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Base de datos de evaluación

Evaluation report

2003 Global: Education as a Preventive Strategy Against Child Labour: Evaluation of the Cornerstone Programme of UNICEF's Global Child Labour Programme

Author: Evaluation Office, UNICEF NYHQ

Executive summary


This evaluation assesses the Education as a Preventive Strategy against Child Labour Programme, which was the cornerstone programme of UNICEF’s Global Child Labour Programme. The overall Global Child Labour Programme constituted UNICEF’s response to the important Agenda for Action that came out of the Oslo International Conference on Child Labour in 1997.

UNICEF’s Global Child Labour Programme was based on a conceptual framework presented in the strategy paper UNICEF: Towards a Global Strategy on Working Children. This strategy paper was an output of the capacity-building workshop in Turin in 1997 and helped UNICEF prepare for its participation in the Oslo Conference.  The Global Child Labour Programme received a total amount of about US$14 million from seven funding agencies (Norway, World Bank, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, ILO, and Sweden).  The Global Programme comprised five sub-programmes, the most important of which was the Education as a Preventive Strategy against Child Labour Programme.

The Programme was formulated to address the multifaceted issues surrounding child labour by focusing on improving educational access and quality for vulnerable children, and using a multisectoral and child rights-based approach. The Programme’s Framework of Action had three fundamental components: (i) provide quality, relevant, and affordable education; (ii) improve family economies; and (iii) raise awareness and respect for children’s rights and enforce child labour laws. Interventions were to be implemented at four levels of society: policy, institutional, school, and community.  Particular attention was to be given to improving countries’ capacities to provide effective and quality educational alternatives for the targeted groups of children. Education was viewed as the key strategy within a broader multisectoral approach needed to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage that maintains child labour.

Thirty UNICEF-supported Country Programmes of Cooperation were involved in the implementation of the Programme between 1999 and 2002. Six Regional Offices provided support and the Child Protection Section in Programme Division of UNICEF Headquarters ensured overall coordination and guidance as well as donor reporting. Several partners at country level were involved in making this Programme happen: governments and NGOs, organisations of civil society and the private sector, but most importantly, children and adolescents, their families and communities. ILO-IPEC was an important international partner for the majority of UNICEF Country Offices as well as at the global level.

The Government of Norway has been the main source of funding of the Programme. In 1998, the contribution amounted to US$5.5 million, The total contribution from Norway to the Global Child Labour Programme amounted to US$6.5 million (NOK 50 million). The remainder of US$1.0 million was used in two research projects and for other activities related to the Global Child Labour Programme, which are not covered by this evaluation. which was allocated in 1999 for use in 27 countries. An additional grant amounting to US$800,000 was provided by Norway to cover bridging activities in 2002 (which included the present evaluation). The Programme also benefited from funding from the World Bank Development Grant Facility for girls’ education. Funds amounting to US$0.4 million were noted as being received in 1997 and used in 1999 in Iran, Columbia, and Peru. In practice, allocations to individual countries ranged between US$150,000 and US$300,000.


As part of the agreement with the Government of Norway, it was decided that the Programme would be evaluated at the end of the first stage of funding. It was understood that this evaluation would build on the Evaluation of the Capacity Building Programme on Child Labour (1997–1999) completed in May 2000 by the Evaluation Office at UNICEF New York. 

An evaluation of the Programme was conducted to provide critical reflection and feedback on the (i) relevance; (ii) role, design, focus; (iii) effectiveness; (iv) efficiency; and (v) sustainability/replicability of programme strategies and activities aimed at eliminating child labour. The findings, conclusions, and lessons learned were to help UNICEF: (i) design and implement a follow-up multi-year programme; (ii) strengthen UNICEF’s response to child labour, especially in terms of capacity-building; and (iii) implement the UNICEF Medium-term Strategic Plan (MTSP) for 2002–2005.


The evaluative process took place throughout 2002 and was finalized in 2003. The evaluation was implemented in two stages. Initially, the evaluation was to focus on producing in-depth case studies of six countries (Benin, Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, and Vietnam) to surface lessons learned. In early 2003, it was decided to review experiences from all 30 participating countries through a comprehensive document review. This resulted in a broader view of programme experiences, outcomes, and effects. The decision to change the methodology was partly due to sickness on the part of the first consultant who was unable to produce the case studies as initially envisioned.

