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Statement by Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for CEE/CIS - National Conference on Pro-Child Budgets

Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Erzhan Kazykhanov and UNICEF Regional Director for CEE/CIS Maria Calivis on the inauguration of new UNICEF premises in Astana. 10 April 2007.
© UNICEF KAzakhstan/2007/Talgat Tayshanov
Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Erzhan Kazykhanov and UNICEF Regional Director for CEE/CIS Maria Calivis on the inauguration of new UNICEF premises in Astana. 10 April 2007.

Astana,  Kazakhstan, April 9-10th 2007

Excellency, Chairman of the Senate, Mr Tokaev,
Your Excellencies, Ministers, Senators and members of the Majlis,
Distinguished guests and colleagues,

I am delighted and honoured to be here in Astana in this imposing and beautiful chamber of the Senate. It is indeed a momentous occasion, and at the outset, I would like to thank the Senate and the Government of Kazakhstan for organising this ‘milestone’ Conference on ‘Budgets for Children’

I would like to warmly greet the delegations present here, the UN agencies, the World Bank  and development partners, as well as our team of ‘experts’ and Representatives from the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, and Columbia,- who are here to participate in the discussions and working groups over the coming two days.

This conference is premised on the global and historical evidence that investing in children and young people makes strong economic sense, in both good times and bad, and ensures long term stability and security.

It is therefore most fitting that this Conference – the 1st on such a theme to be held in East Europe and Central Asia – is held in Kazakhstan , a nation poised to become one of the 50 most competitive economies in the world, and where the potential to make significant improvements in the wellbeing of children and young people is assured.

In his recent ‘Address to the Nation’, HE President Nazarbayev outlined an ambitious and visionary plan to make this a ‘smart economy’ where human capital potential is optimised. And where investment in the social domaine, in families, women and children is one of the cornerstones of this plan.

This conference on Budgets for Children is to help define the process  to ensure that investments in children and young people are at the heart of this national plan.

Let me pause for a moment with a reflection: My colleague and friend Maud de Bouer- Bouquiccio, the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and a strong advocate of child rights, often says in public gatherings at the European Parliament that, and here I quote, ‘Children are not mini-people. They have rights – not mini-rights’.

She says this because of the tendency to treat children’s issues as a second or third priority and to relegate their discussion to a ‘welfare approach’, subject to the goodwill of many actors in society. 

Using this same phraseology, I would like to say that there should not be ‘mini- budgets’ for children. Budgets for children should not be separate, nor should the process for determining the needs of children be of any lesser importance.

The fact that you, Mr Tokaev, are chairing this meeting in the presence of so many cabinet ministers is confirmation of the importance that the Government of Kazakhstan is giving to making children an investment priority for the country.  This is a first ingredient of success in Budgeting for Children.  

Global evidence – some guiding principles

Today and tomorrow, we will be hearing from our experts present here some of the recent evidence of the importance of investing in children.

In addition to the ‘Why’, this conference will contribute to the ‘How’.  There is much experience from across the world from countries that have made rapid and successful transitions: from low to high income, and from low to high indicators of human development. Sweden in the 1960s, Norway and Spain in the 1970s, East Asia in the 1980s…We can draw on these lessons,  adapting them to the special circumstances and opportunities of Kazakhstan.

I am not going to talk about these lessons. Instead I will  focus my brief introductory remarks on some of the ‘building blocks’ that should guide the process to ensure that priorities for children are costed and integrated into the national budget plan at national and decentralised level.

I will talk about 7 such building blocks:

1) Securing investments in the critical periods of a child and adolescent’s life. Children differ from adults in important ways. In particular, in the way that interventions are needed at critical moments of each child’s development cycle. If that moment is missed, it is much difficult and costly to catch up with compensatory actions.

  • Across industrialised countries evidence is emerging that the young child ( 0-5 yrs) is perhaps the most important developmental stage of the child. And where investments in nutrition, early child stimulation and cognitive development provide among the greatest economic and social returns: in educational achievement, earnings from employment, health, reducing crime and violence. Early child development is also a powerful intervention with children of disadvantaged groups, contributing to break the inter-generational transmission of deprivation and poverty. 
  • Returns to primary education are as high as 15%, higher than secondary education which are in turn higher than tertiary education. Patterns of resource allocation in education are often paradoxically in exactly the opposite direction!
  • Young people need a different set of approaches. Ensuring young people are included in development processes pays high dividends.  The costs of not investing, are very high. Investment is needed to the link between school and jobs, and in prevention of risk behaviours that have high social costs.     

2. Adopting an approach that combines ‘universal’ interventions - reaching all children with a minimum package of services of quality education, health and protection- with well targeted interventions for the most vulnerable

There is evidence from many countries that child allowances are a crucial contribution to the reduction of child poverty and its intergenerational transmission. It is very symbolic that in his recent Address to the Nation, President Nazarbayev began with a strong message on additional social safety net measures for children, mothers and families.

3. A shift in the process of costing inputs, line items, to one of costing priority interventions critical to achieving ‘outcomes’ for children. We need to move the basis of resource allocation from the number of beds in a hospital, or the number of children in an institution, to a costing of interventions needed to achieve impact on ‘outcomes’ for children. Such ‘outcomes’ are often intersectoral and require the inputs of many different ministries. It requires a process of negotiation between different parties and effective co-ordination.

4. Increasing the use and quality of data and findings of evaluations on programme interventions to inform the budget process. An iterative process with choice of priority interventions guided by data and evaluation. This is where data often points out where not enough attention is paid to quality. 

5. An explicit effort to integrate priorities for children in macro - economy wide policies and Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks. This is what Professor Andrea Cornia is calling ‘pro-child’ economic growth.

6. Opening space for the participation of children and young people and listening to children on their priorities and aspirations.

7.  Finally, we need to think of budgets in terms of a continuum linking policies, budgets, and governance together. Policies that are not linked to budgets do not become priorities in implementation. Budgets that are not supported by a good system of governance will not lead to desired impact.  An open, transparent process is required that reviews results, reports on results and makes adjustment in the light of new data.

What do we want to achieve from the conference ? And how will we measure its success?

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I was heartened to hear about the field visit that took place on Saturday and Sunday by many of the participants to Akmola Oblast. The purpose was to get first hand experience on the present budget process at sub national level. Participants interacted with Senators and local officials. One of the highlights of the visit was an exchange between the Deputy Akim and young people. In my view, this is an excellent first steep, for building that ‘ Social Compact’ needed to make budgets for children a reality.  

Excellencies, let me conclude with a quote that has inspired me and all of us in UNICEF in our mission for children.

‘ The day will come when the greatness of nations will be judged not by the strength of their military, nor by the splendour of their cities and bridges, but by the priority that they give to the most vulnerable members of society – its children and the opportunity to each and every child to develop to its full potential.’ 

As Kazakstan is poised to become among the 50 most competitive economies, it is now the time to reflect on those priority investments that will ensure that Kazakhstan is among the top countries with the best indicators for children! 







UNICEF holds child-friendly budget forum in Kazakh Parliament


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