» Archive for: July, 2015

Child Saving?

Category: trafficking

14 Jul 2015


The coming weeks, the ‘Beyond Slavery and Trafficking‘ page of the openDemocracy website features a series of posts raising critical questions about contemporary ‘child saving’.

‘Beyond Slavery and Trafficking’ (BST) is an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and researchers from across the globe that has been active since 2014. Its objectives are described as follows:

This site aspires to be an alternative to the many ‘Modern-Day Slavery Hubs’ dotted across conventional media. While these outlets make an important contribution, they often feature stories that are sensationalist, de-politicised, and based on questionable research. We are here to go beyond such simplicity. Our editors will marshal the best of contemporary scholarship to provide informed, nuanced, and focused analysis. They’ll engage practitioners and policy-makers about life inside the policy system, and link failings to wider questions about the nature of the societies in which we live. (see HERE)

Over the next few weeks a virtual special issue on ‘generation’ is launched on the BST pages. As Sam Okyere and Neil Howard (the editors of this special issue) explain in their introduction entitled ‘Are we really saving the children?‘ the contributions show that ‘contemporary child savers often damage the children they seek to save because they operate under severely flawed assumptions’. Contributions are posted on a rolling basis so watch this SPACE.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


The upcoming 2015 conference of the Development Studies Association (DSA) is announced as ‘a sizzling set of parallel sessions which explore many different aspects of the complexities and contradictions of relationships involved in global development’. Whilst the draft programme indeeds whets the academic appetite the virtual absence of any engagement with children and youth studies is remarkable.

The DSA describes itself as an association that ‘works to connect and promote the development research community in UK and Ireland’. It proudly brands itself as ‘the largest and most coherent national platform for people studying, teaching and researching development issues’. It organises annual conferences, and this year’s conference is themed: ‘Global Development as a Relationship: Dependence, Interdependency or Divide?‘.

One would expect that such a theme would also appeal to researchers working on questions related to children and youth in contexts of development. Since children and youth are so often presented as the targets of development interventions (see HERE), the relational question posed by the conference organisers invites deeper conceptual and theoretical engagement with the various generational dimensions of development as relating to children and youth (but also, say, to older people).

A quick word search of the 138 page list of abstracts suggests the opposite however. The term ‘youth’ yields three hits, and none of the concerning abstracts suggest more than passing reference to youth. The term ‘children’ does somewhat better with 43 hits. Yet, some of it refers to the affiliation of the speakers or an acknowledgement of the funder (e.g. Save the Children) whereas in cases the term ‘children’ features in the abstract it is seldom given given any conceptual status. The key focus is on things such as the role of private education, measuring learning outcomes, and trends in child mortality. This lack of conceptual engagement with children as a generational grouping is also evident from the fact that the term ‘childhood’ appears only four times across all abstracts. A positive exception is a paper by Gina Crivello and Nikki van der Gaag on ‘Adolescent boys and social transitions’ which draws on Young Lives data and, indeed, it is here that the term ‘childhood’ is used (three times).

This quick assessment raises an important question. Children and youth studies might still be dominated by research conducted in the Global North, yet this dominance is increasingly challenged by innovative research conducted in the South, oftentimes in explicit relation to development. In addition, generational issues like youth un(der)employment have featured highly on various development agendas over recent years, and the appearance of new journals in the field (like this one) suggests children and youth studies is a thriving field. So why is it that in spite of all this, there is still so little intellectual engagement between development studies and children and youth studies?

posted by Roy Huijsmans

International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.