» Archive for category: ‘United Nations


The OpenDemocracy platform, on its Beyond Trafficking and Slavery pages, features an Open Letter endorsed by ‘over 50 leading academics, human rights practitioners, and advocates in the area of children and youth labour’. The letter urges the United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child ‘to avoid binding the proposed ‘General Comment on the Rights of Adolescents’ to the ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) or the minimum age standards set out in that convention.’

The Open Letter also usefully rehearses the various arguments in the children’s work debate. This includes the main arguments commonly used by advocates of the minimum age of employment set out in ILO Convention No. 138, and the counterarguments. It also helpfully discusses some areas of conceptual confusion common to many a children’s work discussion, such as the problematic distinction between ‘children’s work’ and ‘child labour’. Lastly, whilst the signatories of the Open Letter are critical of the ILO Minimum Age Convention, they are in supportive of another ILO Convention: No 182 on the worst forms of child labour – provided that the full range of children’s rights is respected ‘including their protective rights such as their right to education as well as their participative rights such as their right to information, their right to participate in decisions that affect them, and their right to organize, among others. In addition, they also stress that ‘any application of ILO 182 in practice would need to take into consideration the local contexts where children work to ensure that children’s best interests are always served.’

See HERE for the full text of the Open Letter.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


Maki Suyama from Japan (CYS, 2011) recently completed a 3-year post working for UNICEF Ethiopia’s Research, Policy, Monitoring and Evaluation section as a Programme Officer in Addis Ababa. Her duties included drafting fact sheets, policy briefs and evaluations of UNICEF’s work in children’s rights advocacy. She also assisted in efforts to improve the quality of the evaluation, research, and government cooperation.

Maki says,

“What I liked about my job with UNICEF was trying to improve the quality of the programme in the scientifically proven way. As a member of the Research Committee, I assisted in revisions to the Terms of Reference. The Research Committee process is very similar to the RP draft seminars at ISS, so my experience at ISS helped me to improve the quality of UNICEF’s work.

Maki PhotoOverall, my job required academic knowledge (e.g. how to develop a research question, how to write methods in the report, how to write policy briefs, etc.), so my experience at ISS was really relevant to my job. Moreover, to recognize different discourses about children is very helpful when I attend meetings or review internal/external reports, because I can understand each stakeholder’s position. So I can say that the knowledge from CYS classes was incredibly useful for my job.

When I got my MA, I believed I was free from reading. But in reality, I had to read more documents than I did at ISS to develop my ability to progress in my job. This is not what I expected, but I enjoyed it.”

If you are an alumna/alumnus of an ISS CYS program who would like to share what you’ve been up to with the CYS community, please contact Kristen Cheney at cheney@iss.nl

UNICEF vacancies

Category: United Nations

3 Sep 2013

downloadHave you taken courses in Children & Youth Studies? Do you have some relevant work experience? Then, you stand a good chance joining UNICEF through their New and Emerging Talent Initiative (NETI) – a paid appointment!

Successful candidates are given an initial one year appointment that commences with a three week period at UNICEF headquarters in New York. Following this induction, the ‘NETIs’ are deployed globally. Subject to positive evaluations the initial one year appointment may be extended with one year and thereafter successful ‘NETIs’ graduate and move into so-called ‘Talent groups’.

The NETI programme appears  mostly geared towards those already ‘in’, but the last category of ‘eligible’ candidates offers hope for those not (yet) part of the world of UNICEF.

  1. UNICEF National Professional Officers and General Service staff;
  2. UNICEF staff members holding a temporary appointment;
  3. UNICEF Junior Professional Officers (JPOs) who have completed at least 15 months of the JPO Programme;
  4. External candidates from outside UNICEF.

Available positions are listed HERE.

good luck!

posted by Roy Huijsmans


imagesICTs have long been in the toolkit of development organisations, yet ‘development through texting’ appears a rather new practice.

As part of its ‘Youth Empowerment through Mobile Learning Project’, UNESCO Thailand, in collaboration with the Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education of the Thai Ministry of Education, has been bombarding ‘more than 1600 young Thais’ with daily text messages sent out through Facebook and by telephone SMS (see HERE).

The text messages contain quotes from famous scientist, business people and movie stars, including the likes of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. This is one such example, that would have popped up (in Thai script!) on the screens of the young Thais participating in the project:

“The only wrong thing would be to deny what your heart truly feels,” from the film “The Mask of Zorro”. 

With these texts, UNESCO aims to stimulate the development of mental skills, cognitive skills and technical skills among Thai youth’s. Mass-texting may thus well be regarded a development project.

