Author: Watson, C., Venu, R. et al; UNICEF NYHQ
The end-decade review has been a multi-faceted process done at the national, regional, and international levels. UNICEF provided support and encouragement for national review processes and reporting in several ways. Many UNICEF Country Offices participated in the technical and consultative aspects, and both country and regional offices contributed their own perspectives through specific end-decade review analyses (annexed to the year 2000 Country Office Annual Reports and Regional Analysis Reports). UNICEF contributions to agenda-setting were developed in a set of papers on "Emerging Issues" in each region. These are refined and adapted, in part by supporting various regional gatherings and consultations connected to the Global Movement for Children and by helping to prepare for the Special Session. Also, support for multiple indicator cluster surveys (MICS) implementation and analysis was a key contribution globally.
Purpose / Objective
Adopted by the World Summit for Children (WSC) in 1990, the review seeks to take stock of results for children; analyse factors facilitating or inhibiting progress in fulfilling commitments to children; draw clear lessons for the future; and identify remaining challenges. Results at each level are contributing to the Secretary-General's report to the Special Session on children, and continue to help set priorities in various mechanisms and fora. It constitutes a contribution to the end-decade review process by UNICEF's Division of Evaluation, Policy and Planning (EPP).
The working paper is based primarily on a detailed analysis of the "lessons learned" and "future perspectives" in the national end-decade review reports and UNICEF Country Office annual report annexes. Additional insights and information on contextual factors affecting children and women in each region were drawn from relevant UNICEF Regional Office reports (Emerging Issues papers, Regional Analysis Reports and available end-decade review annexes to the Regional Analysis Reports). Where available, other regionally specific documents related to the end-decade review were also consulted.
Preparing the current paper began simultaneously with the global analysis for the end-decade review in early 2001. A team was set up including members from the different sections of EPP. Results of an initial review of national reports and UNICEF country office observations were compiled in a preliminary draft, which provides specific national-level examples of lessons learned and future perspectives from the national end-decade reviews. Key points were then synthesised by region to form the basis for the current working paper, which includes the wider regional analyses, and is updated from the latest reports.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Poverty reduction and resource mobilisation
Poverty is a major obstacle in the realisation of children's rights affecting all aspects of their survival, protection and development. Over the decade, more people have come to recognise the multiple dimensions of poverty, the different ways it is experienced, and the interconnectedness between the promotion of children's rights and poverty reduction. The gendered dimensions of poverty have come to the fore, as have the effects of poverty at both household and individual level. Comprehensive, multi-dimensional poverty reduction strategies linked to support for productive enterprises at household level are key priorities for many countries. International action should target both the establishment of more favourable terms of trade and intensified resource mobilisation for the least-developed countries. This should include increased allocations of ODA and effective debt relief, with particular emphasis on implementation of the HIPC Initiative to free up resources for social welfare and development.
War, conflict, humanitarian assistance and conflict resolution
Ongoing conflict, insecurity, and social unrest usurp the very foundations for the realization of rights, with children and women paying a heavy toll. Much progress has been made over the decade in developing international standards and placing children's issues higher on the peace and security agenda. However, more must be done to ensure effective application of these standards and to build a culture of accountability among both state and non-state actors.
Effective humanitarian assistance must safeguard the rights of children and women in times of conflict through long-term commitments and sustained support; but lasting peace is a prerequisite for social well-being and development. Greater efforts are needed to address the root causes of war, to prevent conflicts from occurring, and to resolve conflicts peacefully, including through a strengthened role for regional organizations. Education can help by instilling tolerance and respect for human rights.
HIV-AIDS has emerged as one of the single greatest impediments to the fulfilment of children's rights, particularly in Africa, but its threat increases in other regions as well. Recognising the full implications of the pandemic was late in coming over the decade, and silence still shrouds the issue in a number of regions. The most successful efforts to address AIDS mobilise all sectors of society, including youth; encourage greater openness on the issue; involve stakeholders in a focus on prevention; and seek to strengthen community structures of care for children orphaned by AIDS.
Political will, leadership and good governance
Strong political will, leadership and good governance for the judicious exercise of political, economic, and administrative authority in managing state affairs are essential to sustain progress for children. Capacity-building and institution-strengthening are vital for the transitions, reforms, democratisations and decentralisations going on in many regions, and they must be sustained and further developed.
The decade has seen persistent and often growing disparities both between and within nations. People are often excluded from the mainstream based on location, gender, race and ethnic group, and physical or mental capacity. These disparities must be reduced if the rights of all children are to be fulfilled. Disaggregated data is needed to identify disparities and help formulate appropriately targeted social policy and planning frameworks. Long-term efforts, e.g. tolerance, respect for diversity in education, and a reversal of public policies that accentuate disparities, are needed to attack the root causes of exclusion.
