For every child to have a fair chance in life
All children deserve the chance to be happy and healthy, explore their world safely, and reach their full potential.
Yet the rights of millions of children are blocked by deprivation and discrimination based on factors beyond their control – their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, place of birth or whether they live with a disability, for example.
When children do not have a fair chance in life, significant inequalities emerge between those who have the most and those who have the least. Those inequalities are passed from generation to generation in a vicious circle that has significant economic, political and social consequences – leading to an unequal and unfair world.
For UNICEF, equity means that all children have an opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential without discrimination, bias or favouritism. This interpretation is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees the fundamental rights of every child regardless of gender, race, religious beliefs, income, physical attributes, geographical location or other status.
The equity-based approach in UNICEF’s programmes and policies seeks to understand and address the root causes of inequity so that all children, particularly those who suffer the worst deprivations in society, have access to education, health care, sanitation, clean water, protection and other services necessary for their survival, growth and development.
Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that children and adolescents have the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives. The active engagement of children and young people is essential for promoting policy change, implementation and monitoring of issues impacting them. When given the opportunities and the space, children and youth can act to improve and shape their own lives and those of entire communities and societies, and contribute to child well-being and to foster democratic societies with informed and engaged citizens.
What is U-Report?
U-Report is UNICEF’s innovative mobile empowerment programme that connects young people and communities all over the world to information that changes their lives and influences decisions. U-Report is an open-source mobile messaging programme managed at the country level by UNICEF alongside youth and NGO partners. It is free to the user worldwide with a presence in more than 70 countries and more than 8 million U-reporters. Results are displayed in a public website for transparent and safe access and presents aggregate results by age, gender and location. U-Report is anonymous.
Girls and boys see gender inequality in their homes and communities every day – in textbooks, in the media and among the men and women who provide their care and support. Unequal responsibility for work in the home socializes children into thinking that these duties are women’s only roles, thereby curtailing generational change and narrowing girls’ ambitions.
UNICEF puts a particular emphasis on adolescent girls, prioritizing their unique needs by focusing on five interlinked areas to tackle some of the most pressing challenges girls face.
- Ending child marriage and protecting girls from multiple risks that limit life opportunities.
- Advancing girls’ secondary education with a focus on STEM skills.
- Promoting gender-responsive adolescent health, including nutrition, pregnancy prevention and care, and HIV and HPV prevention.
- Supporting menstrual health and hygiene.
- Preventing and responding to gender-based violence, particularly in humanitarian settings.
Targeted, interlinked investments in these areas can transform vulnerability into opportunities, multiplying the positive effects for girls, their families, and the next generation.
UNICEF is part of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative on combatting violence against women and girls. At the moment, we are implementing Spotlight programmes in 12 countries across Africa and Latin America, and more countries from the Pacific, Caribbean and Central Asia regions are expected to join in 2020.
Public finance for children
The decisions governments make about how to fund social policies and services are critical to children and to equitable development overall. If allocations are insufficient, concentrated on better-off groups, or used poorly, all children, 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 safe and clean environment and have an equitable chance in life. Many of the obstacles to improving child outcomes can be directly traced to public finance management (PFM) challenges
UNICEF has developed a strong experience and commitment in advocating for a more efficient and effective use of public fund. This interest on national and sub-national PFM system is not only a recognition of the importance on how a nation budget focusing on child wellbeing and equity is of key importance, but also a is a direct response to the specific mandate of UNICEF to promote the protection of child rights, as from Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child directs states to invest in child rights to ‘the maximum extent of available resources.
In September 2019, UNICEF and the EU launched their first joint Public finance for children (PF4C) facility in seven countries of South and South East Asia, namely Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. The overarching goal of the facility is to contribute to the realization of children’s rights by supporting the best possible use of public budgets. The facility will provide technical support to high-level policy dialogue for the European Union and UNICEF on budgetary and fiscal issue and aims to enhance the adequacy, effectiveness and efficacy of social sector expenditures, programmes, processes and institutions pivotal for children's rights and development.
Social protection is a powerful macroeconomic and social stabilizer upon which states can rely to prevent and reduce poverty, contribute to inclusive, people-driven and sustainable economic growth, promote human development, increase productivity and employability.
UNICEF’s mandate is rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guides its work on social protection. In the Convention social protection is most explicitly recognized in Articles 26 which states ‘States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security’ and Article 27 which states ‘States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Beyond this explicit and guiding commitment, the Convention provides more broadly the foundation for UNICEF’s key principles in its approach to social protection.
Goal 5 of UNICEF’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021 and UNICEF’s Strategic Framework on Social Protection 2012 (which is currently being revised) calls for every child to have the right to fulfil his or her potential by unlocking barriers that stop children from achieving it. Poverty being the most important barrier but not the only one. Social exclusion and vulnerabilities driven by gender, age, race and other factors are equally important. Children and youth face specific economic and social vulnerabilities that hinder their opportunities later in life including lack of better education, good health and nutrition.
UNICEF, in partnership with ILO and the EU, has recently started a joint programme to improve synergies between social protection and Public Finance Management (PFM). The final beneficiaries of the programme are individuals and households of partner countries who will benefit from strengthened social protection systems. The Action will reinforce the implementation of the right to social protection of vulnerable persons, in particular women, children, persons with disabilities and informal economy and migrant workers. The programme was launched in eight countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America (Angola, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Paraguay, Senegal, Uganda).
Protecting the rights of children with disabilities
Children with disabilities face tremendous day-to-day challenges. The EU and UNICEF joint programme ‘Protecting children from violence, and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities’ was launched to protect children from violence and promote the inclusion of children with disabilities.
The programme was carried out in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey from the beginning of 2016 until the end of 2018.
As part of the programme, a number of steps were taken that promoted better collaboration between main sectors, especially at the local level: education, health, social protection and justice systems - as well as public attitudes.
The progamme directly helped around 300,000 children, including those with disabilities (as part of the various trainings and campaigns or children-participants in the studies. More than 500,000 parents and children benefiting indirectly (through trainings, referral of family cases, and community mobilisation actions). An enhanced cooperation between civil society organisations as part of the programme led to better monitoring of violence against children and violations of the rights of children with disabilities.