07 July 2019

Fiscal space for child-sensitive social protection in MENA region

The prevalence of multidimensional poverty in the MENA region, especially among children, is high.  A child’s experience of poverty and vulnerability differs from that of an adult, especially with the irreversible and detrimental consequences that impact child’s survival and development.  Social protection policies and programming can help address the multifaceted nature of child poverty and vulnerability.  In fact, realizing the right to social protection can augment realizing other rights to basic social services, including health, nutrition and education.  The right to social protection is at the core of the 2030 Agenda, articulated in SDG1, specifically with target 1.3 that calls to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable”. Realizing the right to social protection requires adequate, efficient, equitable and sustainable financing, which is far from optimal in the MENA region.  The region has recently witnessed the introduction of new flagship social protection programmes. However, comparing coverage estimates of social protection programmes with the incidence of children’s multidimensional and monetary poverty reveals that hardly any of the programmes are large enough to cover all vulnerable children. To expand child-sensitive components in social protection schemes requires funding, and governments of MENA countries are to consider different options to finance such an expansion.  The “Fiscal space for child-sensitive social protection in the MENA region” study aims to assess how MENA countries can expand financing of child-sensitive social protection financing in a sustainable manner, and how to create fiscal space and accelerate investments in social protection while highlighting the limitations of deficit financing and other revenue-increasing alternatives.  
27 January 2019

Realizing Children’s Right to Social Protection in the Middle East and North Africa

Children’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have seen a negative trajectory in recent years. The region has faced tremendous challenges, including the effects of civil uprisings in 2011, and the eruption of armed conflict and subsequent humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Children have acutely felt the effects of these shocks. They have been affected by displacement, decreased access to basic social services, high unemployment, food insecurity and escalating malnutrition rates.   The region’s social protection systems have not served children and their families well. Children continue to face challenges across the region, whether or not their country is affected by conflict or humanitarian crises. Significant challenges include limited synergies with the health, nutrition or education sectors; cash transfer programmes which do not specifically target children; government-implemented social protection programmes which are not enshrined in national legal frameworks; lack of fiscal space and resources for social protection for children; and social protection systems that are ill-equipped to provide protection in the event of covariate shocks.   Over recent years UNICEF has strengthened its focus on child-sensitive social protection to help fulfill children’s rights. Social protection is an avenue to address the complex vulnerabilities facing children in the region. Working in close partnership and collaboration with governments, UNICEF has supported policy reforms, implemented programmatic interventions, advocated for implementation of children’s rights, and collaborated with national systems and development partners.   National leadership has been a key guiding principle underpinning the work of UNICEF MENA to ensure the progressive realization of children’s rights to social protection. National leadership is key to ensure coherence, sustainable public financing, and at-scale coverage that allows the most vulnerable children to be reached. UNICEF has played a key role in supporting national social protection coordination and monitoring mechanisms, where the efforts of all stakeholders are orchestrated and tracked under Government leadership. In very specific circumstances, mainly humanitarian settings, where the Government is not able to fulfil the rights of children to social protection, UNICEF works directly and in coordination with development partners to deliver humanitarian social protection solutions for children, always with the ultimate aim of restoring and strengthening national social protection systems.   This Compendium documents the broad range of UNICEF’s social protection interventions in MENA from 2014-2017. The Compendium illustrates how UNICEF has worked hand in hand with partner governments in both humanitarian and development settings and succeeded in reaching the most vulnerable children with social protection mechanisms. The timeframe selected represents UNICEF’s previous global Strategic Plan, which included social inclusion and social protection as a discrete focus area. Where possible, documented evidence for impacts that have emerged in 2018, have also been included. Information for the Compendium has been sourced from UNICEF Country Office Annual Reports (COAR), internalc reporting, or has otherwise been documented in a published study or report.   UNICEF takes a holistic approach to helping governments build a child-sensitive social protection system. The Compendium includes 20 case studies detailing UNICEF’s contributions in the MENA region across the following five Action Areas: Generating evidence on child poverty and social protection, and conducting advocacy for evidence-based social protection policies and programmes. Supporting policies, coordination and financing to strengthen the integration, coherence and child-sensitivity of social protection systems. Expanding and improving the use of cash transfer programming for children. Linking cash transfer recipients to information, knowledge and services, and building a better social service workforce. Supporting social protection in fragile and humanitarian contexts through leveraging or improving the national social protection system.