DFID, 94 Victoria Street
We have entered the 21st Century with 1.2 billion people living on less that $1 a day. 120 million children are without even 5 years of schooling. Nearly 10 million children a year die before their 1st birthday, and 12 million before their 5th. The children who are in poverty today are the generation of tomorrow. If we do not act now to help these children they will pass on their deprivation, suffering and disadvantage to their own children. We can and must do more.
If we want to achieve the 2015 International Development Targets we must act now to deliver health, security and prosperity for the children of today. To safeguard the children of the next generation we must help those who will be their parents, today’s children, to become healthy, educated and secure. We are on track to achieve the overall target of halving the proportion of people in poverty by 2015. But many countries are not on track. We could do much better.
In this year of the UN Special Session on Children, Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel have said to the world’s children:
“Each one of you deserves to have the best possible start in life, to complete a basic education of the highest quality, to be allowed to develop your full potential and provided the opportunities for meaningful participation in your communities”
Fulfilling this promise requires urgent and concerted action by the international community, including the entire UN system, the World Bank, Regional Development Banks and IMF, developed and developing country governments, NGOs and Faiths Groups, and the business community. This is a shared responsibility. And we are jointly accountable for delivering the results.
Governments in developing countries need to focus their social and economic policies on poverty reduction. To achieve this, communities and organisations representing the poor should be encouraged to speak out for a strong poverty reduction focus in government policy. Government capacity to manage resources effectively and prevent corruption must be enhanced.
We need improved co-ordination amongst development actors and greater coherence in policies. Development efforts should include consideration of the effect that policies on trade and investment have on poor people and poor countries.
Protectionism in developed countries is inconsistent with encouraging developing countries to liberalise. Measures to enhance the productive capacities of developing countries and to grant these countries market access need to go hand in hand.
An efficient private sector and international investment is essential to the improved economic growth needed to reduce poverty. Increased domestic and foreign investment are needed to speed up economic growth and access to modern technology. Developing country governments need to reduce bureaucratic controls and improve financial regulation in order to retain domestic savings, attract foreign investment and encourage private sector growth. Effort must be made to provide credit and savings opportunities for the rural and urban poor and to improve their access to markets. Firm action is needed to crack down on corruption - originating at home or overseas. Parts of the private sector are assuming increasing social responsibility. This needs to be encouraged.
The International Financial Institutions are at the centre of the international community’s efforts to foster economic reform in support of poverty reduction, growth and development. The dramatic changes we have seen in global markets is prompting a re-appraisal of their role, not least by the institutions themselves under the leadership of Horst Köhler and James Wolfensohn. In relation to their work in the poorest countries, closely co-ordinated between the two institutions, we welcome their efforts to focus on the delivery of the International Development Targets, and to ensure the continuous improvement of their impact on poverty reduction.
The aim of the conference on 26 February 2001 is to set out the actions that each actor will take in order to meet this pledge to the world’s children by meeting all of the 2015 Development Targets in all regions and countries.
The conference comes now so that it can boost the momentum created by the UN Special Session on Children in September 2001. It is informed by the same insight behind the special session, namely ‘that what is best for the youngest citizens is ultimately best for countries’.
The format for the day seeks to ask each group what they can do better so that each can play a part in improving progress towards the achievement of the 2015 targets in each country. But it will be underpinned by recurring themes, from conflict to HIV/AIDS to education. This paper raises some of these key issues to stimulate discussion. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
2. WHY A CHILDREN’S INITIATIVE?
Child poverty causes a huge amount of suffering, jeopardises future generations and none of the international development targets are achievable if we do not address it. But tackling child poverty cannot be done through a focus on children in isolation from the people and services on which they depend. Strategies to fight child poverty need to be broad-based and rights-based.
The International Development Targets
The International Development Targets are:
The targets provide a set of globally agreed milestones against which progress towards the goal of poverty elimination can be measured. All 7 of the targets are intrinsically inter-linked and have a direct or indirect effect on the well being of children. They all need to be met in as many countries as possible by 2015 in order sustainably to reduce the poverty that denies children and their communities their basic rights.
A Broad-based and Rights-based Approach
Children are markedly over represented in the category of the poor in many countries. In some countries, poverty is a problem for the majority of children. To achieve sustainable change, the strategy to fight child poverty needs to be broad-based and rights-based. The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are central to the fight against child poverty.