Findings, conclusions, lessons learned, and recommendations of the evaluation were originally to be validated and enriched during a global workshop, which was meant to be a learning event and help craft a refined strategy for UNICEF’s response to child labour. Due to the delays in the evaluation process, the workshop was not held as planned.

Findings and Conclusions

The Programme showed that it is relevant to use education as a main entry point for the targeted children in all age groups. However, education can only be an adequate alternative to child labour if it is accessible, of good quality, relevant, affordable, equal, safe, and valued by and serving the needs of targeted populations. In reality, education is often part of the problem contributing to child labour. School settings can be harmful to children due to abusive treatment, discrimination, bias, corporal punishment, etc.  Countries were as a whole supportive of using education as the key strategy by concentrating on children’s access to quality education while addressing obstacles to children’s education.

In general, the Programme was considered relevant by participating countries in a variety of ways: activating their political commitment to the CRC; increasing awareness and understanding of child labour in relation to education; extending and diversifying the national education system in order to include excluded or marginalised children and adolescents in educational activities; finding or at minimum thinking of ways to integrate sectoral programming so that all child rights and needs can be holistically addressed, which will allow for the elimination of child labour. The relevance of the programme strategy in relation to macro policy contexts was potentially supportive of, and influential with regard to, national policy formulation and decisions at the macro level.

Role, design, and focus
UNICEF’s comparative advantage in dealing with child labour appears to be related to the high degree of decentralisation of the organisation, the strength of its Country Programmes and their multiple partnerships not only with governments, but also with a host of institutions in civil society. Country Programmes’ support of the decentralisation processes within countries increases the potential to reach marginalised children and their families and communities. Another comparative advantage is its broad child-centred mandate anchored in the CRC and focused on the best interest of the child. In practical terms, however, UNICEF did not always take full advantage of its potential role in specific country situations and adopted a partial and fragmented project-based approach, which limited its actual role in a given national context.

The design of the Programme as a whole and also of country-level programmes was not overly SMART (i.e. formulated with the use of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound objectives and indicators). Some countries’ designs did allow for establishing links between education and child protection programming, and in a few cases with other sectoral programmes, such as health and HIV/AIDS.  The design also allowed for testing and enhancing a variety of educational approaches within formal education, non-formal education (NFE) and vocational education that were aimed at benefiting the different targeted groups of children and adolescents. The NFE and vocational educational activities were generally limited to specific geographic locations, and often run by NGOs. Support of formal education approaches naturally had a higher probability of going to scale.

Many UNICEF Country Offices were attuned to the subtleties in determining how to best understand the differences between child work and child labour, and made use of the broad consensus concerning the worst forms of child labour. UNICEF country-level programmes were concerned with children working in the informal sector who might be involved in hazardous forms of child labour, such as in agricultural and mining work, and domestic labour. This was a significant contribution to child labour discourse and can help define UNICEF’s niche in child labour. Several countries recognised the need for, and some focused on trying to create, a “protective environment” for children by using a holistic, rights-based and intersectoral approach to confronting and eliminating child labour. Some countries’ Programmes attempted to be gender-sensitive or specifically address domestic labour and child trafficking for sexual exploitation affecting girls more than boys. Some countries’ Programmes sought to specifically address child labour among adolescents, especially through projects focusing on second-chance, vocational, and life-skills education.

Due to limited funding, the role of the Regional Offices was limited to capacity-building activities, especially in the African region, which were not sufficiently sustained. The role of global coordination in New York was initially strong in providing leadership and guidance, but gradually diminished, as the main focus was on preparing consolidated reports for donors. Important dimensions, e.g. strategy development, capacity-building, monitoring and evaluation, as well as communication, did not receive enough attention.

Given the design shortcomings, there was a lack of systematic collection and synthesis of data and information, which precluded determining the cumulative effectiveness of country-level programmes. It was also difficult to attribute specific outputs and outcomes to a particular programme/project due to the fact that it was embedded within a Country Programme of Cooperation.

