Tag Archives: SDGs

© UNICEF/HIVA2015-0010/Schermbrucker

Why we must invest in children if we want a better future

A mother smiles as she hold her baby.

For the first time, there is global recognition that children have to be a key investment priority if we want development to be sustainable and equitable.© UNICEF/HIVA2015-0010/Schermbrucker

The third Financing for Development conference (FFD3) closed on 16 July, after four intense days in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (or ‘AAA’ as it will be called in short) was agreed to on Wednesday evening after difficult negotiations, particularly around strengthening global tax cooperation, and to a somewhat lesser extent the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR). The outcome will hopefully facilitate agreement on the broader post-2015 agenda, including the SDGs, at the General Assembly in September, as well as a strong climate deal in Paris towards the end of the year.

In many ways, Addis was the perfect location for an FFD conference given this special year and the trends unfolding and challenges we see ahead. Ethiopia is a ‘Least Developed Country’ (LDC) making rapid development progress, fueled by solid development assistance from traditional donors and significant investments from China and other emerging economies; but first and foremost by mobilizing and directing domestic resources toward development priorities such as health, infrastructure and agriculture. Ethiopia has been among the leaders across the developing world in integrating the MDGs into the fabric of their development strategies and budgets, and will surely do the same when it comes to the SDGs.

At the same time, and despite being a very poor country, Ethiopia is determined to tackle climate change head-on, aiming to adapt to the unavoidable while pushing aggressive industrialization while going carbon neutral by 2025. This was also clearly apparent in the immediate surroundings of the conference centre. Addis is undergoing what has to be among the most dramatic transformation of any capital city in the world. Everywhere you look, new buildings are coming up and new roads and railways are being laid. Ethiopia’s capital is testing both itself and its global partners as to whether sustainable development can in fact happen.

From the perspective of children’s rights and interests, the AAA is a significant milestone. We can celebrate that, for the first time, there is global recognition that children have to be a key investment priority if we want development to be sustainable and equitable. The AAA establishes that investment in children is of critical importance as a development finance strategy in its own right, and highlights investments in basic services, social protection systems and the protection of children’s rights.

With this outcome, we are beyond merely treating children as yet another “vulnerable group”. The AAA makes an investment case for children and also recognizes children as actors in their own right. Combined with the SDGs, which also put a very strong emphasis on a range of issues of core importance for children, we are now on the verge of having an intergovernmentally-agreed upon development agenda for the next 15 years which aligns remarkably well with UNICEF’s worldview and priorities, while at the same time challenging us to think beyond our comfort zone.

Looking ahead we should take a sanguine look at what Addis did, or did not, achieve and then move quickly forward to ensure the AAA will matter for children on the ground. The outcome document concludes intense intergovernmental negotiations that spanned a period of almost 6 months. It is not surprising that many initial ambitious commitments were boiled down to the lowest common denominator in the process.

But the document also outlines a new agenda that is both more ambitious and more holistic than previous agreements. With this outcome document, Financing for Development has essentially become Financing for Sustainable Development. There is no longer a development discourse separate from sustainable development. The document also moves beyond a ‘traditional’ ODA-centric view by engaging new emerging pillars of development finance, including domestic resource mobilization, South-South cooperation, and innovative and private finance.

Once international negotiations have concluded on the SDG goals and targets, attention will and should shift to the country level. Child-focused agencies like UNICEF can make progress here by focusing advocacy and support to nationally appropriate targets for children and relevant social spending that goes beyond what could be achieved in the AAA.

From our work in country offices we already have many examples how work in crucial sectors like Early Childhood Development, education, health, nutrition, WASH, child protection and social protection can be translated into national policies and budgets, even in environments with constrained fiscal space. Other priorities include engagement with non-traditional donors and the private sector to leverage and raise additional resources (keeping in mind that private finance should benefit as much as possible the least advantaged children). Finally, we can continue and strengthen our work around the disaggregated analysis of poverty data by gender and age, or by evaluating how public spending benefits children and other relevant groups.

Let’s quickly recharge our batteries now that the AAA has been accomplished, and then work hard to make this a truly meaningful agenda for children around the world.

Olav Kjorven is the Director of the Public Partnerships Division, UNICEF NYHQ

GONZALO BELL_El Salvador  416

Toward better investments in children in Latin America

GONZALO BELL_El Salvador 416

© UNICEF El Salvador/Bell

When someone says that investing in children is important to ensure their rights are fulfilled, to reduce inequality and to build more democratic societies, politicians nod their heads in agreement without hesitation. However, to actually see such priorities reflected in public budgets is another story…

Despite feeling the impacts of the global crisis, most governments in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have continued to increase social spending in general, and on children in particular. And not only have they increased the size of allocations dedicated to children, but they have also made concerted efforts to invest better.

