This commentary looks to the development of the international drug control and child rights systems to ask questions about the origins of the child’s right to protection from drugs and how that history may affect present understanding of norms. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stands alone among the core UN human rights treaties in setting out a human right to protection from drugs. The drug supply chain imperils children at each stage, from production to use. Children are harmed through drug use, parental drug dependence, drug-related violence, exploitation in trafficking, and a range of other ways. But it is meaningless to simply say that children have the right to protection from drugs. What matters is what states do to implement that right, and unlike many other areas of child rights, implementing Article 33 requires action in a legal and policy area long characterized by considerable human rights risks. It is plausible to ask whether the CRC serves to mitigate these risks or if it provides a child rights justification for the actions that generate them.
Citation: The Child's Right to Protection from Drugs: Understanding History to Move Forward, Damon Barrett. Journal of Health and Human Rights, 19.1, June 2017.