10 Takeaways from the “Putting Equity for Children on the Local Agenda: Limits and Challenges” Event

A Discussion between Equity for Children and UNICEF

10 Takeaways
Putting Equity for Children on the Local Agenda: Limits and Challenges
Monday, October 1, 2012

On October 1, 2012, Equity for Children hosted a discussion at The New School with UNICEF entitled “Putting Equity for Children on the Local Agenda: Limits and Challenges.” The following 10 key takeaway points summarize the discussions. Below, we present detailed session notes.

1. A conceptual framing of the discussion about equity and inequality is necessary to help shape action and provide strategic orientation and direction.

  • Any discussion of equity must include agreement about explicit parameters and premises. The framework must be flexible enough to accommodate each country’s particular situation while providing structured shape for the conversation. The framework should be specific enough that it relates to the concrete situation of people rather than being imposed from the outside and abstract.

2. Equity and inequity affect everyone.

  • The concept of equity refers to society in full, to all members, and not only to the bottom 20 percent, the most disadvantaged and the most excluded.

3. There are three relevant drivers of social change.

a. Social movements that include children and adolescents

b. Laws, regulation and institutional change

c. Policies/political will

4. Equity and non-discrimination require a holistic approach that transcends a unidimensional focus. They are interrelated but different issues.

  • The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) fail to address all the issues about equity and non-discrimination. They require separate action even though they are interrelated. Non-discrimination also requires a solution that includes affirmative action.
  • Vertical and horizontal inequalities often combine to produce a heightened, negative impact. Program design, development and service delivery should combine to address the damaging results of this synergy.
  • Changing social norms that perpetuate inequity require a holistic action approach.
  • Efforts at the grass roots level, including programs and policies, should include outreach about social norms and attitudes held by decision makers in politics, finance and economics, and other fields of influence. Local and national arenas should be considered so that grass roots organizing and the constituencies they serve are taken into account when planning programs and outreach.

5. Access to education alone does not lessen inequality.

  • Education can produce inequality if quality and special support are not in place. Teaching to test score performance can create a de-emphasis on learning and a homogenization of the schooling process that is ill suited to some countries and some students. Education should not be about producing a generic child, but should put emphasis on diversity.

6. Macroeconomic performance is important but it is not enough.

  • Macroeconomic policies may address structural changes that promote equity, but this should be an explicit objective of those policies.
  • The link between macro and micro levels of economics must be developed. The lack of relationship between these two levels of action is evident in the case of children and adolescents, who suffer as a result.

7. Urbanization and space are key issues to factor into action on behalf of children.

  • Space matters. Inequities affecting intra urban children and adolescents, and appropriate programs for those groups, are poorly understood.

8. Mid-term and long-term evaluations are needed to understand a program’s impact on equity.

  • It is important to evaluate not only short-term and mid-term impacts but to focus more attention on long-term impacts. Program success often becomes evident only years after interventions.

9. Technical innovation is social innovation.

  • Technical innovation is often transformative on a social level. We must examine and evaluate the ways in which innovation works its way into the social fabric of societies, creating and reinforcing change.

10. Call to action for UNICEF.

  • UNICEF, with its particular and vital role in the welfare of children and the fight against childhood inequity, must take a stand as the leader of the debate and action, with its own conceptualization of the issues, design for action, proposal of activities and interpretation.

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