Disadvantage passed on from Generation to Generation
Poverty and disadvantage are passed on from generation to generation. For instance, children living in poverty often have to find employment to supplement the household income. This can prevent children from going to school. Without an education, children’s future opportunities are limited and so, as adults living in poverty, they may pass their disadvantage onto their own children.
3. KEY ISSUES
3.1 Children In Conflict
Conflict perpetuates poverty and creates a barrier to development. In the last decade alone it has been estimated that 2 million children have been killed in conflict, twice that number disabled and 20 million children made homeless. Of the 34 countries furthest away from meeting the poverty eradication targets, 20 are in the midst of armed conflict or have only recently emerged from it. Children are affected by armed conflict in the short and long-term.
Conflict is a barrier to the achievement of Universal Primary Education target. There are 358 million people living in conflict ridden countries. Large numbers of the children that are not in school are living in countries in conflict.
Conflict prevention and resolution is the most effective method of protection of children in conflict. Measures to limit the effect of conflict on children or other civilians should not be a substitute for the pressing need to prevent and reduce the number and scale of conflicts.
However, all parties to armed conflict should be called upon to respect the rights of civilians and adhere to International Humanitarian Law.
The link between easy access to small arms and the use of child soldiers is well established. Trade in these weapons is largely unregulated and embargoes are rarely respected. Measures must be taken to:
Safe havens should not be used as a substitute for exhorting parties to armed conflict to adhere to their obligations under International Humanitarian and Human Rights law.
3.2 Children and Education
School is one of the most important institutions in the development of a child. Yet a good quality primary education is still beyond the reach of many millions of children in developing countries. There is a clear link between poorly performing primary schools and adult illiteracy which regularly condemns those who drop out to continuing the cycle of poverty. Such educational disadvantage is particularly detrimental to women’s’ opportunities in life. Other likely consequences include poorer health and nutrition practices, and greater social exclusion.
It is estimated that at least 120 million children, the majority of whom are girls, are not enrolled in primary school. Many millions more receive a poor quality education in inadequately resourced classrooms taught by teachers who lack training and support. A massive improvement in school quality for all is therefore essential and increased resourcing and more effective use of those resources is required within a comprehensive pro-poor development framework.
Modest progress has been made during the last decade both in terms of primary school enrolments and increasing the participation of girls. The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS however, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is a serious challenge to governments committed to rapid achievement of universal primary education. Global experience to date has shown that governments which respond comprehensively to HIV/AIDS can be successful in bringing it under control. Conversely, a lack of commitment is likely to progressively undermine the fabric of the education system and the wider society.
To ensure that all children complete a primary education that will give them the educational and life skills that will enable them to develop and improve their lives, the following measures need to be taken:
3.3 Children and Health
Although global child mortality has fallen by more than half in the past 50 years, there are still more than 10 million deaths in children under the age of 5 every year. 98% of these deaths occur in developing countries, and up to two-thirds occur in the first month of life. Inadequate nutrition is a factor in half of all child deaths.
Action to improve child survival and health begins with measures to protect the health of women. Good health and nutrition in pregnancy, skilled care at delivery, and access to advice and treatment in the weeks that follow are key factors in the survival of both mothers and infants.
Communicable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and measles account for about half of all child deaths. In many parts of the world, children’s survival, health and quality of life are increasingly threatened by HIV/AIDS, which not only kills infected children but also creates orphans, imperils livelihoods and decimates the ranks of teachers and health workers.
In the past year, commitments to work in partnership to combat diseases of poverty, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and communicable diseases of childhood, have been made by the WHO, G8 and EC. At the same time, UN agencies, bilateral donors, private foundations and industry have formed the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to strengthen immunisation systems and introduce new vaccines into routine use. Global initiatives like these are bringing additional resources and improved co-ordination to the task of controlling the diseases that kill children and impoverish families.
Research to develop and test new vaccines, drugs and other health technologies is an essential weapon in the fight against childhood illness and diseases of poverty. Progress against illness and poverty can be further expedited by measures to increase access to clean water and sanitation, improve hygiene behaviour and care practices within the household, and enhance poor people’s access to health care.
3.4 Child Labour
The International Labour Organisation estimates that 250 million children between the ages of 5-14 are economically active, and that nearly half of them work full-time.
DFID’s policy is to support the reduction of child labour, with special emphasis on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. We aim to achieve this within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in a way which ensures children’s survival, meets children’s development needs particularly in health and education, ensures their protection, and allows them to participate in decisions that affect their lives.
