|The Country Programme will refocus during the next five years on the five poorest regions of the country where children’s access to social services is most limited.|
By Abhijit Shanker
10 August 2011 - Equitable policies and interventions, designed to embody the principles of justice, should allow government and its partners to provide equal opportunities for all children. In this vein, the UNICEF Country Office has to judge and treat similar situations equally, while also granting specific rights to groups of children whose situation is considered disadvantageous. A new initiative, “Collectivités Locales Amies des Enfants” (“Child Friendly Cities”), in the poorest areas of Senegal is growing out of the evidence-based CPD (country programme document) strategies elaboration process. The resulting Participatory Budget will facilitate children’s engagement and support the development and implementation of a multi-sectoral plan for involving children at local levels. A dashboard monitoring the situation will enable regular assessment of the resulting initiatives and the evolution of the situation facing the most disadvantaged children.
UNICEF announced its intention to refocus its organizational priorities on Equity just as the Country Programme 2007-2011 for the cooperation with the Government of Senegal was concluding. The Senegal Country Office therefore understood the necessity of developing equity-based strategies for the new Country Programme 2012-2016. Despite being accustomed to designing programmes based on disparities in gender, age and location, this kind of disaggregation was insufficient for the task at hand because communities also demonstrate persistent disparities between cities and rural areas and among villages within the same areas. The need for detailed evidence and sound analysis was perceived to be crucial to conducting a CPD elaboration process which took into account these disparities and the structural causes underlying identified inequities and which also promoted joint equity-based strategies in the poorest areas of the country.
Strategy and Implementation
Building the equity case for children in Senegal
A study on child poverty and disparities in Senegal , based on DHS (Demographic and Health Survey) data, highlights the main challenges and major problems affecting child survival and development and reveals that approximately three of five children are affected by severe deprivations. According to a monetary analysis, almost 54% of Senegalese children live in poor households; in rural areas, the percentage is even higher, at 82%. A deprivations analysis shows that 62.3% of children suffer severe deprivations; moreover, almost all children from the poorest households (95.7%) suffer at least one severe deprivation and 71.4% suffer two or more severe deprivations. Overall, the children most vulnerable to deprivations are those who live in rural areas, in households whose head has no education, and in households belonging to the poorest quintile.
A study on chronic poverty further demonstrates that little mobility exists within the poverty spectrum and that chronic poverty is a dominant presence during each stage of life. As poverty is transmitted directly from vulnerable parents to their children, any social or economic transformation must involve policies geared toward enabling upward social mobility. The analysis indicates that education provides an important means of exiting poverty and demonstrates that multi-sectorality should be the rule for interventions that are intended to benefit children.
The analysis of budgets for children shows that increasing actual education and health expenditure principally requires more effective budget execution in key areas, particularly addressing poverty priorities such as elementary education, classroom construction, reproductive health, and local and regional structures. Absolute levels of health and education budget allocations should increase, but spending could be more efficiently directed to poverty priorities and to the poorest. However, in terms of equity, public expenditures in the health sector remain concentrated in the richest areas of the country. More generally, the impact analysis shows that the poorest quintile receives only 14% of state subsidies, while the wealthiest quintile receives 24%.
Persistently high deprivations, as shown in the mapping of children’s income poverty and multi-dimensional poverty , are evident, especially in certain regions (Matam, Sédhiou, Kolda, Kedougou and Tambacounda), where regional disparities reflect a strong correlation between high consumption poverty in poor regions and high mortality, low school enrolment, and poor access to infrastructure.
Defining approaches to address inequities
Based on the evidence of this research, four approaches have been defined to address inequities:
1. Adequate targeting and prioritization of groups, communities, and localities; providing assistance to the most deprived areas to reduce gaps.
2. Bottom-up approach: local development, collective responsibility, citizen oversight, equal access to quality public services; employing community-based approaches in Health, Education, Protection and Communication for Development (C4D).
