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The International Economy of Children’s Rights: Issues in Translation

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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international legal text that necessitates multiple translations into national policy contexts if it is to become mobilised within professional practice. The aim of this paper is to foreground this process of translation and to identify some of the limitations inherent within present mobilisations of the UNCRC. On the basis of this diagnosis, we then raise a series of ethical considerations that might inform a more critical and open-ended approach.We characterise current approaches to mobilising the UNCRC as an international economy of rights and we represent this diagrammatically. This economy, we contend, involves multiple translations of the UNCRC text into a series of performative demands to which adults become accountable in situations of professional practice with children and young people.We then critically analyse this economy as presently instituted and point to a number of inherent limitations. We argue that a failure to address the issue of translation from legal text to relational practice has led to a technical resolution. The potential challenge of the UNCRC as an authoritative text of critique is further weakened by the promotion of a consensus thinking that privileges agreement over the complexities associated with ethical thinking. In the light of this critique, the paper identifies new lines of questioning to inform debate concerning how a children’s rights agenda might be refracted differently in future.

Affiliations: 1: University of Stirling, Scotland, UK, ; 2: Örebro University, Sweden, ; 3: University of Brighton, UK,


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