Boycotting goods produced using child labour does not tackle the reasons why children work. Most children work because they and their families are poor, and most of the goods and services they produce are consumed in local markets. Children taken out of jobs in boycotted export industries have been forced to seek other work in more hazardous conditions. Reducing child labour requires an approach focused on poverty reduction for them and their families. This must include income replacement and access to good quality education.
3.5 Vulnerable Groups
Certain groups of children suffer from multiple forms of disadvantage. Gender, race, ethnicity and disability are additional barriers to the development prospects of poor children in many developing countries; refugees and orphans face additional difficulties.
Recent UNESCO studies have suggested that only 1-2% of children with disabilities in developing countries receive an education, and most of these are boys. Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of disability. Poor nutrition, dangerous working and living conditions, limited access to vaccination programmes and to health and maternity care, poor hygiene, bad sanitation, inadequate information about the causes of impairments, war and conflict and natural disasters all cause disability. Women with disabilities suffer a double discrimination. People with disabilities are denied the opportunity to participate fully in society, at a huge cost to themselves and their families.
Girls are vulnerable, as demonstrated by the huge gender disparities that exist in both primary and secondary education. More priority must be given to the implementation of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Refugee, displaced and unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable. Measures need to be devised to protect displaced children in war-affected countries from the risks of living in an often lawless environment where traditional community structures may have broken down and what little social provision these children enjoyed may have ceased. Refugee children seeking protection in other countries face racism and other barriers to their development.
4. FUTURE ACTION
4.1 Developing Countries
4.1.1 Developing Country Policies
To address the issue of child poverty, governments in developing countries need to integrate their social and economic policies, developing strong Poverty Reduction Strategies. The voices of the poor need to be given space to lobby for a strong poverty reduction focus in government policy. Developing country governments need to work to promote peace in their countries and regions and to eliminate corruption originating at home or from overseas.
4.1.2 Integrating Economic and Social Policy
Social and economic policy need to go hand in hand. Without economic growth, national governments cannot address the problem of child poverty. Likewise, it is hard to achieve economic growth without investment in education and health. The East Asian countries have demonstrated that fast reduction of poverty for a great number of people was realised when governments encouraged inward investment, increased exports and invested in the education and social development of their people. A skilled labour force and good social infrastructure created the conditions conducive to productive investment and, in turn, economic growth.
4.1.3 Making National Policies Pro-Poor and Pro-Children
Leaders of developing countries need to ensure that they put in place policies necessary to achieve the 2015 targets, and prioritise public expenditure in ways which are beneficial to children, as part of a Poverty Reduction Strategy. Targeting public investment towards children has proved successful, as examples from Uganda, Kerala State in India, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Vietnam have shown. In addition to investment in education and health, special measures are also required in order, for instance, to remove gender disparities in education, or to fight against the worst forms of child labour. Resources are increasingly being targeted towards countries that are committed to eliminating poverty and that commit themselves to effective governance, transparency and democracy.
4.1.4 Empowering Civil Society
Empowering the people and institutions that speak for the poor in developing countries is important to achieve a strong poverty reduction focus in government policy and to ensure that policy makers listen to children’s perspectives. A strong civil society will also contribute to an accountable and transparent budget allocation process. In some countries, resources are concentrated geographically and ignore remote areas. Civil society organisations that represent the poor, particularly faith groups, need to encourage governments to address such imbalances and ensure that rural and urban children are allowed equal opportunities.
4.1.5 Building Government Capacity
Building government capacity in areas such as financial management, effective administration and statistics is central to overcome the difficulties of putting poverty reduction into practice. Only with increased effectiveness in government systems can developing countries develop and implement the policies needed for meeting the 2015 targets and their longer-term development objectives.
4.2 International Community
4.2. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)
At the annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in 1999, participants agreed that a step change was needed in the way the international community interacts with developing countries. The international financial institutions and bilateral agencies should seek to provide their finance (including debt relief) behind one country poverty reduction strategy. Many countries have already prepared Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (I-PRSPs) which set out road maps towards fuller poverty reduction strategies.
The PRSPs can encourage a shift from a ‘one-size fits all’ adjustment programme towards a more participatory and country-led poverty reduction process. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have embraced the International Development Targets. They could go further in integrating social and economic policy.
4.2.2 Debt Relief
The year 2000 saw a major step forward in the delivery of faster, wider and deeper debt relief in support of poverty reduction. 22 countries have now passed decision point under the enhanced HIPC framework, and are set to receive around $50 billion in debt relief. For example, the UK government has announced that it will no longer benefit financially from the historic debts owed by 41 HIPCs. As well as providing 100 per cent debt reduction at decision point, the UK government will hold in trust payments made to the UK by those countries unable to benefit from the HIPC process - for example, because of conflict - and return those funds from decision point for investment in poverty reduction.
