Drugs and the Convention on the Rights of the Child Fragmentation, Contention and Structural Bias
Abstract: Responding to the harms caused by drug use and the drug trade is one of the most pressing and interdisciplinary challenges of our time, within which the protection of children has become central. But there has been relatively little academic attention to the international legal dimensions of drug policy, despite the existence of a dedicated international legal framework on the issue and a range of other treaties that include drugs in some way. This has begun to change in recent years as attention to human rights in drug policy has increased, and as calls for reform to the extant international legal regime of drug control have grown. This thesis adds by focusing on the only core UN human rights treaty to refer to drugs – the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Based on archival research, extensive document analysis, participant observation at UN forums, and semi-structured interviews, the thesis explores how the child’s right to protection from drugs under Article 33 of the CRC has been understood, and what the relationship has been between the CRC and the UN drug control conventions. Adopting a critical approach to child rights studies, it offers a number of additions to the growing literature on international law and drug control:A detailed history of the parallel drafting of the international drug control and child rights legal regimes in the twentieth century, tracing their substantive detachment over time until their political convergence to the height of the ‘war on drugs’ in the late 1980s;A discussion of the CRC and the UN drugs conventions set against the background of the fragmentation of international law, highlighting a degree of surface level coherence yet important inconsistencies of background theory and ethos;An analysis of contemporary debates among scholars, activists, States and UN mechanisms on the relationship between human rights, child rights and drug control, demonstrating the potential for fragmentation playing out in real-world contentions;A comprehensive review and critique of the periodic reporting process to the Committee on the Rights of the Child from 1993-2015 through the theoretical lens of ‘structural bias’, showing that while the CRC may offer an alternative legal lens through which to approach drug policy, the process has tended to lean in favour of a restrictive and often punitive status quo.
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