Interpreting shifting social trends
The social trends shaping the word in which children live have changed dramatically over the past two decades. These shifts include rising inequality, a growing intergenerational divide, political polarization, reduced trust in public institutions and rising social activism, particularly amongst older children and youth. How do current trends affect child well-being and impact UNICEF's ability to promote and protect child rights?
We unpack these trends and analyse their implications for children and youth.
Renegotiating social contracts
The United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a new social contract “based on equal rights and opportunities for all”, but what might this look like and mean for children? Social contracts are negotiated between societal groups (including the private sector and civil society organisations) and states, but social norms across many cultures deny children and many youth a voice in either the explicit or implicit negotiation of such social contracts.
What factors might help transform how societies interact, manage risks and use resources to ultimately improve intergenerational equity?
What factors might help transform how societies interact, manage risks and use resources to ultimately improve intergenerational equity? Could social contracts take a more child- and future-centric form? These are some of the questions we will be exploring.
Securing the future for one’s children and grandchildren remains a universal value across cultures and across history, and this moral obligation to future generations has begun to make its way into legal and political areas of our lives. Over 40 major legal instruments (including treaties and conventions) now exist that have included a focus on the future.
How do these evolving discussions on the legal rights of future generations relate to children?
While many of these have a strong focus on the environment, attention has gradually been shifting to exploring ‘group rights’, as distinct from individual rights, and then relating these to future generations. How do these evolving discussions on the legal rights of future generations relate to children? We plan to unpack the concept of future generations and relate it to what young people are increasingly demanding and what role the United Nations might play in articulating these global values and norms.
Diminishing civic space
Since the mid-2000s we have witnessed a contraction of civic space in many countries across the globe. At the same time, there has been an uptick in activism and social unrest that is pushing up against the constraints imposed by governments. This changing environment has direct and indirect effects on UNICEF’s work and poses numerous challenges, not least the tension between UNICEF’s commitment to defend child rights to participation and expression and governments that may be cracking down on these very rights.
Through new analysis, we are examining these trends, pinpointing their effects on children and UNICEF, and putting forward potential ways for the organization to manage these challenges going forward. We are also exploring how other organizations have responded to a changing civic space and aim to draw out lessons from their experiences.
Digital civic participation of young people
Amidst the digital transformation of public and private spaces, child and adolescent participation looks considerably different today than it has in the past. Online, adolescents have more access to networked social movements through decentralized digital communication and messaging. Young people can also mobilize for issue-oriented activism quickly and effectively through digital social platforms. However, issues around child civic participation in the digital space abound – including on necessary skills, trust, privacy and protection. Our rapid analysis examines the opportunities and challenges around digital civic participation of young people. Digital tools may provide a new ‘ladder of citizen participation’ for young people.
Amidst the digital transformation of public and private spaces, child and adolescent participation looks considerably different today than it has in the past.