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Name: Jeannette Rodgers

PhD: International Development / Law

Thesis Title (provisional): Lost in Transition: making the case for child participation in transitional justice.

Thesis Description:

The thesis will make the case for the participation of children in a set of mechanisms under the umbrella of ‘transitional justice.’ ‘Transition’ refers to the period in which there is a shift from war to peace in a country after conflict has ended; ‘justice’ can mean different things depending on the context in which an individual resides (the most common example being the court system, the judiciary, and the idea of accountability and sentencing). However, in combining the two terms, ‘transitional justice’ is concerned with something much deeper: recognising and acknowledging the experiences of individuals, to rebuild social trust and repair relationships, and to prevent future atrocities. In this sense, transitional justice is not ‘ordinary’ justice at all; people in affected societies – individually or collectively – are given a platform to ensure that their voices are heard, and their experiences are taken seriously on the local, national and international levels. The mechanisms of transitional justice can be judicial or non-judicial; the thesis will focus on the latter.

To begin, the thesis explores transitional justice as a concept and ‘idea’ rooted in international law, before moving on to discuss the inevitable tensions with other ‘ways of knowing’ transitional justice, particularly development studies. Transitional justice is then considered as a conception, an area of ‘past practice,’ with thorough assessment of its mechanisms through the lens of ‘participation.’ This takes place by looking at precisely how mechanisms have included the participation of the affected population in various contexts, and the participation (or non-participation) of children. In doing so it is established that, when it comes to the potential role of children within transitional justice, the ‘missing link’ is that of participation rooted in the experiences of everyday life. In choosing to focus deliberately on the ‘voice of the child’ and the ‘right to be heard,’ the thesis will take an in-depth look at Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), before exploring those current models of participation prevalent in academic scholarship on the rights of the child. I will argue that current participation models are not rooted in the everyday experiences of children, which in turn has a detrimental effect on how children feature in mechanisms of transitional justice. The thesis does not assume that there is a definitive position on what participation means for all children, but the project will explore how participation is conceptualised and practiced by children and ex-children within truth-seeking mechanisms, and to explore the differences (and similarities) that might emerge.

The central research question is asking the following:

How can – and why should – meaningful child participation be facilitated in transitional justice? 

In framing the question in this way, it will be asked whether the different experiences of children in situations such as armed conflict and political violence affect the case for children’s participation in transitional justice initiatives, and to evaluate what transitional justice mechanisms best facilitate their right to be heard. From this standpoint, narrower concentrations are examined:

1.)           What is ‘participation’; how is it defined, and by whom? Can a focus on ‘participation rights,’ including academic and policy models of participation, enable the child’s ’right to be heard’ in transitional justice mechanisms? What does this say about the importance of a ‘participation model’ to enable children to take part in transitional justice processes?

2.)          How do the experiences of ‘ex-children,’ as children of the past, make the case for the participation of ‘children of the present’ in transitional justice?

3.)           How do current children and youth understand the historical background of their country; how have transitional justice mechanisms (particularly truth-seeking mechanisms) informed this understanding, and how can this be used to make the case for the participation of children in TJ mechanisms of the future?

The lens through which the work will be presented is through the experience, testimony and documented evidence of ‘ex-children’ (those adults who, as children, grew up in the shadow of protracted conflict and the transition period that followed). In making the choice to focus on ‘ex-children’ of conflict rather than focusing on children of the present, the study hopes to learn lessons from their experiences of the past in order to give a stronger justification for why all children (defined under international law as any human being below the age of 18) should be included in the mandates of transitional justice mechanisms in the future. In short, how do the experiences of ‘ex-children’ of conflict, as ‘children of the past,’ make the case for the participation of ‘children of the present’ in transitional justice?

The project will do so by looking at two countries with a history of protracted conflict, in order to ask new questions about the way children and youth were affected and involved in the violations. Looking at the issue of child participation in transitional justice through the lens of ex-children of conflict will bring to the discussion a “previously overlooked category of stakeholder” – one that not only lays the foundation for future work with present-day children, but also has an important set of experiences of both conflict and transitional justice that are equally important in the narrative of international child rights, transitional justice and international development. To not address this group of ex-children would mean missing key opportunities to address the legacies of conflict on children of the present, and access to transitional justice mechanisms by children of the future.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Danielle Beswick, International Development, University of Birmingham

Co-Supervisor: Professor Aoife Nolan, Law, University of Nottingham

Mentor: Dr. Hakeem Yusuf, Law, University of Birmingham

Funded Activities and Projects:

CDF Funded 

  1. Lead Applicant role

"Child Rights Week - The Right to Shelter" & "Children, Rights and Childhood: Expo and Launch 2018"

