Claiming Rights under Global Governance: Children's Rights in Argentina

Article excerpt

There is very little research on whether global human rights regimes serve as tools for the promotion of a domestic agenda of rights within democratic states, although their role under authoritarianism has been extensively analyzed. This article offers a case study of the impact of one such regime, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on domestic advocacy in democratic Argentina. The effectiveness of the convention at the domestic level depends, at least in part, on the extent to which it empowers activists within states to make claims on behalf of children. The article identifies an increase in claims-making on behalf of children since the convention was ratified and discusses its role in bringing about legislation that establishes children as rights-bearing individuals. Nevertheless, the deterioration in children's social rights over the same period raises doubts as to whether the domestic incorporation of the convention, on its own, can create social and economic entitlements for children. KEYWORDS: children, rights, global norms, domestic activism, Argentina.

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The past two decades have witnessed the proliferation of international norms and institutions aimed at strengthening human rights globally. Regime change to democracy in regions like Latin America and Eastern Europe have further contributed to the democratic "norms cascade," and many of the newly installed democratic states have actively sought to incorporate international treaties or conventions into their domestic political structures. (1) Yet, while there is an extensive literature that focuses on the role played by global human rights regimes and transnational networks in addressing gross human rights violations under authoritarianism, there is still little detailed analysis on the role of global regimes as tools for the promotion of a domestic agenda of rights within democratic states. The aim of this article is to help fill that gap. We focus on the domestic impact of one global regime, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), on the politics of children's rights in Argentina. In this way, we hope to address the question of whether the ratification by a democratic state of global human rights regimes such as the CRC provides networks and organizations with effective advocacy tools through which rights claims can be made or grievances redressed.

The article proceeds in the following way. In the first section, we discuss the emergence of rights-based regimes such as the CRC, which we see as part of the trend to global governance. We then identify the guiding principles of the CRC and the nature of the rights it embodies. In the final section, we explore the extent to which the CRC has helped advance an agenda of children's rights in Argentina. Has the CRC reshaped the advocacy politics of Argentine civic organizations that have emerged around the defense of the rights of children and young people? What kind of rights can be claimed domestically under the CRC? How do domestic activists evaluate the CRC? These are the central questions we address here.

Global Governance Regimes and Domestic Rights

Global governance regimes have emerged in areas ranging from the ways in which financial risks and credits are assessed and allocated to the norms that discursively regulate how governments behave and power is deployed in trade, investment, the environment, labor, health, development, and. human rights. Some regimes, such as those that govern trade and the global financial architecture, are more detailed and more closely policed than others. Global regimes in areas such as health, labor standards, and social inclusion remain, in sharp contrast, under-resourced and have weaker powers of implementation. (2) Nevertheless, there is a marked global trend toward establishing global social and political standards, especially in contrast to the period before 1989. Democratization, understood as the establishment of the rule of law and minimum civil and individual liberties, is now a central plank of the international order. …