East Asia and Pacific countries discuss policies, measures to address Impact of Economic Crisis on Children
SINGAPORE, 6 January, 2009 — At the start of a new year mired by a worsening economic crisis, key leaders in East Asia and the Pacific began discussions today on how best to protect children by maintaining or scaling up social spending despite tightening budgets.
More than 150 academics, policy advisors, finance ministers and senior officials, convened by UNICEF, shared lessons learned from the 1997-98 crisis and good policy practices in health, nutrition, education and family income maintenance.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all countries in the region have ratified, is clear. Children, it says, should have the first call on resources, especially in times of economic challenge,” said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Director.
UNICEF is working with national governments in the region, including the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, where the two-day conference is being held. The close collaboration between UNICEF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Singapore Cooperation Programme has made it possible for senior government policy advisors and officials from East Asia and the Pacific to attend the conference.
The global financial crisis is amplifying the effects of the food and fuel price crises, seriously challenging the abilities of families to cope and of children to thrive. At this moment when women and children are most vulnerable, governments are faced with reduced revenues and hard choices.
“Our choices now will determine whether we restore the rapid development of this region or let decades of social progress towards the Millennium Development Goals erode,” said Indonesian Finance Minister, Dr. Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
Household income is falling, forcing some parents to remove children from school and some to enter the labour force too early. Reduced food consumption, particularly among poor families, can lead to stunted physical growth, and decreased intellectual capacity of children. These, in turn, damage national economic growth.
“The economic crisis has major implications for countries' economic and social resilience, and for children given their added vulnerabilities. We must not compromise their future, even as we deal with the current economic challenges. This conference is timely given these realities,” Dr, Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports said.
“Evidence from the 1997-98 crisis will help us support our governments to shape the best policies, said Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Dr. Kishore Mahbubani.
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Impact of the Economic Crisis on Children
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