3. Coherence in policy formulation with cross sector integration in the formulation of social policies; building capacity in policy formulation and budget allocation both at central and local governance levels and using strong advocacy to leverage additional resources for children.
4. Open governance promoting joint formulation of policies by the various stakeholders, accountability and efficiency of results, and scaling up of social and technical innovations; building M&E (Monitoring and Evaluation) capacity within and outside the Country Office.
The “Collectivités Locales Amies des Enfants” (Child Friendly Cities) initiative integrates these four approaches to promote equity-based strategies for the poorest children at different levels of national administration. The CPD elaboration process performed by the UNICEF Country Office takes into account these identified disparities and the structural causes underlying the inequities, and it promotes joint equity-based strategies in the poorest areas of the country.
Progress and Results
The CPD elaboration process has been completed and adopted by the Executive Board and national authorities.
During the process, the Country Office improved its data collection and utilization by producing strong evidence on child poverty, illustrated through maps and specific regional analyses. This knowledge has been shared with our national partners to ensure their participation and greater demand. In addition, some of the evidence, including the studies on child poverty and disparities, and on mapping chronic poverty, was used in the elaboration of the new PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper) process.
The Country Programme will refocus during the next five years on the five poorest regions of the country where children’s access to social services is most limited. More UNICEF resources will directly benefit the children. At the same time, UNICEF will continue to work at policy level to ensure that adequate and efficient budgetary expenditure in the social sectors reaches the poorest regions; and to ensure scaling up of approaches that work.
The need for persuasive evidence forced the Country Office to strengthen its effort in data collection and analysis. Survey data and routine data from the social ministries monitoring system were collected to yield a more thorough situation analysis of children in Senegal. Data also helped define profiles for the poorest areas of the country.
Ultimately, the interpretation and analysis of data could not have been performed without strong intersectoral collaboration within and outside the UNICEF Country Office. Given the multidimensional deprivations faced by children, discussions on approaches to be put in place involved expertise from the education, survival and protection sectors. The management of these sectoral priorities and the development of an integrated vision of an equity strategy were real challenges for the Country Office and our national partners.
As the collection and use of data will continue to present a challenge to implementing the new equity approach at local level, the Country Office will upgrade the M&E role on its staff. The CPD formulation process revealed the importance of actual, accurate data to a reliable M&E system. The process also demonstrated that the effective use of data ensures a participatory process and facilitates validation of analyses and newly defined strategies by both the Country Office and national authorities.
The participation of all sectors was a prerequisite to a shared vision and definition of Equity. The organizational refocusing by UNICEF on equity raised some questions with respect to potential conflict between the “regular” Rights Based Programming Approach and the “refocused” Equity Based Programming Approach. It took some time to explain and demonstrate that there is no conflict between approaches and that the two concepts are interrelated and complementary. Of course, UNICEF has a vision of equal rights for all children, and the equity approach should allow the organization to highlight social injustice and say, "At birth, all children should have equal opportunity to have their rights respected." Equitable policies and interventions should also allow government and its partners to restore, establish and maintain equal opportunities for children. At the same time, the UNICEF Country Office has to judge and to treat similar situations equally, while also granting specific rights to groups whose situation is considered disadvantageous.
The main next step for the Country Office is the operationalization of the Child Friendly Cities concept in Senegal. In order to meet this goal, the office will support the implementation of a local dashboard monitoring the situation of children (through the establishment of socio-economic indicators and through the identification of a basic social infrastructure for children). It will also support local initiatives for regular assessment of the evolution of the selected indicators, based on the definition and the implementation of a local multi-sectoral plan for children. Such a local plan should ultimately address identified issues confronting children through the implementation of a Participatory Budget process designed to allow the participation of children. Joint sectoral programming at the local level began in April 2011 in a first region (Kolda). Lessons learned from this first experience will be applied to the launch of such processes in the five poorest regions (Matam, Sédhiou, Kolda, Kedougou and Tambacounda). Ongoing monitoring of local children’s conditions will influence the Country Office to reinforce efforts to build capacities and M&E systems at local level where they are weak.