regional, and national organizations largely construct children as objects to be protected, rather than subjects with rights. Moreover, children are not afforded the right to participate in the production of ideas about them, rendering them voiceless. This research critically challenges the likelihood that policies pertaining to their welfare, such as education laws, will be able to meet their needs. Attention to children’s experiences and the enactment of their rights is essential if policy makers are to effect positive change.

Constructing America’s Global Responsibility to Give: The Politics of Foreign & Humanitarian Aid to Child Refugees, 1945-1960

Sharon Park 2Sharon Park, PhD candidate, History

This paper explores how the representations of child refugees as the recipients of U.S. foreign and humanitarian aid after World War II – and adults’ perceptions of children’s lack of agency – helped construct the postwar national identity of the U.S. as a global power and a generous donor nation. With emphasis on the case of Jewish child refugees as U.S. aid recipients immediately after the war, this presentation will discuss the images of children’s dependency circulated in American news media, congressional debates, and NGO reports, as ways of portraying displaced persons as deserving of aid and in need of American intervention, whether the proposed solution was through private, voluntary contributions or federal aid.

Using social workers’ papers and oral histories with former child refugees, this paper will then compare these “official” representations of child refugees and visions of postwar reconstruction with the politics behind distributing aid and reuniting families in the developing “humanitarian industry” of the postwar period. It will also consider the (now adult) refugees’ own presentations of “child agency” that shaped their interpretations and memories of the past, whether they understood relief efforts and aid packages as symbols of American generosity, or as evidence of bureaucratic inefficiencies and institutional politics within nonprofit organizations and relief programs.

This event occurred March 27, 2014, 1:30-3:30pm, in 235 Nolte Center

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