Public finance for children
UNICEF Armenia has a unique role to play in ensuring that national and local budgets are responsive to child rights and needs.
There are insufficient and declining allocations of the state budget for social protection, health and education, key areas of direct impact on children.
Guaranteeing the rights of children under the CRC is not only a legal and moral responsibility; but it also has implications for economic and social policies and, consequently, for the allocation of a country’s financial resources. Prioritizing the rights of all children, for today and for future generations, should result in adequate resources devoted to implementing relevant legislation and policies, and for ensuring the functionality and capacity of institutions that work to fulfil these rights. If allocations are insufficient, concentrated on better-off groups, or used poorly, all children, both girls and boys, and especially the most disadvantaged, risk losing access to services and programmes that enable them to survive and thrive, learn, be free from violence and exploitation, live in a safe and clean environment and have an equitable chance in life.
With every third child in Armenia living in poverty, the implementation of effective and efficient policies directed at reducing their vulnerabilities and deprivations is even more pressing. Thus, such policies should be accompanied with essential financial allocations.
The 2013 CRC Concluding Observations for Armenia identified the following challenges in regards to resources allocation and management for children in the country: a) significant decrease in budget allocations for social sectors, b) lack of information on a child rights based perspective in the budgeting process. More specifically, there are insufficient and declining allocations of the state budget – 2018-2020 - for social protection, health and education, key areas of direct impact on children.
Some other issues related to child budgeting in Armenia include: lack of clear mechanisms to track direct and indirect expenditure on children and adolescents, inadequate links between child-related plans and budgeting, inefficient spending, weak accountability, etc.
Budgetary data is not disaggregated by gender and age, neither by geography, which makes analysis of budgetary data from the equity perspective difficult. At the same time, key social sector reforms of which affect children directly are often not costed or coupled with proper financial analysis.
The Government of Armenia has continuously undertaken various public sector reforms including decentralization and consolidation of communities, as well as public finance management. The ongoing reform of programme-based budgeting will have an implication on the way child-related programmes are framed and budgeted for. However, investing in children or age-specific considerations were not included in the PB methodology, making the monitoring and evaluation of the adequacy, efficacy and equitability of the distribution of resources for children difficult.
While the 2017-2021 Strategy for the Protection of the Rights of the Child is reflected through the annual action plan in the State budget, it does not comprehensively tackle all issues related to all children in Armenia, and therefore falls short of capturing budgeting for children in a holistic manner.
The SDGs lend additional urgency and create opportunities to ramp up the Government’s and UNICEF’s work around Child Poverty and Public Finance for Children. The inclusion of children in the poverty goal has created a new demand for measurement and is an opening for the country to take policy action with appropriate resources.
All children should have access to the essential health, educational and nutritional services. Providing these will allow more equal access to better paying jobs later in life, as well as improve productivity, and ultimately bolster a country’s economic prospects.
Fulfilling obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child has clear financial implications. While the need to extend care, assistance and protection of children, both girls and boys, is enshrined in national laws and international agreements, there should be a process of translating these commitments into strong national programmes with corresponding budgets. There should be enough money in the State budget to provide for all rights of children, particularly the most vulnerable. Making the case for children is also important because children usually do not have a voice in policy and budgeting processes. UNICEF Armenia has a unique role to play in ensuring that national and local budgets are responsive to child rights and needs. The programme components include:
- The recent development of a tailored methodology and a Child-focused Expenditure Public Expenditure Measurement (CPEM) analysis, which provides a snapshot of direct, indirect and expanded expenditure on children, allowing for further policy discourse on budgeting for children. Moreover, advocating for age-specific disaggregation of budgets, particularly in the context of gender-responsive budgeting to identify equity gaps for children;
- Advocacy for increased attention to budgeting for and investing in children and adolescents through national and local budgets, particularly within the programme-based budgeting reform. This includes not only development of methodological guidelines and practical tips for incorporation of a child rights perspective, but also capacity development of key social line Ministries, establishment of a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Finance and development of cooperation with the international financial institutions and other actors active in the field of public finance management.
- Advocacy for implementation of the CRC Concluding Observations, General Comment 19 provisions and SDG acceleration through more efficient, accountable and transparent use of available financial resources.
- Development of investment cases and cost-effective models within various ongoing reforms in the country to increase efficiency and equity of public spending. For example, the recent cost-benefit analysis of preschool education services of consolidated communities of Armenia, costing of alternative care, modelling of financial models for establishment of various services etc. These study supports social line Ministries in their budget programme case justifications with the Ministry of Finance.
Investing in children and adolescents is key, and there are four general reasons for this
Firstly, it is a legal obligation prescribed by the CRC for the realization of child rights.
Secondly, childhood is a unique window of opportunity, while adolescence is a second window of opportunity. Interventions and policy choices made today will determine whether Armenian children and adolescents are able to reach their full potential now and as adults, or are left to face a future of worsening inequity and marginalization. Gains from early childhood can be multiplied in adolescence, while losses mitigated with appropriate investments.
Thirdly, investment in children, both boys and girls, represents an investment in the future development of a country. Repeated studies have found that investments at relatively low financial costs during childhood can yield a lifetime of gains not only for the individuals but also for societies and economies.
Finally, investing in children can help promote equitable, inclusive societies, allowing more people to effectively participate in economic development. Investments in poor children help create a level playing field.
UNICEF supports the generation of data on budgetary spending for children, as it is important in terms of policy and budget planning, particularly in the context of poverty reduction and ensuring equity.
The Government of Armenia should at least protect, if not increase, financial allocations for social sectors, particularly education, health and social protection.
The programme-based budgeting reforms should take into consideration the effects of budgets on children and articulate these in their design. Moreover, age-specific budgeting should be tied to the gender-responsive one to make a better impact and contribute to equity of spending.
UNICEF develops cost-effective models and alternatives for the communities for the delivery of their key functions for children, for example, in preschool education or community level service provision. Moreover, savings arising from community consolidation are key resources to be directed towards investments in children