HIPC debt relief provides a major opportunity for these countries to ensure that the resources released by debt forgiveness are deployed effectively in support of poverty reduction strategies. We also need to put in place the steps required to prevent a renewed build up of unsustainable debt, for example by preventing export credit support for unproductive expenditure.
4.2.3 Levels of Resource Transfers
Debt reduction is only one element of the resource transfer needed to support poverty reduction in the world’s poorest countries. Globalisation provides an opportunity for the poorest countries to access the private resources they need for growth and development - foreign direct investment to developing countries totals $170 billion, compared with official development assistance of $50 billion a year. But foreign direct investment often by‑passes the poorest countries. For the foreseeable future, the poorer developing countries will therefore depend on substantial official resource transfers to reach the IDTs.
It is therefore regrettable that resources for development are declining. It is imperative that the international community reverses this decline and focuses more of the available resources on the poorest countries to ensure that development is not hindered through lack of resources.
4.2.4 Effectiveness of Development Assistance
It is critical that the international community enhances the effectiveness of the assistance it provides. As part of this, efforts are being made to improve the co-ordination of assistance provided by the international community. This needs to be expanded and encouraged. This approach also reflects the principles behind the Comprehensive Development Framework – which emphasises the importance of a long-term strategy led by the developing country, in consultation with civil society and the international community, with a strong focus on results. It is also critical that developed countries work towards untying all forms of development assistance.
4.2.5 Policy Coherence
A longer-term and more coherent approach to development is needed. Measures to enhance the productive capacities of developing countries and to grant these countries market access need to go hand in hand. There is also a need to generate more private sector growth and investment and to ensure that poor people benefit. Only in this way can we ensure that trade and globalisation will benefit the poorest.
4.2.6 The Importance of Market Access
Economic, social and structural policy must be integrated in all poverty analysis. Domestic and trade policies in developed countries are not separate from the development process. Protectionism in developed countries is inconsistent with encouraging developing countries to liberalise. It is necessary to further influence the global trade policy environment in favour of the poorest countries. World Trade Organisation (WTO) procedures need to become more transparent and inclusive. The UK government is working to make future international trade and investment rules more pro-poor.
4.2.7 Enhancing Productive Capacity In Developing Countries
The ability of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to achieve economic growth and development is obstructed not only by lack of productive capacity, but also by structural constraints that undermine their incentives to develop productive capacity. Today, Northern protectionism express itself in many new ways, for instance through anti-dumping rules, discriminatory rules of origin or the use of tariffs. Removing trade barriers that obstruct LDCs’ exports from reaching markets in developed countries is essential to achieve a coherent policy.
4.3 New Partnerships
4.3.1 Forging New Partnerships with Business Community
A vigorous private sector is essential to improved economic performance. Governments need to remove bureaucratic hurdles, create a modern regulatory system, ensure that saving and credit systems are available and reliable, and that the poor have access to credit and markets. Parts of the private sector are assuming increasing social responsibility. This needs to be more widely encouraged. Governments must create conditions more conducive to investment and technology transfer. The business sector is also increasingly encouraging ethical portfolio funds and raising international labour standards.
4.3.2 Forging Partnerships with Civil Society and the Research Community
Treating development in a broader context also means forming innovative partnerships with civil society and the research community. Civil society can be a major force for reform and change. But it is important where possible to ensure that the poor are able to speak for themselves, and NGOs must clarify on whose behalf they speak to ensure that the policies they advocate will benefit the poor. It is vital to deliver technologies that are relevant and useful to children living in poverty. Roll Back Malaria and the collaborative attempt to develop an International Aids Vaccine relevant to Africa are examples of how partnerships with new actors can contribute to international development and improve opportunities for children world-wide.
5. The International Architecture
The international institutions have committed themselves to the international development targets. Progress has been made in reforming these institutions for these tasks, but more needs to be done to increase their accountability, and to facilitate a stronger and more effective voice for developing countries.
5.1 The UN and a Rights-based Approach to Development
The UN has a unique role in furthering and monitoring the implementation of the Covenants on Economic, Social, Cultural, Civil and Political Rights, and integrating these rights into all UN activities.
In order to implement the UN Millennium Summit Declaration, all UN development agencies should focus their programmes on the IDTs. They should report annually on the contribution they have made to achieving the IDTs.