Latin America has been a pioneer in measuring public investments in children. However, some countries in the region still don’t know how much of their public budgets are directed to persons under 18. If the old business adage that “only what is measured can be improved” is true, then quantifying child-focused spending is a necessary condition to monitor its evolution, determine its (in)adequacy and assess whether the lives of children are improving (or not).

In May 2015, representatives from 21 LAC countries congregated in Quito, Ecuador to discuss the importance of sufficient, timely and equitable investments in children and adolescents. The international seminar, Investing in Children in LAC: Toward more effective and equitable investment in children, was the third organized by UNICEF, following Bogota in 2013 and Lima in 2014. These recurring events focus on addressing the need to systematically and regularly measure public investments in children as well as strengthen the quality of spending. For example, whether public funds are used to paint schools or train teachers will have very different impacts on the lives of children.

Advancing public policy takes time. This series of workshops has enabled participants to share and learn from the experiences of others in this arena, and have further helped clarify the definition of Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires State Parties to utilize “the maximum extent of their available resources” for the realization of child rights.

Today we can say that LAC countries acknowledge the ethical, economic and political arguments in favour of investing in children, but above all, that they act accordingly. From greater child-focused allocations in Ecuador and Peru, to a specific earmark for children in Mexico’s annual budget process, to routine measurement in Guatemala and Honduras, examples abound.

That is why we keep working on three fronts. First, to understand the efforts that States dedicate – through public budgets – to fulfil child rights in all societies across LAC. Second, to deepen analyses, especially in terms of the quality and effectiveness of spending, where measurement is regularly taking place. And finally, to showcase LAC experiences globally and fuel advocacy for more and better investments in children in all regions.

In terms of the latter, the Quito discussions are informing the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, a high-level event being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13-16 July 2015, which aims to secure the financial resources required to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, the Government of Ecuador is hosting a side event to share LAC’s experience around funding child-focused programmes.

The forthcoming, new international development framework will only be as good as the underlying financing commitments. As a result, now is the time for Latin America to demonstrate to the world that measuring, monitoring and improving public investments in children is feasible and the cornerstone to fulfilling their rights.

Joaquín González-Alemán and Gerardo Escaroz are, respectively, Social Policy Regional Adviser and Specialist at the UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office.

Children in Mali eat the midday meal offered at their school.

Preparing to tackle child poverty globally: three goals for 2015

Children in Mali eat the midday meal offered at their school.

Children in Mali eat the midday meal offered at their school. © UNICEF/PFPG2013P-0030/Dicko

In an earlier post, I discussed the renewed emphasis on child poverty in the new development goals over the past year, and why this was a crucial development for children and societies.

The year ahead will be equally important as Member States finalise the new global agenda, including the measurable indicators to track progress, and guide the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this context three key issues we see for the year ahead:

1. Maintain the inclusion of children in the poverty goal

While the centrality of poverty to the overall goals is beyond question, and so far no member states have held a reservation against the goal or the language around children, in complex intergovernmental processes language can change quickly and with unintended consequences.

So while things are looking very hopeful, we must work to support the understanding of Member States of the importance of measuring and addressing child poverty.

 2. Include indicators of child poverty in the SDGs

In the coming year, the conversation around the SDGs is going to swing crucially towards developing the indicators by which the goals will be monitored nationally and internationally. An important input into this process is an excellent and comprehensive report on Indicators and a Monitoring Framework for the SDGs by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The report does a heroic job of reducing the 169 targets to 100 suggested indicators including extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25), national poverty lines, and crucially recognizes multidimensional poverty. It makes a strong case for child poverty to be measured using these indicators and highlights the importance of age disaggregation, including reference to UNICEF’s MODA methodology, for capturing multidimensional child poverty.

With children explicitly mentioned in the target, a clear focus on child poverty measures in the final indicators will be vital to support Member States assessing and addressing child poverty when the SDGs are implemented.

3. Provide the tools and resources to support the implementation of an agenda to end child poverty

Once the goals, targets, and indicators are in place, effective implementation will be crucial. This will be particularly important for an area such as child poverty, which was not explicitly included as part of the MDG framework.

However, while child poverty may be new to the global goals, there is a wealth of experience in countries as diverse as Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia and the New Zealand of nationally led processes of both identifying and responding to child poverty.

UNICEF is one among many partners supporting governments in these efforts.  To prepare for implementation of the SDGs we need to work in partnership to bring together the tools, resources and experiences to provide governments coordinated support to measure and respond to child poverty.

Getting involved

We would love to hear from you directly on priorities for children in poverty for the year ahead, either in the comments below or on twitter (@dmistewart1 or @UNICEFSocPol). To engage directly on the SDGs on child poverty do join the World We Want conversation on children and Post-2015.


David Stewart is the Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection at UNICEF HQ.