As with most development projects, whether these goals are achieved is perhaps the least interesting of questions. What I would find more interesting is learning by whom and how these quotes are selected. There is a documented history (e.g. by Thongchai) on Thailand’s appropriation of certain western practices and knowledges in the name of ‘civilization’, and the examples provided by UNESCO suggest indeed that the quotes used in this texting programme are from famous people from the west exclusively. Despite this possible historical continuity, the absence of any quotes from the Thai king, from Buddhist monks, or former prime-minister Thaksin for that matter, would still raise really interesting questions. Also, what sense do young Thais make of such daily ‘feeds’ and how do they interpret such ‘development texts’ in relation to the many other ‘electronic updates’ they no doubt receive. There is also a question of political economy. Assuming that subscription to this UNESCO SMS service is free on the receiving end, the service still has a price which UNESCO might subsidise and/or has an agreement about with one or more of the companies providing mobile telephony services in Thailand.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


downloadWhilst some may still be recovering from the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9th August) or preparing for the UN World Humanitarian Day (19th August), there is the UN International Youth Day today (12th August).

‘International Youth Day’ has been on the UN agenda since 2000, following the adoption of resolution 54/120 by the General Assembly in 1999. With more than a decade of such days behind us, it’s worthwhile looking back and see how its focus has shifted over time.

The first International Youth Day in 2000 did not have an overarching slogan, yet the following phrase featured centrally on its webpage: ‘Youth is the future of mankind…’. The same holds for the International Youth Day of 2001, however in his message Kofi Annan stressed the important of paying attention to ‘health’ and ‘unemployment’. In the years that followed ‘conceptual slogans‘ were introduced with the idea of communicating ‘the scope direction, and objectives of the year’s youth initiatives and also [to] provide[s] a unifying banner from under which individuals can draw the inspiration to take action’. These are the slogans used:

2002:  ‘Now and for the Future: Youth Action for Sustainable Development’

2003: ‘Finding decent and productive work for young people everywhere’

2004: ‘Youth in an intergenerational society’

2005: ‘WPAY+10 and making commitments matter’ (WPAY=World Programme of Action for Youth)

2006: ‘Tackling poverty together: Young people and the eradication of poverty’

2007: ‘Be seen, be heard: Youth participation for development’

2008: ‘Youth and climate change: Time for action’

2009: ‘Sustainability: Our challenge. Our future’

2010: ‘Dialogue and mutual understanding’

2011: ‘Change our world’

2012: ‘Building a better world: Partnering with youth’

2013: ‘Youth migration: Moving development forward’

What appears to set this year’s slogan apart from others is a recognition of one of the ways in which young people actually do contribute to development (migration), instead of how they ought to contribute (e.g. ‘dialogue’, ‘partnering with adults’, ‘eradicating poverty’, etc), or youth as a problem (‘unemployment’, ‘health’, etc). The ‘2013 World Youth Report’ on Youth Migration and Development that is currently being prepared may thus be something to look out for.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


Young Lives formulates key messages on child poverty

Young Lives, a longitudinal study of child poverty, published a report today to coincide with the ‘High Level Panel’ that met in Bali to decide on a development framework to follow up the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Despite the gains made by the MDGs, the Young Lives report highlights the enduring – and sometimes emergent – inequalities between children across and within different countries. It paints a cautionary tale against leaving the poorest children even more marginalized by poverty reduction efforts.

The eight key messages of the report are:

Message 1. Inequalities in children’s development originate in multiple disadvantages, which compound to affect children’s long-term outcomes

Message 2. Inequalities undermine the development of human potential: children from disadvantaged families quickly fall behind

Message 3. In Young Lives countries, gender differences become more significant as children get older, but boys are not always advantaged

Message 4. Early malnutrition has serious, long-term consequences for children’s development, but there is evidence that some children may recover and ‘catch up’

Message 5. Inequalities open up during middle and later childhood, as children grow up

Message 6. How children feel about themselves and their well-being is both a major indicator of inequality and a channel for the transmission of poverty

Message 7. Education is regarded by both adults and children as having the potential to transform their lives, but doesn’t always compensate for disadvantage and may reinforce differences between children

Message 8. Social protection programmes can reduce disadvantage, but impacts are often complex, sometimes unintended and may not always benefit children.

Since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.

Young Lives is a 15-year study that follows the progress of 12,000 children in 4 countries (Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam) with the goal of challenging policymakers to effect change in childhood poverty. You can read the entire report here: http://www.younglives.org.uk/publications/PP/what-inequality-means-for-children

posted by Kristen Cheney

posted by Roy Huijsmans

UNFPA has published, what they call a ‘status report‘ on adolescents and young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report is based on the much criticised idea of ‘youth transitions’ (see for example HERE). This is made clear on p. 4 where it states that:

Young people are experiencing a time of transition, full of physical, psychological, emotional and economic changes as they leave childhood and enter adulthood. The decisions that are made during this period of life affect not only the individual wellbeing of young people, but also the wellbeing of entire societies. Ensuring that young people can successfully navigate this phase of life will help break the cycle of poverty and produce benefits for individuals, communities and nations.

