November 21, 2017

The impact of different military conflicts, embargos and crises on the lives of children was the main topic of the presentation “Children’s Rights: History, Theory, and the Context of Mass Displacement”, delivered by British social anthropologist Jason Hart at the University of Jordan on Tuesday.

Organized by the Centre for Strategic Studies and Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II School of International Studies, the lecture attracted a large audience of senior academics and students.

“The idea of ‘children’s rights’ is a relatively modern concept. It would not mean much to people before the 1920s at the earliest,” Hart told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of his presentation.

The crucial period when the perception of children as social entities different from adults occurred during the second part of the 18th century in western Europe, and was a direct result of the The Age of Reason. “The Enlightenment in Europe was a period during which many accepted ideas and forms of authority were questioned,” the scholar from the University of Bath stated.

Out of this questioning came the belief that children were not just “mini-adults”, he said, adding that childhood came to be seen as “a specific stage in the human life cycle”. 

“And the authority of parents was tempered by the growing conviction that the state had a role to play in protecting children,” he noted.

The role of the state and non-state actors, UN agencies and NGOs should be challenged to make the protection of children the number one consideration of their policies and practices, Hart stressed.

For decades, the Middle East has been suffering from political instability, long-term conflicts of different levels of intensity, economic sanctions and displacements of millions of people, including children, the scholar said.

“Much of the political violence of recent decades has directly affected children,” he elaborated, adding that violence has entered the heart of civilian life, impacting not only the physical well-being of children but also their education, healthcare and everyday lives. 

At the same time, there has been a considerable growth in efforts to provide children protection from this violence, he said.

Jordan has been directly affected by millions of refugees from neighbouring countries who fled from armed conflicts and violence.

Hart gave special credit to the Kingdom for its positive and constructive approach to the refugee crisis, saying: ”Jordan is making immense efforts to cope with unprecedented pressure on its resources, including natural resources such as water.”

 No country in Jordan’s position should be left alone to cope in meeting the challenges to uphold the full range of children’s rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, he emphasised.

“All displaced children — regardless of country of origin — should be supported equally. And international collaboration is needed over the long-term,” Hart underlined.