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The Root Causes of Exclusion

ISSUE: Exclusion acts against children in all countries, societies and communities. At the national level, the root causes of exclusion are poverty, weak governance, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS. Statistical analyses of key MDG indicators related to child health and education show a widening gap between children growing up in countries with the lowest level of development, torn by strife, underserved by weak governments or ravaged by HIV/AIDS and their peers in the rest of the developing world. These factors not only jeopardize these children's chances of benefiting from the Millennium agenda, they also increase the risk that they will miss out on their childhood and face continued exclusion in adulthood.

Because the MDGs are based on national averages, inequalities among children within the same country that contribute to, and result in, their exclusion may be obscured. Disaggregated data from national statistics and household surveys indicate sharp disparities in health-care and education outcomes on the basis of household income and geographic location. Inequalities in children's health, rate of survival and school attendance and completion also fall along the lines of gender, ethnicity or disability. These inequities may occur because children and their caregivers are directly excluded from services, because they live in areas that are poorer and more poorly serviced, because of the high costs of access to essential services, or because of cultural barriers such as language, ethnic discrimination or stigmatization.

ACTION: Tackling these factors requires swift and decisive action in four key areas:

  • Poverty and inequality. Adjusting poverty-reduction strategies and expanding budgets or reallocating resources to social investment will assist millions of children in the poorest countries and communities.

  • Armed conflict and 'fragile' States. The international community must seek to prevent and resolve armed conflict and engage with countries with weak policy/institutional framework to protect children and women and provide essential services. Emergency responses for children caught up in conflict should include services for education, child protection and the prevention of HIV transmission.

  • HIV/AIDS and children. Greater attention should be given to the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and adolescents and to ways of protecting them from both infection and exclusion. The Global Campaign on Children and HIV/AIDS will play a significant role in this regard.

  • Discrimination. Governments and societies must openly confront discrimination, introduce and enforce legislation prohibiting it, and implement initiatives to address exclusion faced by women and girls, ethnic and indigenous groups and the disabled.