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Listening and being heard: making space for children in transitional justice

Open Panel

Abstract

Within theories of transitional justice, wide and inclusive participation in transitional justice decision-making is often viewed as critical to maximising transitional justice outcomes. As a consequence of the almost universal ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), children’s right to be heard is a legal obligation within all except two jurisdictions including during armed conflict. The widely documented extensive rights violations and harms experienced by children affected by conflict are evidence that the justice choices of transition affect children too. Nevertheless, the complex trade offs between the political process of maintaining a peace momentum and the legal imperative for accountability, combined with children’s pre-existing invisibility, often eclipse justice for children. Yet, making space for children - listening to children’s views about what justice means to them - has the potential to ensure transitional justice choices are more about justice for children and contribute to the wider outcomes of transitional justice. The context of transitioning from armed conflict presents significant challenges for respecting, protecting and fulfilling children’s right to be heard. The objective of this paper is to contextualise children’s right to be heard within the dynamic and charged environments of transitional justice decision-making and illustrate why ‘justice for children’ and sustainable peace requires a more child-centred approach to transitional justice. The paper examines: how the complex choices of transitional justice affect children i.e. how different outcomes of transitional justice decision-making may make justice a little more or a little less about children; and the challenges of making space for children in transitional justice.