New School – UNICEF International Conferences

GPIA / UNICEF International Conferences, 2004 – 2008

Starting in 2004 the GPIA began a series of annual, international conferences in partnership with UNICEF. UNICEF provides the base funding for these activities and The New School-GPIA, provides the organization, orientation and infrastructure. I established and direct each conference with the collaboration of Enrique Delamonica and others from UNICEF along with GPIA faculty and students.

The fruitful experience of three UNICEF-GPIA International Conferences sets up a very interesting partnership model for addressing and promoting within the policy, research and teaching agenda key cutting edge development issues that affect children, women and family wellbeing. This model includes the following:

1.    Selection of a relevant issue in the international agenda closely linked to GPIA curricula and courses, and related to a subject that UNICEF is interested in developing within its global policy activities. The issue is decided in agreement between the partners. It should be simultaneously relevant for GPIA and UNICEF and be part of the future activities of both partners. The conferences have the simultaneous objectives of influencing the global policy agenda, developing GPIA curricula and creating a network of researcher and practitioners.

2.    Elaboration of Term of References (TOR) including main questions, areas to be covered, time line and budget; signed agreement between The New School and UNICEF; transfer of funds to The New School.

3.    Creation and dissemination of an international call for papers; receipt, selection and follow up on papers. Each time, we received more than 100 papers from more than 40 countries worldwide. Approximately 30 papers were selected for presentation at the Conferences with the help of an advisory panel. Selection criteria guided the advisory panel that ensured quality along with regional and institutional representation. Fifteen participants, mainly from NGOs and research institutions in the developing world, were funded to attend the Conference.

4.    Creation of background paper and commissioned papers. Before the Conference a document was created to provide direction and orientation for participants, to ensure that the presentations and discussions would achieve Conference objectives. This paper included  research on ‘the state of the art’ on the Conference subject.

5.    Preparation of the International Conference, attended by 150 researchers, practitioners, faculty and students. High level staff and faculty from relevant institutions, like UNDP, UNIFEM, World Bank, Save the Children and Columbia University made presentations.

6.    Two to three day UNICEF workshop at conference end.

7.    Wide dissemination of Conference materials and follow up actions (CD, Book, GPIA courses, UNICEF Action Plan).

The experience of holding three successful International Conferences shows that the model can successfully achieve the following objectives:

•    Disseminate globally the interests and capabilities of GPIA-The New School and UNICEF on cutting-edge, global policy issues.
•    Promote The New School leadership in the social development debate.
•    Promote debate among scholars and practitioners internationally.
•    Influence the research and academic agenda on issues of international policy.
•    Develop partnership between renowned academic institutions and the UN system.
•    Increase the awareness and participation among GPIA students, faculty and UNICEF staff on policy debates.

1. First International Conference, April 2004
Social Policies and Human Rights for Children and Women:  Achieving and Monitoring the Millenium Development Goals

In April 2004 the New School hosted International Conference I.  In preparation,  a worldwide Call for Papers was sent to 54 institutions ranging from professional associations and research centers to international NGOs and development banks. The call targeted all geographical areas important to the UNICEF- supported, Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey-related research: North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The main objective of the conference was to better understand the progress being made, as well as constraints, in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The nearly 200 professionals, academics and students in attendance identified effective approaches to help track progress and make course corrections so that progress can be accelerated. Discussions were spirited and the organizers were encouraged to create International Conference II.

2. Second International Conference, April 2005 
Children and Poverty: Global Context, Local Solutions?

UNICEF together with The New School University organized a conference on the theme of children and poverty during April 25-27th, 2005. The objective of the conference was to review global changes connected with children living in poverty. The conference aimed to identify and assess trends in indicators of child well-being and relate these to globalization; to demonstrate the effects of policies on children’s lives; and to further examine policy stances and concrete measures to address them.

The conference achieved the following outputs:
–    Promoted the inclusion of children’s issues on the policy agenda through examination and discussion of situations, issues, trends, and solutions regarding poverty and children
–    Brought together partners across the spectrum, exchange information and ideas, and jointly reflect on how poverty affects children and how to strengthen actions in favour of children
–    Enhanced UNICEF’s action on these issues. The conference was followed by a two-day internal consultation on strengthening UNICEF’s involvement in poverty reduction.
–    Enhanced GPIA curricula and research platform.
–    Enhanced GPIA course on “Child Rights and Poverty in Development”

3. Third International Conference, October 2006

Social Protection Initiatives for Children, Women and Families: An Analysis of Recent Experiences

The Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA) at The New School and UNICEF jointly hosted International Conference III in New York on the topic of social protection for children, women and families.  The conference presented analytical and policy papers exploring issues and trends related to social protection and/or assistance programs that provide cash or non-cash transfers worldwide. The conference promoted discussion about the scope and contours of social protection for children. The conference was organized around three broad themes: programs, policies, and evidence.

