UNICEF home | Français | Español

Publication en français | Publicación en español

UNICEF home The State of the World's Children
2002 Photo © UNICEF



VII. Good for children, good for the world

The World Bank and UNICEF studies confirm what is known intuitively: Investing in children is the wisest investment a country can make.

© UNICEF/94-1600/Pirozzi

A mother plays with her baby son while they wait to see a doctor at a UNICEF-assisted clinic in Ksour Essef, Tunisia.

In evaluating why East Asia's economic successes far surpassed that of sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, the World Bank concluded that it was investment in children's health, nutrition and education that anchored the region's economic victories.

Wise leaders know that focused spending in early childhood care, good basic education and adolescent programmes is a proven means of ensuring the rights of children and the wealth of nations.

Spending that promotes the health and well-being of babies and toddlers and ensures their rights saves later expenditures for remediation, rehabilitation, unemployment and incarceration for those left out.

Quality basic education – especially for girls – pays off for girls, families and nations. Educated girls delay marriage, have fewer children and seek health care for themselves and their families. This in turn reduces child mortality, improves children's health and nutrition and decelerates the upwardly spiralling population. Educating girls has the highest return on the dollar of all investments available in the developing world.

What's more, education offers the best hope for combating the brutality of child labour and the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

The final component of a smart investment portfolio is the money spent on programmes for adolescents. These older children are most vulnerable to the major threats to child rights: HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation, child labour and armed conflict in which they serve as child soldiers.

Adolescents have the right to relevant and reliable information as they face and make choices that set the course of their lives. They have the right to learn the skills that will help them succeed.

In their success lies the world's future.


For additional information on topics mentioned in the text, click on the links below:

The World Bank

For an extended treatment of the importance of Early Childhood Care and Development, see The State of the World's Children, 2001
For an extended treatment of the issues surrounding education, see The State of the World's Children, 1999
For an extended treatment on the effects of child labour, see The State of the World's Children, 1997

Previous: Leadership challenges

Next: It takes a leader to listen



'In brief'

Leadership from 1990- 2000
The United Nations Special Session on Children
The Global Movement for Children: 'Say Yes for Children'
The magic of leadership
Acts of leadership
Leadership challenges
Good for children, good for the world
It takes a leader to listen
The costs of children's silence
Every nation has a role to play