Reporting the ‘status’ of adolescents and youth in the Sub-Saharan countries is then effectively an assessement of how well these countries have performed against a number of normative thressholds measured on a national scale. For easy reading UNFPA uses colour coding on an interactive map, with ‘red’ identifying ‘countries that need to take immediate action to address a particular indicator’, ‘yellow’ to denote ‘countries that are making progress…but may need additional investments’, and ‘green’ to for ‘countries that are making exceptional progress’. 

One of the normative indicators is the ‘age at first sex‘ (the median age by which one half of young people aged 15-24 have had penetrative sex). Leaving questions about the reliability of such data aside for the moment, these interactive maps effectively turn the map of Sub-Saharan Africa into a topographic landscape of different degrees of ‘problems’ and ‘progress’. What is erased in the interactive exercise are important questions of who has defined the criteria of what is considered ‘problem’ and ‘progress’? for whom? and is what matters the age of first sex or the conditions and sets of relationships in which this takes place?

posted by Roy Huijsmans

TeachUNICEF‘ is an online portfolio offering ‘free global education resources’ on topics ranging from ‘human trafficking’ to ‘peace education’. Resources include lesson plans, stories, and multimedia resources, all with the stated aim of supporting and creating ‘well-informed global citizens who understand interconnectedness, respect and value diversity, have the ability to challenge injustice and inequities and take action in personally meaningful ways’.

The resources appear designed for consumption in the Global North, or in some instances for the USA specifically as is evident from question 4.3 of Lesson 1 in the ‘End Trafficking’ pack for grades 6-8:

‘Where does human trafficking occur in the United States?’ (the correct answer is given as: ‘Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, with particularly high rates in California, Texas, Florida, and New York’

Furthermore, the lesson plans are made ‘age appropriate’. In the same lesson pack on Ending Trafficking it is for example suggested that ‘sex trafficking’ may be omitted from the lessons on child trafficking ‘due to the age of the intended audience’. For this reason, the resources including sex trafficking have been marked as ‘optional’ and should these be included, UNICEF ‘recommend[s] that you collaborate with and gain the support of your administration, school mental health professionals, and your students’ families before including this mature content’.

The site also includes an interactive map, allowing educators to scroll the globe and to navigate from a PODCAST on ‘the recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia’ to a VIDEO on ‘UNICEF reponds to nutrition crisis in the Sahel’ pinned down in Chad, and to ‘Action: Advocacy’ pinned down in the USA.

In short, TeachUNICEF offers plenty of material to study the representation of geographies of development. A study of the ‘consumption’ of these ‘global resources’ in classrooms in the Global North would also be of great interest. This would illuminate how these lessons (plans) are appropriated in diverse settings and this may shed some light on whether the stated aims of TeachUNICEF are indeed achieved.


A post-2015 agenda?

Category: United Nations| youth

20 Dec 2012

posted by Roy Huijsmans

With the expiry date of the Millennium Development Goals around the corner something interesting is happening. The entire UN machine has moved into a ‘post-2015 development agenda’ mode.

Timelines are drawn, meetings are called for, consultation rounds are organised, press-statements are issued, and background documents are produced. Youth too are included in this machinery. For this purpose there is the United Nations sponsored webspace called ‘The World We Want‘. It invites young people to become involved in the ‘post-2015 development agenda’ discussion on a number of predefined topics.

Despite all the noise, the unquestioned starting point appears that there must be a new ‘global’ agenda following the MDGs. For example, none of the 24 framing questions the UN High-level Panel on the post 2015 development agenda is considering questions the very idea of such an agenda. This mutes the question of who actually needs a post-2015 development agenda most?

The need for such agendas is also naturalized through the mobilisation of certain youth voices. The following quote appears prominently in a ‘Toolkit‘ for post-MDG youth consultation:

I am a product of the MDG generation. The MDGs have been part of my ‘coming of age’.

One wonders, how many young people would actually see themselves like this? Hence, rather than mobilising such quotes in an uncritical fashion it raises real questions about youth participation as practiced by United Nations bodies and associated civil society. Who are the young people participating in such fora? What are the parameters of the discussion? How come some young people have come to embody United Nations discourses to the extent that they refer to themselves as part of an MDG generation? What does all this say about the world of development and the incorporation of youth?

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.