“The child in development policies and programmes”
Issue #72 of the journal Autrepart
Charles-Édouard de Suremain and Doris Bonnet (Guest Editors)
This special intends to examine the construction of the child as a
specific subject/object in development policies and programmes, based on
research and field work conducted in developing countries. It aims to
analyse the systems of representations, discourses and practices of
development projects involving children in various social, cultural and
demographic contexts. It seems crucial, at a time when they are mobilised
by a number of development projects, to discuss the notion of child—and,
by extension, that of childhood.
The first question in this call relates to the multiplicity of children
figures created by development policies and programmes, particularly in
the last two decades. Obvious examples of these figures include children
affected by AIDS, malnourished children, working children, children
victims of abuse, torphan children… but also to child soldiers, the wizard
children, or even the “vulnerable children” of the international
organizations. What do these figures have in common and what
differentiates them? What and who justifies the existence of these
figures? Can or should children be categorised based on the status they
have—or are given—in the society they belong to, on a specific development
projet at a given time, or in reference to the criteria defined by
international organisations such as the World Health Organization, the
International Labour Office, or United Nations International Children’s
Emergency Fund? Particular attention will be paid to the adverse effects
of this categorisation trend, including the stigmatisation of the
concerned children at the local level.
The second question we wish to address is the segmented nature of
development projects and the lack of a comprehensive vision of the child.
The rationale of development projects provided to donors implies
“targetting” specific populations. One project, for instance, is
interested in the education of children political refugees while another
focuses on the vaccination of children under two years in a marginal
neighbourhood of a large city. But doesn’t this approach generate a
multiplicity of unrelated projects? Doesn’t the lack of a comprehensive
vision of the child as a social agent reduce the impact of the often
costly actions implemented “for the child’s sake”? And doesn’t the
establishment of “children’s rights” making universal rights mandatory,
imply a change in the goals of development projects?
The third question contributors may focus on is that of the participation
of children in development projects—or rather their lack of participation.
While it is difficult to work on children as a research object, it is
possibly even more difficult to work with children and for children as
social subjects/actors. And there is no escaping the fact that most
development projects avoid considering children’s participation in their
design and implementation. This is the case, for example of the projects
seeking social reintegration for street children and child soldiers. Are
the leeways of children bounded solely by those laid down by the adults?
With the possible exception of children too young to talk, aren’t the
children the agents of their own lives, in one way or another? Don’t
children transform, in their own way, the projects of which they are the
“beneficiaries”? The aim is here to delineate the contours and limits of
the “participation” of children in development projects, beyond slogans
that are more or less ideological.
The discussion has methodological implications, as working for children
requires determining how it is possible to work on and with them. It also
has theoretical consequences as it raises the issue of the child as an
actor, as well as the outlines and limits of the concepts of agency and
empowerment applied to childhood. It finally has operational effects on
the development projects concerning children. A project is all the more
“acceptable” that it is understood and appropriated by the population
whose life it is supposed to improve.
Autrepart invites for this issue contributions from the various
disciplines of social sciences. The relationship between the outcomes of
development projects, the research carried out, the methodology and the
concepts used must be analysed in the light of specific cases. This is why
the proposed contributions will clearly specify the characteristics and
organization of the society to which the child belongs.
Proposal (title and abstract not exceeding 150 words) must be sent to the
journal Autrepart before 15th september 2013
The articles selected have to be submitted by 15th november 2013
Book reviews on the topic of this issue must be sent to the journal
Autrepart before 15th December 2013