Around the world, UNICEF works towards the realization of children’s rights – the rights to survival and development - as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For many years, however, these efforts have mostly been uni-dimensional, and divided along the sectoral lines, i.e., health, education, child protection and HIV. But a child does not happen to be undernourished, without access to an education, or without a birth certificate, by chance. These manifestations are the outcomes of many determinants at play. While sector work addresses the most immediate causes (and to some extent underlying causes) of the problem, a deeper layer of causes is usually left out of the analysis.
Social policy is precisely concerned about addressing those causes, which are related to the political economy, as well as the overall socioeconomic environment shaping public decisions making.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, two thirds of the countries are low-income and low development countries, as measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita and Human Development Index (HDI); more than half of the countries post high income inequality, as measured by the Gini Cofficient (see tablebelow). In addition, more than half of the region’s population is under the age of 18. Such high share of children in the population should entail significant social spending, especially in education and health. The available data, however, suggest that many governments struggle to allocate enough resources to these crucial areas and to reach children who are most in need - those from the poorest households, from rural areas or born to mothers with the least education.
UNICEF in action
Social Policy in UNICEF spans across three broad main areas, while trying to answer specific questions about child vulnerability:
Besides programmatic work in these three areas, social policy delivers on situation analyses and research, knowledge management, and policy advocacy on child rights. A strong focus is placed on building partnerships, particularly with the ministries of finance, economic development, planning, as well as the parliament, academic institutions, and other development partners such as the EU, the IMF and the World Bank.
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