3 critical actions to finance an inclusive recovery for children
Investing in all children is an investment for the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have long term economic consequences for children, communities and countries around the world. Children who were already poor and vulnerable will be the most affected, as they suffer the impacts of lost education, poorer nutrition, increased child labour and child marriage, and greater mental ill health.
More than 142 million children were projected to have fallen into poverty by the end of 2020.
The combined effect of lost learning, lowered income, food security and access to health services are estimated to result in a 4.5 per cent drop in human capital for children of school age, reducing the productivity and growth prospects of countries around the globe for decades. It is essential that countries invest in children to achieve sustained, inclusive economic growth with a population that is prepared for the global economy of the future.
Although the long term effects of this pandemic on economies is still uncertain, the policies and financing decisions taken to ensure an inclusive recovery could significantly improve the wellbeing of children and their caregivers, and the outcomes for economies. As the world moves into a recovery phase, the best possible investment for the future of economies and societies is the investment in all children.
Here are three critical actions to finance an inclusive recovery for children, requiring strong commitment and action on the part of national governments, the international community and the private sector:
1. Safeguard critical social spending to ensure that social systems and interventions are protected from spending cuts and are expanded where inadequate
Investments in children, such as reducing child malnutrition, expanding pre-school and primary education, particularly for girls, and in reducing child poverty through social protection, are vital to protect human capital and consistently provide the highest social and economic returns.
Investments in early childhood development are critical, since during the early years of life the brain develops faster than at any other time, laying the foundation for life-long learning, health, and well-being. Gender-transformative interventions, including enhancing care economies and scaling up family friendly policies can also create new employment opportunities and are proven enablers of women’s economic participation. All governments should identify and ring-fence spending on programmes for children, adopting the principle of cuts for children last, while developing inclusive and child-focused recovery plans.
2. Ensure the best, most equitable, effective and efficient use of financial resources across social sectors for human capital development
An inclusive recovery requires extra efforts to ensure public services are reaching poor and excluded children, to enhance short-term recovery and contribute to reducing future inequality. To increase efficiency, governments should eliminate wasteful or duplicative expenditure, adopt more efficient public finance practices to improve budget execution and, where possible, commence measures to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and convert the savings into more effective programmes to reach all children, including the poorest and most disadvantaged.
3. Direct adequate finance towards an inclusive recovery that protects children, especially the poorest and most marginalized
Priority actions include providing additional finance for COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine delivery; taking meaningful action on the part of all creditors to restructure unsustainable debt and avoid the looming debt crisis; agreeing to a new allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs); scaling up and faster disbursement of both bilateral and multilateral funding to social investments, in particular for low income countries; and directing additional private sector finance to support social investments, with safeguards to protect the access and quality of services for all children.
These actions must be supported by strengthened transparency and accountability in the use of resources, improved data and more robust social spending monitoring and specific reporting of spending on children and families, including reporting against Sustainable Development Goals’ finance indicators and Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.