Governance and Child Rights

The Governance and Child Rights research seeks to understand how the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is implemented through governmental structures and processes for the equitable realization of children's rights, while also informing broader debates including equity policies, public sector reform, good governance and aid effectiveness.

The research builds on a long pedigree of work by the Office of Research in advancing knowledge on children’s rights and the implementation of the CRC. Over the years, studies have focused on specific child rights concepts and on the General Measures of Implementation of the CRC, as detailed in General Comment No. 5, such as legislative and institutional reform and independent human rights institutions for children (Ombudspersons). However, despite significant progress made since the adoption of the CRC, there remains a gap between legal and policy provisions and their impact on the ground.

Effective implementation of the CRC relies on existing governance systems, but thus far, governance and child rights experts have barely interacted. To bridge this gap, a Roundtable was held in April 2011 in London, and reached the conclusion that governance and child rights are based on common principles and are thus mutually reinforcing.

The governance and child rights research agenda uses the governance framework to inform more effective policy-making for children. Specifically it aims to:

- Assess the effectiveness of governmental structures and processes in fulfilling the rights of children, especially those who are marginalized and excluded, in order to promote equitable policies and social inclusion;

- Offer guidance to governments in setting up children’s machineries and equipping relevant actors (the CRC Committee, UNICEF and other UN agencies, regional organizations, NGOs, and bilateral donors) with data and information to support the functioning of such machineries;

- Develop an approach and research methodology that can be used and replicated at the national level to assess the effectiveness of government machineries for children.

Taking forward the Roundtable conclusions, a study on public sector reform is being carried out jointly by the Office of Research and the Human Rights Cluster of the Programme Division at UNICEF’s Headquarters in New York. The research builds on the extensive experience and complementary approaches of UNICEF in support of CRC implementation through research, policy analysis and programmatic guidance.

Related past projects undertaken at the Office of Research include papers on children’s participation, and the Child-friendly Cities Initiative.

Public Sector Reform for Children: Governmental structures and processes


Initiated in September 2011, the project spearheads a broader research agenda on child rights and governance. A focus on the public sector reflects the recognition that as states are signatories to the CRC, they are primary duty-bearers for realization of children’s rights. At the same time, the objective is to move beyond identifying governmental structures by examining the processes and dynamics which determine the outcome.

Within this framework, an expert consultation was held on 22-23 November 2011 in Florence with academics and practitioners on child rights and/or public sector. The consultation identified policy coordination as an area of public sector management particularly pertinent to the realization of children’s rights, which span multiple sectors and require the involvement of multiple actors at different levels.

Through an empirical analysis of coordination, the study aims to account for other dimensions of policy processes, such as decision-making, power relations, the process of monitoring and assessment, and the drivers for effective co-ordinating institutions by:
- identifying where and how in the implementation process the centrally defined policy is reinterpreted;
- addressing the problematic issue of ascertaining causal relationships;
- identifying the impact (or lack thereof) of policies on the most marginalized children;
- assessing the overall effectiveness of co-ordinating institutions to fulfil their mandates.

The research is carried out jointly by the Office of Research and the Human Rights Cluster of the Programme Division at UNICEF’s Headquarters in New York.

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