Academic Publication

Developing a Rights-based Plan of Action

Jacqueline Bhabha
The University of California Press
Publication Year:
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

While evaluating the agendas and means that have been put forth to mobilize refugee and migrant children on a global scale Bhabha offers innovative approaches to advancing child migrants rights and a forward-looking and ambitious agenda. 

Chapter Title: CHILDREN ON THE MOVE IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: Developing a Rights-Based Plan of Action Chapter Author(s): Jacqueline Bhabha

Book Title: Humanitarianism and Mass Migration

Book Subtitle: Confronting the World Crisis

Book Editor(s): Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco

Published by: University of California Press. (2019)

Though children have always been significant participants in global migration flows, the protection deficit that accompanies this multifaceted phenomenon, now widely referred to as “children on the move,”1 only emerged as a concerted focus of concern relatively recently. I describe some elements of this belated but welcome emerging concern and its consequences. I also suggest that comprehensive engagement with the diverse contemporary phenomenon of children on the move needs to advance beyond the current preoccupation with child vulnerability, dependence, and related protection imperatives, critical though that perspective is. A more dynamic and ambitious agenda to complement the focus of current work is needed, one that acknowledges youthful agency, initiative, and ambition and that places the right to safe and legal child and adolescent mobility at its core. To be sure, an inclusive and just agenda concerning children on the move in the twenty-first century must include, as a necessary baseline, policies that protect vulnerable children from the pressures that force them into perilous migration in the first place. Such policies entail effective and accessible measures to shield children from the harms of family separation, postconflict trauma, statelessness, discrimination, financial destitution, and sexual exploitation. The absence or failure of such policies in so many regions today has precipitated the large outflows of young people so much in evidence since 2014, outflows that, as Gonzalo SánchezTerán (2017) notes, are not evidence of a migration crisis but rather of a migration instinct or opportunity. A just agenda for contemporary children on the move must also elaborate in detail solutions to current refugee and migration problems not addressed by the existing toolkit of protective measures. We cannot continue to fail the next generation of young people (and several more to follow) with dramatic shortfalls in access to basic rights such as quality education and health care, rights respecting employment, and access to a safe and life-sustaining environment. The solutions needed draw on evolving work in the development context and in the humanitarian domains of harm prevention and risk reduction. They require closer collaboration between the migration and development fields and the design of expanded legal migration options within more flexible mobility regimes.


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