Where to after 2015? This is a question that was asked at a roundtable meeting hosted in mid-July 2012 by Young Lives, Save the Children UK and UNICEF in London. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the implications of research evidence on inequality and children’s development and whether and how inequality should be addressed in the post-2015 framework. The policy priority areas considered during the meeting included food security (especially in relation to price volatility and nutrition for the young), youth employment, access to services and the need to ensure that public spending on children – especially the most marginalised – is not eroded by national budgetary and developmental funding cutbacks in middle-income countries).
A number of presentations were made, with many of them sharing common themes. These include the fact that:
- There have been improvements in many countries in terms of economic development and accompanying infrastructure and service improvements. However, in many countries these improvements have also been accompanied by increasing inequality – by growing socio-economic disparities.
- The same households and children have been and continue to be disadvantaged and excluded, impacting significantly on their development and thus keeping them ensnared in the poverty trap.
- There has been a shift in the drivers of marginalisation. Gender is less important than location and other factors in determining inequality amongst children.
- National spending on children as a means of realising economic growth is under pressure because of internal financial pressures and development funding cutbacks in developing countries (such as South Africa).
In the light of these facts, the post-2015 framework must be shaped by:
- Goals and systems to equalise access to services, income and protections for the last 10 – 20 % of systemically and perpetually marginalised children and households. To achieve this, there must be a better understanding of the “mechanisms through which exclusion is perpetuated for particular groups”. In addition, policies must target marginalised groups.
- Goals and systems to guarantee continued adequate levels of investment in children and to protect them from the effects of economic downturns, nationally and in the household. Children must feature clearly and consciously in national poverty reduction strategies.
- Better and meaningful integration of sectors.
- Investments in early childhood. This will yield the greatest developmental returns and has the greatest potential to reduce inequality at a child, household and national level.
There will be further international consultations as part of the UNICEF process for the development of the post-215 framework. It is critical that South African stakeholders – especially the ECD sector – contribute to shaping the post-2015 agenda. This in turn will require the hosting of parallel processes in South Africa – perhaps a responsibility that could be shared by UNICEF South Africa and the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.
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