A Magna Carta for Children? Rethinking Children's Rights

Publication Title

Ethics & International Affairs

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2021


Children’s rights present a unique challenge. On the one hand, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, with every country having ratified it except the United States. On the other hand, more than thirty years after the CRC was adopted, children’s rights continue to make many adults, from policymakers to parents, uneasy. It is not only in conservative circles—where hyperbolic warnings of so-called nannies in blue berets taking children away from parents stoke fear—that children’s rights have met resistance. Even among human rights advocates, children’s rights are often relegated to the margins and dismissed as not being the serious business of the rights agenda. Some of the resistance is political strategy, but some of it also reflects a genuine lack of understanding of children’s rights and their relationship with the broader human rights agenda.

Amid that muddled landscape, Michael Freeman offers a cogent, authoritative survey and assessment of the history and current state of children’s rights in his recent book A Magna Carta for Children? Rethinking Children’s Rights. For those well versed in children’s rights, reading Freeman’s book is like signing up for a walking tour of your hometown with one of the foremost authorities on the city—you wind your way through familiar territory but are nonetheless enriched at each turn by the insights of, and reflections by, your expert guide. For those less familiar with children’s rights, Freeman’s book may well be the definitive starting point.

Recommended Citation

Jonathan Todres, A Magna Carta for Children? Rethinking Children's Rights, 35 Ethics & Int'l Aff. 581 (2021)(reviewing Michael Freeman, A Magna Carta for Children? Rethinking Children’s Rights (2020))







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