Universalism, embeddedness and domination: an analysis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Journal of Global Ethics 15 (3):270-286 (2019)


ABSTRACTThe international community agrees that protecting the needs and interests of children is a fundamental endeavour. However, the road through which this should be achieved is less clear. Should universal norms guide how children's rights are implemented? Or should children's rights be adapted to the particular social environments and cultural traditions in which children are embedded? This article takes the International Convention on the Rights of the Child as a starting point to analyse a fundamental philosophical conflict between universalist and embedded approaches to global justice. It explores the diverging interpretations of and critiques to the universalist and embedded commitments in the Convention, and develops an in-depth analysis of the benefits and harms that both positions may have on the child population. It argues that, despite the seeming opposition between these two positions, they share a common concern with protecting children from cultural domination. This commonality allows the article to devise a reading of the Convention that can aspire at universality while being receptive to the embedded claims. It considers that the best road to overcome this conflict is through the direct inclusion of children within the decision-making process.

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