Interpreting shifting social trends for UNICEF policy and programmes
The social trends that shape the word in which children live have changed dramatically in the last two decades. These shifts include the rise in inequality, a growing intergenerational divide, political polarization, reduced trust in public institutions and a rise in social activism. How do current trends affect child well-being and impact UNICEF's ability to promote and protect child rights?
We unpack these trends, analyse their implications for children and chart a path for UNICEF policy and programmes.
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.
UNICEF often finds itself operating in contexts of a shifting civic space without the tools or a strategic framework to navigate the challenges.
Digital civic participation of young people
Amidst the digital transformation of public and private spaces, child and adolescent participation looks considerably different today. 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. Digital tools may therefore provide a new ‘ladder of citizen participation’ for young people. However, issues around child civic participation in the digital space abound. Do all children and adolescents have opportunities to engage? Do they have necessary digital and civic skills? Do they trust the internet as a platform for civic engagement? Is their right to privacy respected? Are they protected from harm?
Digital tools may provide a new ‘ladder of citizen participation’ for young people.
To better understand the different types of youth digital civic participation and their opportunities and challenges, we are gathering evidence and identifying areas in which UNICEF can offer support to ensure child rights are promoted and protected.