Current and future activities
The common challenges confronting many developing countries in the region in promoting children’s rights and achieving the MDGs, and their recent experiences in pursuing these goals, form a compelling case for broader and deeper South-South cooperation.
“For regions with a high concentration of developing countries, such as the Asia-Pacific region, South-South cooperation is an underdeveloped tool that may prove pivotal to children’s rights promotion and protection, MDG achievement, disaster risk reduction and equitable and sustainable development.” Cecilia R.V. Quisumbing, International Collaboration for Children’s Rights in Asia and the Pacific, November 2010
Consistent with the growth in South-South cooperation globally in recent decades, countries in Asia and the Pacific have been pursuing opportunities to draw on each others’ experiences – both successes and lessons learned – in seeking to improve the rights and well-being of children.
Activities in recent years have ranged from study tours, workshops and other consultation forums, the provision of technical support and training, knowledge sharing and other initiatives designed to foster or facilitate results-oriented cooperation among countries on issues affecting children.
UNICEF has been ready to support South-South cooperation for children’s rights in the region. Its involvement ranges from initiating and organizing activities to a providing technical expertise, support or supplies for others.
I. Achieving the MDGs with equity
The widening disparities that have accompanied progress in the region highlights that greater effort is required to reach and empower the poorest and most vulnerable children. As the participating governments at the Beijing High Level Meeting on Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region acknowledged, sharing knowledge and experiences in dealing with disparities between rural and urban children, ethnic minority and majority children, and rich and poor, as well as inequity in public resource allocations, will be invaluable in helping Asia-Pacific countries develop effective policies to address the situation of those in the bottom wealth quintile.
Young child survival and development:
Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood
In 2007, UNICEF’s Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific, in consultation with Plan International and UNESCO, launched the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) – a platform for South-South exchanges on early childhood development programmes and policies.
ARNEC serves as a professional network that supports the development of interdisciplinary partnerships in early childhood development across Asia-Pacific countries. Through advocacy, research, policy development and assessment, as well as the introduction of innovative practices at the national and regional levels, ARNEC seeks to align country programmes with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and develop a comprehensive approach to development for children.
ARNEC covers a total of 47 countries, with the support of 550 members. In 2009, the partnership brought early childhood development experts from across the region to Singapore to discuss major challenges and solutions. The partnership has also helped facilitate a range of regional South-South exchanges, including a 2009 visit by senior officials from Indonesia to the Philippines which helped inform a new national early childhood development policy in Indonesia.
Viet Nam’s Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education Programme (MTBBE)
In April 2011, officials from China and Malaysia visited Viet Nam’s Lao Cai Province, with UNICEF facilitation, to learn from the success of pilot programmes to enable children to study in both their local ethnic language and the national language. Under the MTBBE programme, being piloted in three provinces by Viet Nam’s Ministry of Education and Training with UNICEF support, preschool and primary school children begin to read and write in their local H’mong, Khmer or Jrai languages, with the national language taught as a subject. By year three, students transition into learning the core subject areas in the national language. The programme, developed as a means to address disparities in education among ethnic minority groups, has been shown to produce much higher levels of school attendance and learning achievement during the initial phase of the pilot. There are around 53 ethnic minority groups in Viet Nam. While the primary completion rate for Kinh majority (Vietnamese) students is 86 per cent, the rate for ethnic minority children is only 61 per cent.
HIV and AIDS:
Data Hub on HIV and AIDS for the Asia-Pacific
UNICEF’s Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific (EAPRO) has developed and implemented a regional HIV & AIDS knowledge leadership and management strategy, primarily through the development of the ‘Evidence for Action, HIV and AIDS Data Hub for the Asia-Pacific’. Developed in partnership with UNAIDS, the WHO and ADB, the website provides access to multiple sources of data covering 26 Asia-Pacific countries and the Hong Kong SAR on issues such as HIV prevalence, national responses and risk behaviours. The web site has been a central aspect of the initiative that facilitates South-South Cooperation (SSC) in and around the region, enjoying approximately 50,000 cumulative hit sessions throughout 2009.
