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By Manfred Liebel, Karl Hanson, Iven Saadi, Wouter Vandenhole (auth.)

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Children are objects of invention rather than legal subjects’ (Freeman, 1992: 30). 2 The belief that the child should have more independence is intertwined with the idea that the community – represented by the state – ought to care for the well-being and the development of the child to become an adult who is capable of working. Whereas the history of general human rights – at least in Europe and North America – started with freedom rights, the beginnings of children’s rights were marked by protection of children, not by their freedom.

They emerged either in the context of political revolutions and reformist Hidden Aspects of Children’s Rights History 33 attempts or had social movements of disadvantaged population groups as role models. The organization ‘Free Education of Children’ can be seen as the pioneer of children’s rights movements. 6 This declaration went much further than anything understood as children’s rights in Europe at the time. Moscow Declaration of Children’s Rights (1918) 1. Every child that is born, regardless of his parents’ social situation, has the right to existence, that is to say he has to be guaranteed a certain set of living conditions, including child health care and those which are necessary for the preservation and development of his organism and for the successful fight of the latter with life threatening factors.

Another problem results from the fact that the ‘participation of children’ has become a fashionable trend from which children often benefit less than a new class of NGO specialists. Instead of strengthening the position of children within their life contexts and enlarging their influence on living conditions, ‘participation’ is sometimes celebrated and exercised in convenient places with small groups of precisely-selected children. In this way, some local NGOs decorate themselves with their particular activities for children’s participation.

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