Global annual results report 2019: Goal Area 5
Progress, results achieved and lessons from 2019 under Goal Area 5: ensuring that every child has an equitable chance in life
More than 70 years after UNICEF was established, the organization’s mission to promote the full attainment of the rights of all children is as urgent as ever.
The UNICEF Strategic Plan 2018–2021 is anchored in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and charts a course towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the realization of a future in which every child has a fair chance in life. It sets out measurable results for children, especially the most disadvantaged, including in humanitarian situations, and defines the change strategies and enablers that support their achievement.
This report summarizes how UNICEF and its partners contributed to Goal Area 5 in 2019 and reviews the impact of these accomplishments on children and the communities where they live.
Every child has an equitable chance in life
Building on the principle of leaving no one behind, results under UNICEF Goal Area 5 focuses on tackling key dimensions of discrimination and inequity that prevent the realization of children’s rights, while contributing to several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Goal Area 5 works to reduce child poverty, including by influencing public finance processes, fiscal policies and social protection mechanisms; addressing discrimination on the basis of gender, age and disability; increasing the participation, voice and agency of children and young people in civic life; and amplifying child rights in human rights mechanisms.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) calls on States to guarantee the right of every child to social security and ‘a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development’. UNICEF Goal Area 5 programming aims to ensure that every child has a fair chance in life, by reducing child poverty, combating discrimination and ensuring inclusion.
Over 51 million children and young people were reached by UNICEF-supported cash-transfer programmes
4 million adolescents participated in or led civic engagement initiatives through UNICEF-supported programmes
5.7 million adolescent girls received prevention and care interventions through UNICEF programming on child marriage, including through life-skills initiatives
1.7 million children with disabilities were reached with programmes and services
Despite remarkable progress in poverty reduction globally in the past two decades, progress to reduce child poverty has stalled in many parts of the world, particularly in regions plagued by conflict or unstable governance. Living in poverty profoundly impacts the full range of children’s rights, diminishing their life chances and ability to realize their potential. The lack of investment in addressing this has devastating, lifelong consequences and serious implications for future generations and societies. Early interventions and investment in children and their families are central to breaking cycles of poverty.
Quality, routine, nationally supported measurement of child poverty builds knowledge and understanding of its impact on child rights, its scale, scope and equity dimensions, and sets a foundation for creating policies and programmes to reduce it.
Argentina: A debt to children living in poverty
In Argentina, multidimensional child poverty measurement led to a highly impactful advocacy campaign run during the 2019 presidential and gubernatorial elections. The campaign aimed to position child poverty at the centre of the public and political agenda, advocating for increased, better and sustained public investment to realize the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable children.
In 2019, UNICEF continued its work to support governments to monitor child poverty and adapt social and economic policies to address it. As of 2019, 65 countries have established routine measurement and reporting on multidimensional child poverty, and 73 on monetary child poverty. In some countries, such as Ghana, Panama and Zambia, child poverty measurements have helped direct focus and resources into areas and sectors with the highest number of children experiencing multiple deprivations.
UNICEF also advocates and helps countries integrate child poverty into national development plans or poverty reduction strategies, thus creating a high-level political commitment at the national level, laying the groundwork for better coordinated actions and funding to ensure sustained implementation and further realization of children’s rights. In 2019, specific policies and programmes addressed child poverty in 28 countries.
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
Public finance for children
Children’s rights can only be realized if states enact effective policies, legislation and programmes, and use public budgets to support implementation. The work UNICEF has done on Public Finance for Children (PF4C) supports countries to meet their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by influencing governments to prepare national budgets with a child rights perspective and the organization has contributed to translating rights into tangible results – like quality health or education services.
In 2019, UNICEF continued to support countries to make sure that public investment in children is sufficient and equitable, that funds are spent efficiently and effectively, and that the public financial processes are transparent and participatory.
Promoting sustainable investment on child rights
UNICEF works to ensure adequate expenditure on sectors and services that contribute to the realization of child rights in 84 countries. UNICEF uses evidence-based approaches to identify potential areas for flexibility so that funds can be directed towards social spending without jeopardizing the sustainability of current and future budgets.
In Malawi, robust UNICEF budget analysis and strategic advocacy contributed to notable increases in budgets for social sector interventions for children. This includes a 282 per cent increase in the budget allocation to the Expanded Programme on Immunization, and a 61 per cent increase in Government’s contribution to the social cash transfer programme.
UNICEF’s social protection work is focused on addressing financial barriers to children’s rights to education, health, nutrition and income security, and in supporting social protection system design to ensure it is inclusive and responds to protection risks and opportunities.
In 2019, UNICEF continued working with governments to helps strengthen national social protection systems and increase and improve the coverage. The highlights of 2019 results include: Over 51.1 million children in 78 countries reached by UNICEF-supported cash transfer programmes reached, including almost 8.5 million in humanitarian settings in 30 countries. 47 countries have strong or moderately strong social protection systems, and 9 countries have national cash transfer programmes ready to respond to a crisis.
Risk-informed social protection systems to address climate change challenges
In Mongolia, building on the existing system, UNICEF supported the design and scale up of a shock-responsive social transfer programme (a top up support, building on the existing system) specifically designed to protect children from dzuds (harsh winters).
