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Best of UNICEF Research 2017 publication now available

(14 December 2017)  The latest edition of the Best of UNICEF Research publication is now available on the UNICEF Innocenti website. Each year this publication presents the top 12 research papers produced across the global organization,* following a review process managed by the Office of Research - Innocenti. Now in its fifth year of existence, the Best of UNICEF Research competition has become an important part of UNICEF’s annual knowledge and evidence calendar. “What stands out is the sheer variety of research going on across UNICEF with a wide range of diverse topics highly relevant to advancing UNICEF’s work in the field,” said Kerry Albright, chief of research facilitation at UNICEF Innocenti. “This year we see innovative approaches emerging strongly, as well as a clear focus on tackling key strategic evidence gaps.”A student with a sight impairment reading a textbook in her school in Hebron, State of Palestine. A recent study conducted by ODI, UNICEF and the State of Palestine Government on the needs and perspectives of children with disability demonstrated high potential for international policy impact. The study was sited as one of the best research papers produced by UNICEF in 2016. The competition was initiated in 2013 to showcase excellence in research throughout UNICEF and to strengthen an organisational culture and commitment to quality research.“Good research should inform the strategic direction and priorities of the organization, providing evidence for policies or programming,” said Albright. “In our new Strategic Plan, evidence is explicitly stated as a key driver of change for children and how we operate as an agency is changing as more countries attain middle income status.  As such,  the need for research and evidence and knowledge brokering become stronger and stronger.”  Following the rigorous internal and external review process, 12 research studies were identified as finalists from a field of 91 submissions. The new publication provides colourful, informative summaries of the finalist research listed here in alphabetical order:Cambodia - Is fortifying rice the best way to counter nutritional deficiencies in Cambodia?East Asia and the Pacific - To what extent are countries offering alternatives to detention for children in conflict with the law?France - What is the experience of unaccompanied children in France’s migrant camps? Guinea-Bissau - How can people be motivated to prevent the spread of Ebola? India - Why are children with birth defects and developmental delays not getting the help they need? Indonesia - How much should a government spend on protecting children? (forthcoming)Mexico - How can we best assess the impact of the hotel industry on child rights? Namibia - Why do some Namibian schools perform better than others? Nepal - How effective are ‘Helping Babies Breathe’ practices in reducing stillbirths and newborn deaths? State of Palestine - What barriers do Palestinian children with disabilities face and how can these be overcome? Serbia - How can school dropout in Serbia be reduced? South Africa - Why are some children missing out on South Africa’s Child Support Grant? A four month old baby in Gorkha district, Nepal. A recent study conducted by UNICEF and Uppsala University looks at the impact of the 'Helping Babies Breath' therapy on preventing neo-natal mortality. The study was sited as one of the best research papers produced by UNICEF in 2016.Some notable findingsAround 10 million babies are born not breathing each year and the first minute after birth (the ‘Golden Minute’) affords a vital window for resuscitating them. The Nepal office in collaboration with Uppsala University funded research testing a basic neonatal resuscitation protocol called ‘Helping Babies Breathe.’ The results were dramatic with not only a high potential for saving lives but also for improving operational performance in neonatal units in district hospitals. Reviewers felt that it had high potential for replication elsewhere as it was designed as a low-cost intervention for countries where resources are constrained.” The urgent need for alternatives to detention of children in conflict with the law is widely understood, yet little analysis exists on successful practices that are also compliant with international standards of human and child rights. This study, commissioned by the East Asia & Pacific regional office, looks at the law, policies and practices of ‘diversion’ – a neglected area of research. The value lies in detailed and ambitious cross-country comparison of legal and policy gaps, leading to highly context-specific policy recommendations.Children with disabilities experience widespread violations of their rights The Palestine office commissioned original research, led by ODI-UK, that addressed a clear global evidence gap through a robust mix of original quantitative and qualitative approaches. Reviewers assessed it as having high potential for impact on UNICEF policy and programming.  Teenagers are seen inside a youth rehabilitation center for youth Cebu, Philippines. A recent study conducted by the UNICEF East Asia Regional Office assesses alternative measures to detention of children in conflict with the law in countries of the region. The study was sited as one of the best research papers produced by UNICEF in 2016. Strengthening the research function in UNICEFIn the Foreword of this year’s report, Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti, writes: “There is increasing acknowledgement that UNICEF requires a stronger evidence base, more systematically used, to support its programmes, policy and advocacy… This evidence needs to be rigorous, reliable and obtained with attention to the highest standards of ethics – given the focus on children, and often children in particularly vulnerable circumstances.”One of the significant changes implemented in the shortlisting criteria in 2017 was the assessment of ethical considerations in primary data gathering and/or sensitive secondary data collection according to UNICEF’s procedure on ethical standards in evidence generation involving children. In prior years submissions were given special consideration if ethical principles were documented in their research; however, this year compliance with UNICEF ethical research standards, where appropriate, was elevated to a condition for evaluation of quality.