A country’s budget is perhaps the most powerful tool a government has to implement its policies and advance the rights of its children. Whether children’s rights to health, nutrition, education and protection can be fully realized or not, depends heavily on whether these rights are given due consideration and prioritized during the budgeting processes, in which resources are marshalled and policies are translated into financial commit¬ments.
In recent years, many countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have recorded strong economic growth. And the number of countries exporting large quantities of natural resources is growing by the year. This has the potential to significantly increase government revenue in these countries, creating greater space for increased government expenditure. However, increased government expenditure does not necessarily translate into increased social expenditure. Some countries might be tempted to invest more where impact is more visible in the short-run, such as the infrastructure sector, hence a lesser focus on social sector, for example, investing in safety nets for the most vulnerable members of the society.
Angola, for example, despite earning billions of dollars through its oil industry, still has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, particularly in middle-income countries, such as Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
While acknowledging that financial resources alone are not sufficient to durably improve the situation, UNICEF makes the case for harnessing available resources, especially domestic resources, and tracking their expenditure to ensure that they effectively reach children and ultimately improve their situation. Public finance, especially the social sector budgeting process, is the single most powerful tool available to promote equity and basic services for disadvantaged children.
UNICEF in action
Investing financial resources to help children survive and develop is, first and foremost, a moral imperative. But investing in children is also important on practical grounds. It yields positive benefits to economies and societies. Since the foundation of an individual’s health and well-being is laid during early childhood, the most opportune time to break the cycle of poverty, or prevent it from beginning, is during that time.
UNICEF’s mission is to help countries ensure that all children survive and develop into their full potential, as well as those that will allow them to develop to their full potential. To maximize resources for children, UNICEF supports governments in identifying funding sources, creating consensus around the need to invest more in children, and using public finance policies to achieve sustainable progress in the fulfillment of children’s rights. UNICEF works with governments and partners, including civil society, development agencies, and the donor community to help ensure that budget and policy priorities reflect this commitment.
While UNICEF’s specific work varies from country to country, there are several common goals, each contributing to stronger public finance policies for children:
Results for children
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