Working children in the most intolerable

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working children in the most intolerable circumstances is now advocated by the ILO, UNICEF and many NGOs. Finally, child-centred policies and programmes understand and are sensitive to the specifics of circumstance and context. Their interventions accurately reflect and evolve from the nature of the problems being attacked, giving a sense of having been designed from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down. Their greater effectiveness springs from their relevance and specificity. Such well-focused approaches are unlikely to either generate or derive from universalized models of intervention. But does this imply that there can be no universal dimensions to the defence of children against workplace abuse and exploitation, and that international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, are necessarily out of step with children's best interests? Not at all, for many important objectives and principles can be widely agreed, adapting their application to the circumstances, even when specific intervention models for mechanistic replication are not appropriate. For example, more countries could conscientiously subscribe to a firm hut 17 Promoting the Best Interests of Working Children
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general obligation to abolish seriously hazardous and slavery-like work by children than to a set of universal policies all must adopt toward that end, whether they fit or not. Accountability and the means to monitor can be applied as rigorously to general objectives as to specific policy commitments. The answer to melding universal criteria with the need to respond to children's situational realities is to universalize broad principles, which can be flexibly adapted to differing local needs, rather than uniform policies to he everywhere replicated. Although more evaluative research is needed to better define such principles, experience to date suggests that at least the following can be relied upon to promote working children's best interests: Base all action on accurate empirical information about children's work and lives No major policy or programme intervention should be made without a solid understanding of the work, life situation and opinions of the children involved. This means that all interventions in children's work should be founded on accurate empirical information about the nature and conditions of that work, the life situation of the children involved and how their work fits into it, the negative and positive effects of the children's work on their well-being and development, the children's own opinions about their work, and their ideas about protective or other assistance they feel they need. This empirical information should be the first and most important basis for deciding what policies and programmes, if any, are merited.
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