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Guiding principles (Part 1)

Do no harm
A teenage woman from Nigeria wearing a grey hoodie. The photo is taken from the middle of her nose up to the top of her head. We can't see her mouth or chin. She is staring into the camera.
© UNICEF (UN052641) / Romenzi

Over the next three course steps we will explore some of the principles to be found in a range of international and national legislation, treaties, policies, and guidance. Two examples of such guidance that we have already referred to in week one of the course are the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (UN Guidelines).

For example, in accordance with the CRC, all children located in the 196 countries where the CRC is in force are entitled to the same rights of survival, development, and protection. The overarching principles of best interests, participation, and non-discrimination are also applicable. This means they apply to all children, whether they usually live in the country they are currently located in or not.

The principles we will now consider should inform our work. In this manner, they can guide us when, for example, we undertake assessments, make decisions with and for children, and develop and implement alternative care and protection plans.

We will start with the principle of ‘do no harm’:

Do no harm

It is very important that any decision or action we take with and on behalf of a child does not expose the child to further harm or other negative consequences.

This means:

  • Ensuring a child is cared for in the most suitable and safe environment
  • Basing any decisions on comprehensive information gathered in the care and protection assessment
  • Respecting a child’s right to privacy. This means that certain information about the child should be regarded as confidential and not shared with others, unless this is essential and for the benefit of the child
  • Sharing necessary information in a way that does not compromise the privacy or security of the child

The ‘do no harm’ principle also means providing a timely response to situations that, if not addressed, might increase the risk of the child experiencing further harm. An example would be a child who has suffered abuse during their journey leading to severe depression, which, if the child is not provided with appropriate support, might then lead to serious consequences and long-term mental health concerns.

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