Social planning and policy frameworks/strategies
National and sub-national plans of action for children can serve as effective policy tools for integrating children's issues into overall development plans. However, strong political will is needed to maintain a priority focus on such issues -- especially in hard times -- and to strengthen co-ordination among players. Social policy, planning, and goal-setting must be adapted to local realities, based on clear data, and carefully monitored for necessary adjustments. Capacity-building is important, as is participation by major stakeholders. Goals must embrace both the "unfinished agenda" of the World Summit for Children as well as the new issues emerging as priorities under rapidly changing socio-economic circumstances.
Data collection, analysis and dissemination
Reliable and child-specific data is still lacking, which constrains planning and inhibits the ability to monitor the situation of children. This highlights the need to promote inter-agency collaboration in quantitative and qualitative data collection, analysis, and dissemination. Priorities include: developing rights-sensitive indicators and other tools to fill data gaps on 'sensitive' or emerging issues; refining disaggregated data for disparity-reduction goals; developing capacity and creating/promoting new tools, systems, and methods of analysis; and using and disseminating 'actionable' data to inform public debate and policy formulation more creatively.
Legal frameworks and implementation
The legal framework for child rights has been strengthened over the decade -- at both international and national level -- but law reform is part of an integrated, long-term process. Implementing the CRC and moving toward a rights-based approach to development (with a corollary shift to viewing children as holders of rights) requires not only legislative action, but also social mobilization, awareness-raising and debate, training, and stronger measures for implementation and monitoring. Legislative changes must also be supported by appropriate budget allocations and enabling administrative structures. The next move must be from words to deeds: applying the law and social justice.
Partnerships and stakeholder participation
Many of the national reports point to a paradigm shift in development thinking, linking the adoption of a human rights-based approach with heightened concern to promote stakeholder participation and responsibility. All actors must be mobilised and engaged to create a child-friendly world. Early and full involvement of communities and stakeholders is both a pathway to success and an indicator of good governance. Local governments and communities must be empowered to identify, analyse, and manage problems by participating in democratic and decentralized processes. Partnerships with civil society need to be strengthened and nurtured; alliances with the private sector forged; and the role of the media supported and extended in appropriate ways. Greater efforts are needed particularly to promote children and youth participation in meaningful ways.
Support for the family/community
Heightened support is necessary for the family and community as the primary caregivers of children. Supporting parents includes providing both information and social services, as well as subsidies and other allowances for vulnerable groups. Programme and policy design must take into consideration the nature of gender relations within the household and the ways these may be changing as a result of external shocks. Support for community-based initiatives and local associations is also important. As stated in one national report, "It is important to envision new responsibilities for families and communities, for it is there that respect for the rights of women and children is born".
Advocacy and awareness-raising for behavioural change
Changes in attitude and behaviour at all levels (local, official) are essential for child protection and development, and respect for child rights, but these long-term goals require sustained efforts. Effecting these positive changes requires: a real knowledge and understanding of local practices and perceptions (often difficult to achieve); effective communication techniques for advocacy and awareness-raising (particularly through media and interpersonal relations); and specific actions based on participatory methodologies to address problems, including those arising from harmful traditional practices and customs as well as new patterns of harmful behaviour. At the same time, positive local initiatives must be supported and encouraged.
Gender equity and the promotion of women
Promotion of women is key to a number of positive processes. Efforts must be renewed to get girl children to participate, to support women's participation in society, to eliminate gender disparity in all of its manifestations, including gender-based violence and exclusion. With the inter-connectedness of CEDAW and CRC increasingly recognised, efforts to strengthening women's roles and participation in the household, in decision-making processes and in employment can reinforce and expand efforts to safeguard and promote children's rights.
Environmental protection is a key factor in sustaining child welfare. Issues of environmental degradation, pollution, and health hazards need to be addressed through relevant policies and legislation, appropriate technical applications, institutional strengthening and co-ordination, and expanded environmental awareness. Both the urban and rural dimensions of environmental protection must be addressed, sustainable livelihoods promoted, and emergency-preparedness strengthened. Environmental education should be taught as an essential life skill.
International (and inter-regional) action must complement and support national-level action for women and children. The support of the international community and the positive influence of regional organisations have been important for facilitating progress. Such positive co-operation should be strengthened and improved to enhance partnerships, promote technical exchange, and build capacity for sustainability. Greater co-ordination among all actors and stakeholders will help make international co-operation and assistance more effective.
The Secretary-General's report on the end-decade review discusses several of the key themes and issues from the national lessons learned . That report, with the companion piece being developed for the General Assembly Special Session on Children in September 20022 provide the basis for us to renew our collective commitments and intensify our efforts for and with children. As the Secretary-General notes in his report, "We were all children once. And we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind".
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