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Child Rights and Governance Roundtable

Child Rights and Governance Roundtable

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Published by Unicef Innocenti
A world fit for children is a world where the rights of all children are equitably realized. Yet effective implementation of the CRC cannot be significantly advanced without considering the governance systems in which it takes place. Likewise, governance efforts will remain partial if they keep overlooking a major part of the population - children.

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of "A World Fit For Children" in 2012 and prepare to review progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, understanding the linkages between child rights and governance has become even more pressing.

UNICEF, Save the Children and the OECD together with partners have started a dialogue to explore areas of convergence on Child Rights and Governance.
A world fit for children is a world where the rights of all children are equitably realized. Yet effective implementation of the CRC cannot be significantly advanced without considering the governance systems in which it takes place. Likewise, governance efforts will remain partial if they keep overlooking a major part of the population - children.

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of "A World Fit For Children" in 2012 and prepare to review progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, understanding the linkages between child rights and governance has become even more pressing.

UNICEF, Save the Children and the OECD together with partners have started a dialogue to explore areas of convergence on Child Rights and Governance.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Unicef Innocenti on Sep 09, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Co-hosted by UNICEF, Save the Children and theOECD, the Roundtable on Child Rights andGovernance held on 26-27 April 2011 in Londonaimed to reflect on the linkages between these areasand initiate a dialogue between actors from thegovernance sector and child rights experts.Organizations attending included the CanadianInternational Development Agency, the GermanInternational Cooperation Agency, Oxfam UK, theAfrican Child Policy Forum, the OverseasDevelopment Institute (UK), the HAQ: Centre for ChildRights (India), as well as a member of the Committeeon the Rights of the Child.The need for a reflection on child rights andgovernance originated in the realization that children’srights could not be significantly advanced withoutclose consideration of the governance systems inwhich they are implemented. Implementation of theConvention on the Rights of the Child is highlydependent upon the way traditions, mechanisms,processes and institutions, through which authority isexercised, operate for common good – not only forchildren but for all. Conversely, governance can onlybe comprehensive if it takes into account the humanrights of all, including children.With the growing recognition that good governancedecisively supports a wide range of development andhuman rights outcomes, the issue of governance hastaken a central role in development work carried outby a wide array of actors. Donors in particular haveincreasingly focused on good governance as a meansof achieving sustainable, equitable progress andensuring greater aid effectiveness, as reflected in theParis Declaration (2005) and the Accra Agenda forAction (2008).
However, efforts to advance governance and children’srights have thus far remained on separate paths, withchildren largely invisible in governance efforts and childrights documents rarely if at all referring to governance.A review of the two areas nevertheless suggests thatthey can significantly benefit from each other.Consideration of their synergies is all the more timely aswe approach the 10 year review of AWorld Fit ForChildren
in 2012 and prepare for the MillenniumDevelopment Goals assessment and next steps in 2015.
Discussions revolved around one central question:
What is good governance for the realizationofchildren’s rights?
They aimed to outline theframework for understanding the intersectionsbetween the two spheres, identify priority areas andmain issues, and develop an agenda for futureresearch, advocacy and action. The followingpresents summary conclusions. A full report isalsoavailable.
UNICEFInnocenti Research Centre
Summary Conclusions
London 26-27 April 2011
1.Child rights and governance:Mainlinkages
Governance was identified as a multifaceted conceptthat focuses on the interactions between thegovernment in its various forms and the people.
Itencompasses the role of private and social actors inthe definition andimplementation of societal goalsand public policies.
Governance rests on a series of principles includingtransparency, responsibility, accountability,participation and responsiveness to the needs of thepeople.
These elements were found to underpin thelinkages between governance and child rights.
Governance is relevant to children’s rights
Responsiveness and transparency: 
Allpolicyissues definedthrough governance affect children.
Children are affected by any action of the State. Issuesas diverse as taxation, corruption, privatization, andbusiness practices are all core elements ofgovernance with major consequences for therealization of children’s rights. The roundtableconcluded that good governance for childrentherefore implies scrutinizing every action of theState, whether or not directly related to children,through a child rights lens.
Governance embraces the multiplicity ofduty-bearers and theimportance of systems fortherealization of children’s rights.
Governance highlights the importance of themultiplicity of actors in society and their respectiveresponsibility in reaching societal goals. It emphasizesthe significance of policy coherence and effectivecoordination mechanisms among various areas ofpublic action. Similarly, the realization of children’srights implies a holistic approach to policy-makingand relies on multiple duty-bearers. Participantsagreed that the governance framework coupled with achild rights approach can provide valuable insights foreffective systems and policy-making in all areas ofrelevance to children’s rights.
Governance is apromising avenue toaddress the implementation challenge of the CRC.
While significant progress has been made in theadoption of laws and policies for the implementation ofthe Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), theseare poorly enforced due to the lack of effectiveinstitutions, services and adequate resources,combined with an absence of political will and efficientleadership. Governance examines the underlyingdynamics of State effectiveness. It analyses how thedistribution of power within society affects policydecisions, administrative and social practices andultimately concrete outcomes. Governance thereforecalls for penetrating beyond the façade of institutionstraditionally considered within the child rights context.
Children’s rights are relevant to governance
Efficiency and effectiveness: 
Children’s rights give a‘raisond’être’ to governance.
Governance constitutes the process by which thesense of direction of society is defined
and providesan enabling environment for the realization of humanrights, as a shared set of values and an acceptedbinding normative framework.
