UN Discusses Legal Rights of Child

YouthRISE and the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) have partnered to produce a document on Human Rights and Harm Reduction from a child’s legal perspective. A focus on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) gives the authors opportunity to discuss what children’s rights may be violated when states attempt to protect them from illicit drug use.

The authors identify that Article 33 of the CRC is the only UN human rights treaty to deal with drug use and children. Protection from drugs for children must come with an “appropriate” response by the government. The YouthRISE/IHRA document lays out the text of the article and attempts to parse the meaning of “appropriate.” The authors define and delimit the word by making it conform to types of action legally circumscribed by human rights law.

For example, the authors place appropriate within the context of the CRC’s article 3, that is a stipulation of what makes the best interests of the child. It then reasons through the ways in which drug policy is often not in the best interests of the child. Or, put differently, that drug policy as currently conducted is often not appropriate to protect the child, or reduce harm.

The document is limited by its length so cannot withstand much criticism. It’s a welcome first stab at trying to understand how to use international law, in this case human rights law for children, to fight back against irrational official drug policies, such as the drug war. But the document’s authors offer little urgency in their task, a problem constructed by a populist methodology that goes in search of youth issues rather than the zones of conflict where the human rights violations actually occur. Since one of these conflict zones is Mexico, with 31,000 dead in the drug war, news organizations estimate 51,000 orphans, with a large number in Juarez. This is too big a problem to collapse into larger “issues.”

And few in the human rights community have yet to define what is appropriate to protect the Mexican drug war orphans from greater harm. Juarez is, after all, the most dangerous city in the world.