Enhancing the government’s capacity to implement child-sensitive social policies and budgets
In recent years, Ethiopia has faced a confluence of shocks, some emerging from within the country and some from the global economy. Beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, followed by the conflict in Northern Ethiopia, continuing with the drought in southern and Eastern Ethiopia, and the Ukraine conflict starting in February 2022, these shocks have led to slowing growth and development, supply disruptions, humanitarian crises, and food insecurity. These shocks, which are occurring with increased frequency and severity compared to the past, present a clear challenge to the government, and poverty remains pervasive, with most children experiencing some form of deprivation. Inflation, which has averaged over 28% over the past 18 months to Jan 2023, is further exacerbating the well-being of citizens as the rising cost of living pushes people (ad in particular children) further into poverty.
The proximate, underlying, and root causes of child poverty in Ethiopia are multiple. These relate to structural barriers such as low development and economic opportunities in rural areas, low quality of education and health services, lack of investments in water and sanitation, as well as social and gender norms and effects of environmental deterioration, population pressure on natural resources and adverse climate change effects. Conflict and internal displacement are leading to an increase in the proportion of some child deprivations. Moreover, these factors increase the exposure of women, girls, and boys to gender-based violence, which results in negative coping mechanisms such as forced rural-to-urban migration, early marriage, trafficking, and exploitative labor, including commercial sex work. Keeping in mind the immediate and intergenerational effects of poverty during childhood, designing effective interventions requires an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of children’s vulnerability, deprivation, and poverty, within a culturally respectful and sensitive context. Social policies are needed to ensure that economic growth translates into equitable and sustainable development, including for the country’s most vulnerable children. Moreover, the political will to prioritize children in policies is essential as this would need to be translated into public investments. To meet the SDG child-focused targets, Ethiopia will need to accelerate investments to achieve the child-related SDGs from USD 40 per capita in 2018 to USD 230 per capita in 2030 (or 22.8 per cent of GDP).
In the next two decades, the population of working-age people will increase faster than the population of infants and children under the age of 15. The economic and social benefits of this demographic change have the potential to accelerate social and economic progress. Evidence-based policy-making and budgetary choices for domestic investments in Ethiopian women, children, and young people through redistributive and inclusive budgets, policies, and social programmes will be critical if the country is to attain middle-income status.
The main priorities of work for the social policy programme focus on:
- Continued generation, capacity, and use of evidence in various child-related and emerging areas
- Continued efforts to develop and build a child-sensitive social protection system, including an inclusive humanitarian response
- Accelerated investment in children and maximizing its impact through public finance engagement
- Progressive realization of the disability inclusion agenda
- Increased policy advocacy and capacity towards a child-sensitive and transformative enabling environment
The Action points
Strategies to achieve these results include:
- Programming at-scale results for children through the utilization of evidence generated, policy dialogue, and advocacy
- Building on the decentralized system of Ethiopia and the strong field presence of UNICEF to leverage regional commitments and resources for children
- Building capacity and leadership for change
- Supporting and promoting South-South and triangular cooperation
- Developing strategic partnerships to leverage resources for children
- Building synergies among sectors and programmes and strengthening cross-sectoral linkages to improve effectiveness and efficiency in programming with more impact.
Strengthening social inclusion to address multidimensional poverty is a core part of UNICEF’s programme in Ethiopia. UNICEF’s social policy programme focuses on the analysis of data to inform policy responses to child poverty and budgeting for children and aims to deliver results.
Social Policy and Evidence for Social Inclusion: Advocacy Package, Research and Reports