II. Child protection
Children in the Asia-Pacific region continue to experience serious child protection challenges, varying by country but including sexual exploitation, child labour, trafficking,, violence, abuse and neglect.
Because of the range and complexity of child protection issues, UNICEF advocates the development of national child protection systems, much like the education and health systems that countries established decades ago. This approach is more comprehensive than dealing with each protection issue separately. However, developing a comprehensive and effective child protection and welfare system is not an easy task, strengthening the case for greater exchanges on good practices and lessons learned.
Agreements to prevent child trafficking:
There is an extensive network of bilateral and sub-regional agreements in Asia and the Pacific designed to strengthen cross-border cooperation in combating the problem of trafficking in women and children. China, for example, has with UNICEF facilitation signed bilateral MOUs with Myanmar (2009) and Viet Nam (2010) to prevent and respond to cross-border trafficking, and is currently negotiating similar MOUs with Lao PDR and Mongolia. Thailand has similar agreements with Cambodia (2003), Lao PDR (2005) and Viet Nam (2008). In 2004, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam signed an MOU to initiate the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) process, which has produced a range of regional and cross-border activities to prevent and respond to human trafficking in the Mekong sub-region.
III. Children and emergencies/child-centred disaster risk reduction
There are considerable gains to be made from greater cooperation within Asia and the Pacific in the design and delivery of child-centred disaster risk reduction (DRR) programmes. As recent floods, earthquakes and tsunamis in the region have reminded us, the Asia-Pacific is extremely vulnerable to disasters, including those related to climate change. It is often children who experience the impact of these disasters the most.
The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Asia & Pacific (ISDR-AP), based in Bangkok, works with government disaster management agencies and other partners to strengthen DRR coordination and implementation across the region. The Children’s Charter for DRR, launched at the May 2011 ISDR Global Platform on DRR in Geneva (the largest global forum for exchanges on best practice in DRR), aims to raise awareness of the need to put children at the heart of efforts to prepare for disasters before they strike. Governments are being asked to sign on to the Charter, which was developed in consultation with more than 600 children in 21 countries by UNICEF, Plan International, World Vision, Save the Children and the UK Institute of Development Studies, along with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
IV. Child rights – Cross-cutting South-South activities
The Partnership of Excellence for Pacific Children (PasEFIC)
Formally launched in 2009 and including 15 major universities in the Pacific, the Partnership of Excellence for Pacific Children (PasEFIC) updates the latest available information on the situation of children in the Pacific Islands to governments, civil society, academia and the private sector.
An innovative feature of PasEFIC is the inclusion of 17 Corporate partners - Williams & Goslings (W&G); Hari Punja Group of Companies Flours Mills of Fiji; Vodafone, Fiji; ANZ Bank; Colgate Palmolive (Fiji) Limited; Tappoo Group of Companies; Fiji Water; Air Pacific; Digicel (Fiji) Ltd; Communications Fiji Limited; Intercontinental Golf Resort and Spa; Novotel Suva Lami Bay; DHL; Fiji TV and Sky Entertainment; Ambassador Apartments; and Starwood Group of Hotels. These companies have formed three streams of knowledge support to UNICEF in the Pacific:
(a) Business Consortium: a select “think tank” of CEOs, which meets annually to discuss ways to build institutional capacity in the areas of research and knowledge management and to encourage investment in innovation, research, and development around products and services that benefit children;
(b) Tourism Group for Children: a forum for major programme and fundraising issues relevant to tourism, comprising senior representatives from all major hotel chains and tourism groups, including the Fiji Tourist Board, as well as other UN partners; and
(c) Technical Committee on Emergencies (TCE): which develops and reviews technical issues in the implementation of emergency interventions in the Pacific, including procurement, storage and transportation. TCE meets on an as-required basis to consider supply and logistical issues and help inform UNICEF-supported Emergency Preparedness and Response and contingency planning.