The conference presentations and discussions addressed the following issues:

•    What cash and non-cash programs are most relevant to children and women?  What are their main features? Can low income countries afford them? How are these programs promoting international development targets and the fulfillment of human rights?
•    How can model / pilot social protection projects be up-scaled into national policies?  What knowledge gaps exist in formulating and designing effective and efficient programmes?  What are the capacity constraints for their implementation?
•    What evidence is gathered from monitoring and evaluating these programs? How can policy impact be demonstrated? What are the lessons learned?

Keynote speakers for this conference included the Director of GPIA at The New School, the World Bank Vice President for Social Development, the Director of UNDP Latin American Division and the Director of the Child Center at Columbia University.

4. Fourth International Conference, April 2008 
Rethinking Poverty: Making Policies that Work for Children

The specific aim of the 2008 Conference was to review and mobilize the agenda on child poverty and disparity. The 2008 International Conference complements and enhances the Global Study on “Child Poverty and Social Disparities” that is managed and led by DPP, UNICEF with the participation of 40 countries.

The Conference offered the academic environment and knowledge provided by GPIA-The New School as a setting for the presentation and discussion of studies from select countries participating in the Global Study. Commentators and discussants on those studies will be carefully selected from a group of well-known experts. In addition, a few multi-country studies will be presented to give context to the UNICEF country studies.

The Conference also brought together a selected group of researchers and practitioners to present experiences on the use of mixed qualitative-quantitative evidence that can influence policy for child poverty reduction.     Books Published by The New School 2005-2007

Using the documents created for the International Conferences, I coordinated the creation, editing and production of all three conference books. The books were published with UNICEF support and widely distributed around the world. A small group of papers presented at the conferences were selected for each book, clustered by topic or region and then edited to produce an integrated and appealing publication.

1. ‘Human Rights and Social Policies for Children and Women’, Alberto Minujin, Enrique Delamonica and Marina Komareki, Editors, 2005.

This book offers compelling insights into ways to improve the well-being of children and women, primarily based on the use of the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey. The authors included in this book are from Albania, Argentina, Australia, India, Italy, Kenya, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, United Kingdom and the United States. They represent diverse perspectives as members of the academy, NGOs, government agencies and international development agencies, including UNICEF country offices. This book is a resource for action.  It is to be used by policy makers, researchers, programmers, statisticians and advocates in their endeavors to make further progress in the struggle for the respect, protection and fulfillment of the rights of children and women.

2. “Poverty and Children: Policies to Break the Vicious Cycle”,Alberto Minujin, Enrique Delamonica and Marina Komareki Editors, 2006.

Building on issues raised in The State of the World of Children 2005, the aim of this book is to explore issues and trends related to children living in poverty. The book explores the links and interconnections between poverty, rights, gender and the areas of children’s lives that have traditionally been treated in isolation from each other. Authors take an inter-disciplinary and cross-thematic approach in examining concepts and measurements of poverty, as well as the actions needed to secure a protective, harmonious and stimulating environment for family upbringing.

3. “Social Protection Initiatives for Children, Women and Families”, Alberto Minujin and Enrique Delamonica, Editors, 2007.

This book is offered as a contribution to one of the most rapidly expanding debates in the development literature. Social protection programs have intensively expanded during the last decade both in low and middle income countries. These programs take many forms, from conditional cash transfers to workfare, and from pensions to subsidies insurance. Their impact on children, women and family well-being and on reducing the incidence of poverty could be significant. However, many questions have being raised in relation with their real impact, efficacy and effectiveness.

This books offers in-depth and unique conceptual as well as empirical evidence about how social protection programs, and cash transfers in particular, may  actually affect the well-being of children and women. The authors included in this book are academics and practitioners, including UNICEF country officers from all regions of the world. Moreover, the book is intended to provide ideas and experience for policy makers to make further progress in the struggle for achieving respect, protection, and fulfillment of the rights of children and women.

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