Scanning emerging governance trends for new opportunities to leverage governance for children

Women register for a WFP SCOPE card at the Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme (TSFP) centre at Kabasa camp for internally displaced people in Dollow, Somalia

The ability of governments to deliver quality services effectively and inclusively, and to protect and empower vulnerable populations, is vital to child rights and well-being. Effective, responsive and innovative governance is increasingly seen as an accelerator of progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet delivering effective and accountable governance remains a formidable challenge, reflecting both limited capabilities and weak institutions, as well as the rapidly changing social, political, technological and economic context in which governance occurs. How can this shifting governance environment be harnessed for results for children? We explore new models for governance and issues that demand new governance solutions that directly affect child well-being.

Digital transformation of government and participation

Globally, almost two-thirds of 193 United Nations Members States now show a high­ level of e­-government development, demonstrating the increasing readiness and capacity of national institutions to use Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to deliver public services. The digital transformation of public services has been heralded as an opportunity for developing and developed countries alike to improve access to services and social security.

However, in countries forging ahead with the digital transformation, little is understood of the potential opportunities and challenges this change presents to children and young people. What works in digital service delivery to achieve results for children? How can the digital transformation help to expand the reach of services to those left furthest behind?

Through a collaboration with United Nations University’s Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), we are developing frameworks to better understand the opportunities and challenges of e-services to achieve results for children.

Public sector innovation for good governance

In governments around the world, squeezed finances, rapidly emerging new technologies, diffusion of governing power and increased ability for public scrutiny is leading to a rethink in how to approach policy planning for effective and inclusive governance.

The need for governments to innovate is more than a trend; it is becoming a central tenet of public policymaking today. To support UNICEF’s work, we are scanning the latest trends in policy innovation to identify the opportunities and challenges they hold for children and youth, and to stimulate debate on how UNICEF can support policy innovation for more effective and inclusive policymaking.

Data governance

In an increasingly interconnected world, personal data has become a new commodity. More data are generated by individuals, while states and the private sector have developed a sophisticated capacity to gather, store, analyse and use data for commercial, social and political purposes, presenting profound opportunities and risks.

Human rights activists, international organizations and policymakers are grappling with how this evolving and complex data ecosystem should be governed. Data from and about children present unique challenges including the validity of applying concepts such as informed consent to children; the extent to which parents can legitimately serve as surrogates for decisions regarding children’s data; and the right to have their data erased or the right to be forgotten. In recognition of this complexity, there is widespread belief that that standards of data protection and security concerning children should be higher. 

We have initiated a project that examines these key questions and sets aspirational goals for good data governance for children.  It aims to encourage governments, the private sector, international organizations and bodies to develop data governance frameworks that take full account of children’s issues and rights.