In a few months, world leaders will agree to an ambitious set of new development goals. If successful, the ‘post-2015 agenda’ or ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) could transform our global future, eradicating poverty, reversing the course of climate change and ensuring access to education and health for all children. Equity for Children and a wide range of child rights stakeholders made the case for putting inequality high on the agenda and recognizing the role that discrimination and exclusion play in excluding children from a fair start in life.
In this series of web posts on the post-2015 agenda, we move beyond goals and indicators and look at how the SDGs will be implemented. Taking up the recommendations in, Approaches to Equity, Equity for Children will propose steps for keeping children and equity at the center of what’s to come.
Child sensitive accountability and the post-2015 agenda
Vital to achieving the post-2015 agenda is holding governments to account for the promises they will sign on to in September. A hard lesson learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been the lack of accountability for progress. Discussion on the new SDGs has rightly identified the need for participatory monitoring and accountability as central to achieving the new goals. A human rights and people-centered approach cannot be effective unless the people most affected are actively involved.
For child advocates, accountability is a priority, but our primary constituency is too often excluded from participation. In all societies social norms consider children incapable of meaningful contributions to ‘serious issues’. Even among the most passionate defender of people-centered and human rights based approaches, child participation raises eyebrows. For marginalized children, living in poverty, separated from families, or displaced by conflict or disasters, the exclusion is magnified.
A coalition of child rights organizations has developed a set of recommendations for all stakeholders, including States, the UN system and civil society on what needs to happen to make all children’s and young people’s engagement possible. Child sensitive accountability and the post-2015 agenda was presented at a recent event organized by Child to Child, Children International, Child Fund Alliance, Plan, SOS Children’s Villages, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision at the UN during the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiations.
Making the case for listening to children
A compelling reason for putting children at the center of accountability mechanisms is to fulfill the undelivered promise of the MDGs for marginalized and excluded groups. National statistics can mask the children left out due to poverty, living in slums or remote areas, or disability. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF’s Senior Adviser for the Post 2015 Agenda, reminded event participants that with child-sensitive accountability, we open ourselves to young people’s lived experiences. He told the story of a HIV positive orphan who was not receiving treatment despite the availability of ARVs at the local clinic. The reason why? Children under 18 needed parental permission. Inclusive and participatory monitoring that seeks out the voiceless helps to reduce these heart-breaking gaps in the best-intentioned programs and policies. As Sofia Garcia-Garcia, Advocacy Advisor for SOS Children’s Villages reminded the participants, this is particularly true for children living without parental care and protection.
Going beyond rights (as enshrined in the CRC) and beyond statistics (children represent 27% of the world population) is the argument that delivering quality health, education services and building resilient and sustainable societies requires direct feedback from the primary beneficiaries. Imagine schools where children can offer feedback on how well their teachers helped them tackle reading and math and the conduciveness of their classrooms for learning, and we can imagine a much quicker path to quality education.
Steps to child sensitive accountability
Once we have the ear of States and development partners, we need to quickly explain how it is done. Robust social accountability at the local level is the starting point in World Vision’s approach, Grassroots to Global: Seven steps to citizen driven accountability Services like health and education underpin many of the SDGs, and it is at health centers and schools that we need to reach out to children and ask how well their needs are being met. Combined with feedback from other civil society groups, and employing innovations in ICT, powerful patterns and stories should emerge that can be communicated from local to global levels.
All the compelling data and children’s perspectives will not matter unless they are embedded in an enabling environment. Governments need to be open to and help facilitate the process, making space for citizen participation, including their youngest citizens. And information, services, policies and budgets, needs to be made publicly available in easily accessible formats, along with data disaggregated by sex, income, location, disability and other markers of inequity. Save the Children shared an example from Nicaragua, where young people’s involvement in local governance has increased municipal investments in children by 92%.
Taking this to the global level, UNICEF has proposed a Children’s Report on the SDGs moving forward as part of the global thematic reporting. It is a proposal that Equity for Children fully endorses.