  • Project promoted at the Midlands 3 Cities Research Festival on 24th May 2018
  • “Child Rights Week” at Selly Oak Nursery School in Birmingham from 18th – 22nd June 2018
  • One week of activities based on the ‘right to shelter’ as part of work towards the Rights Respecting Schools Award devised by UNICEF
  • Special visits, workshops and activities given by UNICEF UK, The Teddy Trust, Annamation Storytellers, Birmingham City Council and Midlands 3 Cities students to teach the children at Selly Oak Nursery School about the ‘right to shelter’
  • ‘Children Rights and Childhood: Expo and Launch 2018” as culminating event of Child Rights Week on the evening of 22nd June 2018 at the Birmingham REP Theatre
  • Invited attendees included teachers and governors of nursery and primary schools as well as representatives from Birmingham City Council, UNICEF, The Teddy Trust and Midlands 3 Cities staff and researchers.
  • Panel presentations from key stakeholders to the Child Rights Week as well as selected organisations that specifically work within the mandate of the ‘right to shelter’
  • Included a ‘speed networking’ series of workshops and a ‘networking hour’ for all attendees
  • Included a poster exhibition from current research students across the M3C institutions
  • Intended to promote collaboration between local schools to encourage them to work together on larger Child Rights Week projects in future
  • Introduction of the Interdisciplinary Study of Children, Rights and Childhood Conference in the Summer of 2019

"Child Rights Week - The Right to Play" & "Children, Rights and Childhood Conference 2019"

  • “Child Rights Week”/"Child Rights Fortnight" at Selly Oak Nursery School in Birmingham from 11th - 22nd March 2019
  • One week of activities based on the ‘right to play' as part of work towards the Rights Respecting Schools Award devised by UNICEF.
  • Special visits, workshops and activities given by UNICEF UK, The Teddy Trust, Annamation Storytellers, The Big Happiness Experiment, Flying Seagulls Project, Birmingham City Council and Midlands 3 Cities students to teach the children at Selly Oak Nursery School about the ‘right to play.'
  • ‘Children, Rights and Childhood Conference 2019”  [date TBC]
  • Conference devised alongside PGR Directors and PGRs of the Children and Childhood Network (CCN) of the University of Birmingham
  • Speakers to include PGRs who are working on any aspect of children and 'play,' as well as invited guest speakers and an exhibition showcasing the work of nursery and primary schools across the city on the 'right to play.' 
  • Agenda to be confirmed in early 2019.

2. Contributor role

Travelling exhibition curated by Amy Williams alongside World Jewish Relief: 'Responding to the Present by Remembering the Past.'

A written contribution towards the exhibition section on Rwanda

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


Midlands 3 Cities Research Festival, 24th May 2018

Presentation (poster) of CDF project 'Child Rights Week 2018: The Right to Shelter' 

University of Birmingham Research Poster Conference, 13th June 2018

Presentation (poster) of PhD thesis: 'From Powerless to Empowered: the voice of the child in the mechanisms of transitional justice.'

Awarded Best Poster for College of Social Sciences. 


AHRC institutional visit to University of Birmingham, 24 January 2019.

Presented my research (by way of a research poster) to Professor Edward Harcourt, AHRC Director of Research, and Strategy and Innovation and Professor Roey Sweet, AHRC Director of Partnerships and Engagement

On invitation from Professor Michaela Mahlberg, the College of Arts and Law Director of Research

'Contesting Injustice: People’s mobilisation from below'; Midlands African Studies Hub (MASH) Conference, January 30th 2019, University of Coventry

Held at the Research Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations

Stream 2:  Sustaining progress: How can we effectively build upon peace and people’s mobilisation?

Presentation of my thesis 'Lost in Transition: Making the case for child participation in transitional justice.'

Socio-Legal Studies Conference, 3rd-5th April 2019, University of Leeds

Poster presentation held in Parkinson Court, University of Leeds


Groups and Affiliations:

Member of the ‘Children and Childhoods’ Network of the University of Birmingham - academics, researchers and PhD students researching in the ‘children’ and ‘childhood’ spaces exploring the possibilities for collaboration and impact across the university and beyond.

Member of the 'Midlands African Studies Hub' (M.A.S.H) within the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham.

Member of the African Studies Association.

Member of the Development Studies Association

Member of the Political Studies Association

Member of the British International Studies Association

Member of the Social Research Association

UNICEF Children's Champion


LLM International Law: Crime, Justice and Human Rights (with Distinction), University of Birmingham

  • Awarded the highest mark given to any undergraduate or LLM student cohort for the 2015/2016 academic year for an assignment on international human rights, economic rights and transitional justice. In the process of editing for publication.
  • ‘Parallel intentions, contemporary disparities: the prohibition of the use of force in conventional and customary international law.’ B.S.L. Rev. 2016, 1(1), 22-33. Compares the regulation of the prohibition of the use of force under the United Nations Charter 1945 arts 2(4) and 51 with the rules of customary international law. Examines the exceptions provided by art.51. Reviews the contemporary debates on the scope of the prohibition.
  •  LLM Academic Research Assistant to Dr. Steven Vaughan of the Birmingham Law School

BMus Music (2:1), University of London (Royal Holloway)

Other Research Interests:

  • International Human Rights Law
  • Children’s Rights – protection, advocacy, education; nationally, internationally and globally, but particularly in post-conflict situations
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Additional Protocols and related UN official documents
  • Special Protection of children in International Humanitarian Law and the work of the ICRC
  • Transitional Justice – the potential for child participation, truth telling and social change
  • The links between child rights, human development and international law
  • The role of music in creating safe-spaces for children to relay their experiences of conflict, and its consequent role in peace-making and reconciliation
  • Music in social protest and activism, particularly for young people
  • ‘Art-as-storytelling’ for children to document experiences of war and combat trauma



University email address:

Twitter: @jfrodgers81

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