Reports on programming conveyed partial effectiveness in interventions for the four levels at which the Programme sought to be important:

• With regard to the policy level, support to governments on formulating relevant policies and plans was reasonably effective. The experiences exposed that many countries are in early stages of establishing national policy and plans on child labour and child rights, and child labour is not an issue for many ministries beyond those dealing with education and labour.

• With regard to the institutional level, there were some examples of institutionalisation happening, e.g. training teachers, establishing village committees, and adopting new public policy and programmes, but, generally, countries found volatile political situations, difficult economies, the short timeframe, and limited resources of the Programme significant constraints to creating institutional change.

• With regard to schools, the Programme reaffirmed the need for an innovative mix of educational approaches for the targeted populations. Compulsory education is not the sole determinant for getting and keeping children in school, which pointed to the need for pursuing a more holistic, intersectoral approach if all children are to go to and benefit from being in school. The 30 countries’ diverse approaches in formal school settings, NFE, and vocational schools/centres represented a collection of invaluable experiences, which were, for the most part, effective, but limited in scale and scope, with several being supported by NGOs. Given the lack of global or regional communication strategies, the richness of these country-level experiences was not adequately recognised or disseminated, which was a loss to UNICEF in developing its base of knowledge on child labour.

• With regard to the community level, the programme consistently revealed the need for the support of children, families, and communities, as well as other partners in addressing child labour and education issues. Some countries were successful in gaining community support on eliminating child labour and child trafficking through members’ participation in village committees (Benin), forums (Indonesia), and community funds (the Philippines). In general, each context required a customised approach.  Some critical dimensions that required more attention at the community level in order to effectively address child labour issues were girls’ education, life-skills education, HIV/AIDS, Integrated Early Childhood Development, health, nutrition, and water, environment, sanitation (WES).

Regional Offices made some attempts to reach out to country-level programmes. In West Africa, they brought together countries to deal with issues and arrive at agreements on child trafficking. Under the Global Child Labour Programme, EAPRO and ROSA created regional networks and task forces, which could serve as models for other regions.

The global level was effective in documenting the wealth of country experiences by compiling consolidated reports, but missed several opportunities to create a tighter global thematic programme, build capacity in child labour programming, monitoring and evaluation, and further develop a multisectoral, rights-based, and results-oriented strategic approach.
The global programme model made it efficient for UNICEF to collect and distribute funding for the programme and for the donor to channel and monitor use of funds. However, the efficiency of spreading the allocation of funds thinly among 30 countries was debated at the global level.

Good use was made of the contributions in Country Programmes. The relatively modest funds were used for the most part efficiently as they leveraged other human and financial resources. There is no way to accurately measure the efficiency of the programme, as there is insufficient attention in the reports concerning costs and benefits in economic terms.

Overall global programme management/coordination did not excel in terms of efficiency. Shortcomings included: lack of information on the criteria involved in the country selection process; a staggered allocation of funds to countries; lack of a clearly defined core set of global and regional measurable objectives and indicators that could have been commonly monitored and added to by countries and regions through a standardised data collection and reporting format; differences in communications and documentation on the targeted groups and strategies sent to countries early in the process.

Sustainability, replicability, and mainstreaming
Child labour issues have increasingly been integrated into Country Programmes of Cooperation. The challenge is to sustain programme processes with governmental and NGO partners, and to find ways to replicate activities that are considered successful.

At the regional level, establishing sustainable networks and building and identifying regional capacity would represent significant “added value” to the effective development and integration of the programme and sustained attention on child labour in general.

At the global level, UNICEF needs to decide how to best support ongoing processes or restart processes at the country, regional, and global levels, respond to gaps at these levels, and become a stronger, more focused and influential force at the international level with its key global partners on child labour.


The Programme found UNICEF-supported Country Programmes to be a valuable framework for effective action against child labour. The Country Programme process is highly institutionalised and offers an excellent platform for a rights-based and results-oriented programme development. Its joint ownership with government and its strong longstanding links with NGOs and civil society allow it to be a catalyst. Country Programmes have a high degree of decentralization, as they link directly with children, families, communities, and local government, often in remote and marginalised areas.

