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Priscilla Alderson

In this 25th anniversary volume of the International Journal of Children’s Rights, responses are reviewed to common criticisms of children’s rights, within the Journal’s aims to promote greater understanding of these rights and greater practical respect for them. This article then considers three main ways through which the Journal might expand its work in future: more analysis of the positions that underlie opposition to children’s rights; more connections with “adult” rights; and more attention to future needs and rights.

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Priscilla Alderson

Article 12 with its concern to give “due weight” to children’s views involves potential contradictions between human rights to self-determination and children’s rights. A set of conditions in Article 12 turns rights into highly qualified permissions that can transfer agency and control from children onto adults. These are further complicated by reports by the un Committee on the Rights of the Child and others that position children’s best interests against their expressed views, and by contrasting standards set by national laws and guidance. Theories about children’s rights in medical law differ from actual practice in reported cases, which are influenced by long-standing theories about childhood in philosophy and psychology that disregard realities in children’s lives. Barriers to due respect for children’s views in medical law and practice that need to be addressed are summarised.

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Priscilla Alderson

Children tend to be missing from the literature on human rights. Sociology can help to fill the gap by providing evidence about the importance and benefits of recognising children's human rights, the dangers of not doing so, and joint rights-promoting work by adults and children. However, sociology has paid relatively little attention to human rights, and to the related topics of the Holocaust, human nature, real bodies, universal principles and moral imperatives. This paper examines splits in sociology around a central absence, which could partly explain these omissions. Then it considers how inter-disciplinary approaches and critical realism can help to theorise and validate “the inherent dignity and…the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. The youngest children's rights illuminate meanings in all human rights, which depend less on the rational person approach than on recognising human nature, vulnerability and solidarity interacting with social structures.

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Priscilla Alderson

The three books in this review are very different, but they illuminate one another in sharing strong themes of justice, rights and agency. Two books by lawyers on justice and mercy and on liberty and equality are linked to a book by a sociologist on children and agency. The review considers how practitioners, policy makers and researchers can work together to promote children’s rights to justice and liberty.

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Priscilla Alderson

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Priscilla Alderson