The development community should help governments ensure that all people are able to claim their rights and address discrimination and must recognise the fact that 70% of the poor of the world are women and the poorest children come from women-headed households. More effort must therefore be made to enhance the rights of women and children. This means:
UNICEF has the central role to play in the promotion of the rights of the child. A rights perspective has to be promoted through the CCA and the UNDAF, which should address the rights of children.
UNDP should develop specific proposals to strengthen its co‑ordination role within the UN system, so as to promote a more coherent and effective UN development effort.
UNDAF needs to become a UN family business plan supporting country owned poverty reduction strategies and defining the roles of different UN players in that framework. The UN needs to strengthen collaborative efforts in country with other donors. For example, by supporting SWAPs, particularly in health and education.
The UN needs to implement the recommendations of the Brahimi report, in order to improve the UN’s conflict performance and reduce bureaucracy.
The UN needs to strengthen efforts to monitor progress like in the Joint UN/OECD/WB/IMF report ‘A Better World for All’. The UN needs to lead the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, so that the whole UN system promotes the central role of gender equality in achieving the IDTs.
5.1.2 The United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session
Based on the World Summit for Children’s (WSC) goals and objectives, a Preparatory Committee process should:
5.2 The International Monetary Fund
The IMF is committed to the Poverty Reduction Strategy process in low-income countries. The IMF must show that programmes are consistent with and supporting a country’s own poverty strategy and any IMF conditions must be derived from the over-arching poverty framework. New IMF programmes under their Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility will only be approved when there is an acceptable poverty strategy in place or being developed.
In August, the IMF announced new principles for its lending to poor countries. These embrace the importance of greater ownership and participation in the formulation of macro-economic programmes; the need for more flexibility in setting fiscal targets; a better appreciation and monitoring by the Fund of how budgets contribute towards pro-poor growth; and a strong commitment to early analysis of the expected impacts on the poor of major macro-economic policy changes and structural reforms. The IMF will introduce changes to policy prescriptions or mitigating measures if necessary.
These changes in approach by the Fund will be help countries to put in place policies and expenditure programmes which contribute to the elimination of child poverty. But it is important that the Fund’s policy commitments are followed through with real action and changes in approach at country level. We should encourage the Fund to promote, monitor and support these changes and to reinforce its commitments by:
5.3 The World Bank and Regional Development Banks
Through the scale of their resources, the extent of their operations and the influence they can bring to bear on borrowing member countries, the Multilateral Development Banks have a key role to play in development, providing loans, technical assistance and policy advice to developing countries. Since most of the banks have adopted poverty reduction as their over-arching objective, they have a key role in achieving progress in the elimination of child poverty.
In the World Bank particularly, there is a strong commitment to promote children’s well-being. Over the past few years, the profile of children’s issues has risen up the Bank’s agenda, including through support for programmes which specifically help governments to target children, such as material and child health, immunisation and nutrition, and girls’ education.
Important to this is the way the World Bank and others are now working with countries to improve analysis of the patterns and causes of poverty, to better understand the impact on children. But much more needs to be done, including the setting up of poverty monitoring systems which will help governments to refine, prioritise and implement the right policies to enable them to achieve the International Development Targets (IDTs).
In some countries, good progress is being made on the Poverty Reduction Strategy paper (PRSP) process, based on the principles underlying the Comprehensive Development Framework. But for PRSPs to deliver on poverty reduction and child poverty, action needs to be taken to see that they are central to the relationship between donors and poor countries.
The PRSPs require a real commitment on the part of low-income countries to open up their policy processes. The International Community must match that commitment by providing flexible and predictable financial support to good poverty reduction strategies. Action by the Banks should include:
Realising the rights of children will require new resources, delivered more effectively. It will also require arrangements which encourage different sectors and organisations to work together. Duplication of efforts and competing initiatives waste resources and use up administrative capacity of developing countries. The elimination of poverty and the promotion of children’s rights requires co-ordination and joint working at local, national and international levels.
In order to achieve the IDTs, all public policies, including social, macro-economic and trade policies, need to be based on a clear assessment of impact on poverty reduction.
It is important to help developing countries make poverty analysis in PRSPs more policy focused, in order to address poverty and its causes. We need better statistics on year-on-year progress against each of the targets in every country. Policy makers need to listen to the views and perspectives of people living in poverty, and to be sensitised towards how investment in children and the social services on which they depend is hugely beneficial to growth and development.
 The State of the World’s Children 2001, UNICEF, (pp7)