The evidence found in the present evaluation nevertheless suggests that comparative advantages of the Country Programme process could still be enhanced by meeting several challenges.

• Programme activities are developed at many different levels (communities, schools, intermediate institutions, policies), but they often remain relatively discrete and isolated from each other, rather costly in economic terms, and sometimes problematic in terms of sustainability beyond external support and replicability in a broader context.

• The fact that the Programme has triggered the use of regular and other resources for child labour-related activities in several Country Programmes is a remarkable sign of growing commitment, but needs to be complemented by a more massive mobilisation of resources for the fight against child labour by governments, civil society (including the private sector), and external support agencies.

• Policy advice and advocacy require UNICEF staff and partners to know about effective strategies, which, in turn, involve better monitoring, reporting, and evaluation of experiences supported through Country Programmes.

• An important aspect of performance monitoring and evaluation is adequate attention not only to social, cultural, and political dimensions, but also to economic aspects of project and programme experiences, i.e. for their overall cost, which would include expenditure in terms of investments and recurrent costs, and, in some cases, also contributions from children, families, communities, and local government.

• Policy advice and advocacy also require UNICEF to have a more comprehensive understanding of and play an active role in existing and planned overall policies and strategies of governments and other partners that may affect child protection issues directly or indirectly.

• In many countries, UNICEF has established strong and effective partnerships with ILO-IPEC and, to a certain extent, the World Bank and international NGOs. Given the importance of such partnerships, they should be consolidated and expanded to other funds and agencies of UNDAF.

Regional Offices have played a useful, albeit limited, role in capacity-building, information-sharing, communication, and advocacy. Experiences in EAPRO and ROSA are particularly inspiring, as they succeeded in creating self-sustained networks and task forces.

At the global level, child labour needs to regain the level of organisational attention and resource allocation first given to it at the Oslo Conference and the Turin Capacity Building Workshop.  The MTSP includes children at work or at risk to be exposed to child labour as those being in need of special protection, who are considered an organisational priority. Child labour is not given very explicit consideration in the MTSP nor are its conceptual ramifications with other organizational priorities (e.g. ECCD, girls’ education, HIV/AIDS) elaborated. The Global Child Labour Programme has not gained a higher level of recognition or visibility since 1999/2000, which would have allowed it to wield strong influence within the organisation and among partners at the global level. Headquarters’ Child Protection and Education sections should improve their level of collaboration on and attention to child labour and the use of education as a key strategy to progressively eliminate child labour.

It will be important to refine UNICEF’s policy and strategy development on the elimination of child labour. Based on knowledge and experience gained during the past four to five years, it is vital for UNICEF to take a strong stand and make a clear statement on its contribution to fighting child labour, to provide clear guidance on effective strategies at the country level, and to develop an adequate framework for monitoring, reporting, and evaluation. The framework should incorporate basic principles of the Human-Rights Based Approach to Programming, as well as those of Results-Based Policy and Programme Management.

Partnerships and networking have proven vital in global action against child labour, particularly the alliance with ILO-IPEC and the World Bank. These efforts need to be sustained, intensified, and expanded to other organisations, both inter- and non-governmental. This may require increased involvement of other UNDAF partners (e.g. UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, and WFP). At a more general level, it seems that the commitments made through the Agenda for Action during the International Conference on Child Labour in Oslo in 1997 need to be renewed and placed into the framework of the Millennium Development Goals. This may involve the creation or further development of global alliances, networks, and task forces.

This evaluation has been able to expose programmatic and organisational achievements and challenges at all levels of the global thematic Programme. It conveys lessons learned, and provides ways to move forward. In spite of a global operation characterized by certain shortcomings, the strength of the Programme at country level made it clear that it served an important purpose in standing up for the rights of child and adolescent labourers and children at risk of joining the labour market. UNICEF should not lose sight of the lessons learned from achievements and challenges associated with this programme. It should take the steps needed to proceed in more clearly defining its global stand on child labour, and decide how to best move into the next multi-year, multilevel programme phase of confronting child labour through intersectoral programme implementation using education as the main entry point.

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Child Protection - Child Labour

Governments of Norway, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, World Bank, ILO


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