Humanitarian Cash Transfer beneficiaries reached in 2019
81% reached through an existing national social protection system (where UNICEF provided technical assistance only)
10% reached through an existing national social protection system (where UNICEF provided funding for cash transfers to beneﬁciaries)
9% reached through a parallel system (where UNICEF provided funding for cash transfers to beneﬁciaries)
A critical barrier standing in the way towards greater equality is entrenched discriminatory gender norms. These norms and modes of behaviour govern every aspect of a child’s growing years – from how they dress, what they eat, how much girls are fed compared to boys, what subjects they study – and ultimately play an important role in determining lifelong inequalities in the realization of the rights of girls and boys.
UNICEF seeks to address harmful, discriminatory gender norms, roles, stereotypes and practices to unlock the full potential of our future generations by promoting positive gender norms and socialization. Programming on positive gender norms and socialization – a flagship area of work that contributes to meeting SDG 5 and United Nations Common Chapter results on gender equality – was implemented in 120 UNICEF countries across all regions.
UNICEF implemented 35 at-scale gender-responsive capacity development programmes for front-line workers and 28 UNICEF country offices implemented programming and conducted advocacy on equitable distribution of household work and promotion of fathers’ engagement in childcare. Additionally, UNICEF also implemented programs on addressing gender norms linked to child marriage and female genital mutilation, promoting positive gender portrayals in advertising and marketing, development of gender-responsive school curriculum, gender training in the transportation sector and so on.
Learning to share the joys of parenthood in Nepal
“We used to think that taking care of children was a woman’s job,” says Jhim Bahadur Bhandari, as he proceeds with the morning’s housework – picking pieces of husk out of a batch of millet grains. “Now we understand that as fathers, it’s our responsibility to share the burden.”Jhim and Shankar (in photograph) are members of a fathers’ group that fosters a network of male caregivers in the community and seeks to transform traditional views of masculinity and parenting and encourage equal sharing of care and household responsibilities.
Children with Disabilities
Globally, at least 10 per cent of all children have disabilities. Children with disabilities are one of the most excluded and marginalized groups, and often face multiple challenges in realising their human rights. Guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and aligned to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), UNICEF is working to include children with disabilities in all facets of its programming.
In 2019, UNICEF reached 1.7 million children with disabilities across 142 countries through disability-inclusive development and humanitarian programmes – an increase from 1.4 million in 2018.
Furthering inclusive education, social policy and services
UNICEF has made considerable advancements advocating for and implementing inclusive programmes and services to ensure children with disabilities enjoy the same rights as their peers.
13,722 children with disabilities provided with assistive devices and 124,287 were reached through accessible emergency kits
699,939 children with disabilities were reached with cash transfer programmes
111 countries supported by UNICEF to strengthen laws/policies and plans to support children with disabilities in education
16,030 girls and boys with disabilities across 42 countries who have experienced violence were reached by health, social work or justice/law enforcement services
Disability inclusive WASH in Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan
Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement
"We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable"
Adolescents (between the ages of 10 and 19) number 1.2 billion in the world today, making up 16 per cent of the world’s population. When adolescents are civically engaged, they individually or collectively contribute to improving their school, community, city or country. In turn, participation helps adolescents to develop, build their confidence, negotiate decisions and influence critical issues within their communities or beyond. In 2019 alone, over 4 million adolescents (61 percent girls) across 113 countries participated in or led civic engagement activities through UNICEF-supported programmes.
The Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation
This global package of guidance, tools, activities and supplies is offered in several languages and supports adolescents ages 10–-18, especially those who are affected by humanitarian crises. It aims to bring about positive change in their lives through arts and innovation
The activities offer participants the chance to express themselves, experiment, solve real problems, and explore new ideas in a safe space on a regular basis to have fun, cope with difficult experiences, learn, and work together.
The COVID-19 pandemic was in its initial stages at the end of 2019. It is now clear that the global crisis triggered by the pandemic is unprecedented. The effects of the pandemic are not limited to health but extend across the full range of children’s rights especially for the most disadvantaged, who are disproportionately impacted by the socioeconomic ramifications and disruptions to basic services.
The organization’s capacity and global presence places UNICEF at the centre of the international response to the COVID-19 crisis. As a lead agency on strengthening social protection systems, which is a fundamental response to the socioeconomic shocks of the crisis, UNICEF is working to remove financial barriers to accessing services while helping establish and strengthen intersectoral linkages to achieve multisectoral results for children.
UNICEF will keep developing gender-responsive focused programmes, policies and research in collaboration with national governments and other partners, and is deepening ongoing programming and advocacy for disability-sensitive social protection.UNICEF has a universal mandate to safeguard the rights of all children, everywhere, and this mandate has never been more relevant. UNICEF has an important and inspiring leadership role to play in championing and defending child rights, not only during the emergency phase of COVID-19, but also during subsequent reconstruction efforts. UNICEF, together with the wider United Nations system, can support and empower rights-holders and duty-bearers to both ‘respond now’ and ‘build back better’ with a child rights approach.
It is critical for Member States to renew their commitments to address the pre-existing as well as new threats to the realization of children’s rights, if we are to collectively realize the ambitious vision put forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.