While often invisiblein policy-making, children are a fundamental group insociety. Discussions highlighted that the realization ofchildren’s rights and the centrality of children insociety should constitute a major objective forgovernance efforts. Children’s rights thereforerepresent a standard against which the quality ofgovernance can be assessed.
Children’s rights ensure that governance iscomprehensive.
Good governance, respectful of human rights, isnecessarily universal, non-discriminatory andequitable. Participants were concerned that it willremain incomplete if it bypasses children, whousually represent a third to a half of developingcountries’ population. Attention to children’s rightshelps governance efforts to focus on the mostmarginalized and excluded as well as to identify andaddress the root causes of discrimination forequitable and inclusive outcomes. It also sheds lighton children’s specific experiences and issues.
Inclusion and participation: 
Children’s rights guidegovernance processes.
Human rights principles should be at the core ofdevelopment processes. Good governance isbynature participatory, in that itaims to link moreclosely the governing and the governed. Thedemand-side of governance implies empowering rights’holders to claim their rights and hold the governmentaccountable for its actions. By recognizing children assubjects of rights, theCRC paves the way for inclusivegovernance, in which children have a say. Achildrights approach to governance therefore offersguidance to recognize, nurture and build on children’scapacities as social agents whosevoices can informgovernance processes.
2.Implementing thelinkages
The General Measures of Implementation of theCRC: Laying the ground for a governance agendafor children’s rights
While the CRC does not explicitly refer to governance,it lays the ground for the integration of governance inArticle 4 on implementation measures. It washighlighted that General Comment No. 5 of theCommittee on the Rights of the Child on the GeneralMeasures of Implementation of the CRC providesfurther guidance on the implications of this provisionand essentially represents a governance agenda for theimplementation of the Convention by covering a widerange of state action.
General Comment No. 5 however has someshortcomings, including being framed with a top-down approach to planning and failing to incorporatea systemic view of policy based onhuman rights andequity financing. TheCommittee has begun toaddress this issue by exploring further the specificquestion of investing in children
and reflectingupdated knowledge in its concluding observationsand recommendations to State Parties. Thegovernance framework applied more broadly couldvaluably inform future discussions.
A child rights approach to governance
The governance framework contains a number ofspecific areas that are instrumental to the promotion ofhuman rights, including children’s rights, such as:
for institutions that prioritize thebest interests of the child, have capacities toformulate strategies and deliver for children,systematize children’s engagement in policy-making,delivery and monitoring, and are accountable.
Service delivery 
with services that are child-centred, inclusive in terms of access, affordability,cultural appropriateness and acceptability, andfeature mechanisms for child participation andpublic accountability.
Rule of law 
with child rights permeating rule of lawinitiatives, covering civil, political, economic, socialand cultural rights, including comprehensive lawreform and justice for children.
strategies informed by governanceprinciples such as accountability, transparency andparticipation, and addressing the challenges posedby corruption to the capacity of state institutions toprovide services and protect child rights.These areas mainly cover the supply side ofgovernance. They could be complemented with theperspective of rights’ holders, as well as non-Stateactors like civil society and the corporate sector. Theywould also need to be taken holistically, towardsintegrated social policies. Yet they indicate thepotential for areas traditionally within the governancecontext to be fruitfully examined from a child rightsperspective to strengthen both the governance andthe child rights frameworks.
Child-friendly local governance
The local level is particularly relevant for children’srights. Proximity allows for more direct accountabilityof those in power for the concrete results of theiraction. It further provides the opportunity for childrento influence policy decisions affecting theirimmediate environment.The Child Friendly City Initiative (CFCI) promotes anapproach to local development that is based on theCRC and aims to assist any city to become more child-friendly in all aspects of governance, environmentand services. It is meant to work through bothlocalgovernments and the organs of civil society.Itcalls for improvements in the degree to whichchildren’s rights are reflected in policies, laws,programmes and budgets and the extent to whichchildren are active agents in their communities withtheir voices and opinions taken into consideration indecision making processes.Child-friendly local governance retains the coreelements of good governance. Namely it supportsgovernment
by strengthening childparticipation in local governance. It enhances the
of local bodies and service providers toimprove service delivery for children. It also fosters
by enabling a better understanding andcoordination of actions between central government,localgovernments and rural and urban communities.Experience shows that for child-friendly localgovernance efforts to be successful, the process mustbe owned and implemented by the Government. Theframework is able to bring together municipalgovernments with differing political ideologies aroundchild rights, over long periods of time. The municipallevel is also a particularly fertile ground for multi-stakeholder collaboration and networking, as well asinclusive, systemic approaches, which can beimplemented more easily than at national level. Finally,child-friendly local governance presents significantopportunities for South-South cooperation andexchange of experiences across countries andregions.
3.Assessment tools for child rightsandgovernance
A plethora of governance assessment tools with awide range of qualitative and quantitativemethodologies are currently used by variousorganizations. Child focused indicators were found tobe essential to assess governance from a child rightsperspective and make children visible in governanceefforts. They may be used to develop a specific indexor could be included in existing tools.
The African Child Policy Forum Child-friendlinessIndex
The Child-friendliness Index contains a set ofindicators aimed at assessing the child-friendliness ofAfrican governments.
It measures child-friendlinessthrough three dimensions: legal and policyframework; budgetary commitment; and mechanismsfor child participation.The Index highlights that it is politics –not economicsthat matter. The wealthiest countries are notnecessarily the most child-friendly. The study alsosuggests that the child-friendliness of governments issignificantly correlated with good governance.The Index could be further strengthened by refiningand complementing existing indicators and by securingcurrent and comparable data across countries.However, it has served as an objective framework tomonitor, score and rank government compliance, and is

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