The term “best interests” broadly describes the well-being of a child. Such well-being is determined by a variety of individual circumstances, such as the child’s age and level of maturity, the presence or absence of parents, and the child’s environment and experiences. Its interpretation and application must conform with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other international legal norms and instruments, as well as with the guidance provided by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its 2005 General Comment No. 6 on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin.
The UNCRC stipulates that a child’s best interests must be: (a) the determining factor for specific actions relating to the care of the child, as well as (b) a primary (but not the sole) consideration for all other actions affecting the child, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies.
Despite legislation and policies in Zambia that guarantee the best interests of the child, including those of the migrant child, there are no clear guidelines in place to operationalize the principle. In view of this, the Guidelines for Best Interests Determination for Vulnerable Child Migrants in Zambia formalize the process of best interests determination (BID), as well as of best interests assessment (BIA), to improve the consistency and quality of services that significantly impact the lives of migrant children in Zambia. The Guidelines also establish the BID Panel and assign to it its responsibilities, providing guidance on the elements of and the practical procedural steps for consideration during the BIA and BID processes, focusing on child protection.