Proms, PhDs & Post-conflict reconstruction

Today is my daughter’s school prom, a recent American import (and not one I’m very keen on if I’m honest) to celebrate finishing her exams and compulsory schooling. Aside from parental nostalgia at the passing of time, we are being exercised by the fact that she had mentioned a “pre-prom” party on Facebook, so 30+ of her friends are due to descend on our house for 2 hours in their finery, no doubt in a highly excitable state and wanting feeding and watering. This first world problem was thrown into sharp relief by an article I read this morning in Third World Quarterly (see what I did there?). It was sent to me by a new research student after I suggested we could work through a couple of papers of his choice together, discussing methodological approaches, arguments and writing styles. The subject matter is reintegrating child soldiers, and it argues that initiatives may fail because of an artificial distinction between adults and children, they deny children agency, and furthermore they reintegrate into poverty and marginalisation which are some of the root causes of the problem in the first place. Much of the legal and practical framework for these processes stems from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which this year marks its 25th anniversary. The subject matter and these disparate milestones prompt me to reflect on the nature of the childhood experience globally, and how fortunate most of us are in the ‘West’, that our children grow up largely unaffected by these issues. So here’s to you Ellie – although the bad news is your rights don’t extend to your father not turning up and embarrassing you in front of your friends.

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