DECENTRALIZATION & EQUITY FOR CHILD RIGHTS IN SOUTH ASIA
A Policy Research and Advocacy Initiative
Decentralization and Equity for Child Rights in South Asia
South Asia has recorded strong key macroeconomic indicators over the past decades. However, the pace of social sector development has lagged behind, as reflected through low social indicators, many of which concern children. Data shows that the burden of child poverty is not equally distributed across the populations, but disproportionately affects social groups that already suffer multiple deprivations. Gains being made towards the MDGs are uneven - some children are not being reached at all and are being systematically left behind.
The Beijing Declaration on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region underscores "the urgent need to address issues of hunger, malnutrition, maternal and neo-natal mortality, child protection and income and social disparities, in particular". To address these problems, and to promote children's rights (as well as the broader MDGs and poverty reduction goals), South Asia critically requires - inter alia - much more efficient and equitable public action by government.
There is a broad consensus amongst policy-makers that decentralising responsibilities for such action to sub-national government level can allow more efficient provision of certain public goods and services many of which are vital to children’s health and development. Indeed, since the signing of the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs, decentralization reform has become a growing trend in all South Asian countries.
The purpose of the Initiative
UNICEF’s accelerated effort to address the needs of the most disadvantaged children and mothers (‘Equity approach’, UNICEF 2010a, 2010b), requires evidence to advocate with Governments and other partners around disparity and inequity issues. Given the paramount concerns for child rights in South Asia, home to the largest number of poor children in the world, and given the growing attention to decentralisation, policy-makers and UNICEF, need further evidence on the benefits and risks of decentralization.
The purpose is to identify what specific inter-governmental arrangements work best - and for which area of service delivery - to address disparities, and which policies should be put in place to reduce the negative effects of decentralization on children in the absence of the “essential conditions”. This will inform policy makers and practitioners of critical factors that need to be considered when assessing, advocating, using or monitoring any policy framework for decentralized service delivery in South Asia, through the lens of the child rights agenda.