“Alongside other evidence products coming out of Innocenti and elsewhere which aim to explicitly identify evidence gaps for children, the Best of UNICEF Research exercise can help highlight where what we are doing is working and where it could be considered for replication in other regions, sectors or other agencies beyond UNICEF,” said Albright.In providing overall comments on the competition, the external review panel noted the diverse range of topics highly relevant for advancing UNICEF’s work in the field with a few papers exploring new and under-researched areas of inquiry. They also noted that several research questions were formulated to better understand constraints at the local decentralized level of programming as well as giving attention to ensuring a wide range of stakeholder engagement and some examples of ‘people centred design.’ Interesting Facts and FiguresA statistical review of the global assessment process reveals some noteworthy data points. Submissions from the MENA region have dramatically increased, rising from one in 2016 to 7 in 2017 with one of the three ultimate winners also coming from Palestine in the MENA region. The ESARO region submitted the highest number of research papers with 21 followed by EAPRO and ROSA which submitted 12 and 11 papers respectively. The number of research papers submitted by headquarters dropped by more than half from 9 papers submitted in 2016 to 4 in 2017. The number of research teams made up of internal and external experts has continued to rise with the number of external teams maintaining a diminishing trend.Access previous Best of UNICEF Research publications here. *Research conducted by UNICEF Innocenti is excluded from the assessment.
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Forced Displacement of Children in the Italian Context

(6 December 2017) The plight of many unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) arriving in Italy through Central Mediterranean routes – currently the most dangerous access corridor to Europe – was recently discussed at an Innocenti Seminar “Forced Displacement of Children in the Italian Context.” The seminar showcased data, policy and media research to ignite discussion, explore linkages and consider potential future work in this area. UNICEF Innocenti conducts research on children affected by forced displacement to help explain intricate dynamics not captured by more general research.An 18 year old youth texting his family in Cote D'Ivoire at a cafe in Palermo, Sicily. Recent Data and trendsDr Alexandra Ricard-Guay, principal investigator for the EU project DemandAT researching interconnections between trafficking and smuggling of migrants, gave an overview of the legal framework and policy response on child migration and child trafficking in Italy underling knowledge  gaps and implications on the migration discourse .In her presentation, Ricard-Guay reported on the latest data available on child migration to Italy, a phenomenon which has more recently attracted the attention of politicians due to the increased numbers of children arriving by sea since 2011. “The exponential increase of unaccompanied children arriving in Italy has led to a tripling of capacity in the Italian reception system in the last 5 years. However, despite visibility there are still misbeliefs around the data and facts surrounding migrant children,” said Richard-Guay.Harrowing Journeys: Children and youth on the move across the Mediterranean Sea, at risk of trafficking and exploitation (https://data.unicef.org/resources/harrowing-journeys/) According to the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the total number of unaccompanied children in Italy has doubled since 2015 reaching 18,486 in August 2017. Sicily currently hosts over 43 per cent of these children. The number of unaccompanied children dropping out of reception facilities who become untraceable is remarkable. It is estimated that in 2017 there were 5,433 untraceable children.According to a recent assessment of children on the move in Italy conducted by the REACH Initiative in collaboration with UNICEF, lack of knowledge about the asylum system, misinformation, bad conditions in the reception facilities, mistrust, are among the reasons given by children leaving the reception facilities. Nonetheless the discourse around missing children remains mostly inside a ‘trafficking frame,’ “a politically convenient narrative that divert attention from other critical causes of disappearance,” as Ricard-Guay underlined.“The Zampa law, the first comprehensive legal framework for unaccompanied children,” she continued, “represents a significant policy response toward greater protection of unaccompanied  minors, but there are persisting challenges that still require attention from the legislator”.Ricard-Guay identified gender disaggregated data as one of the topical areas that need further qualitative investigation. According to the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies 93 per cent of children are boys between 15-17 years old, mainly from Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea and Egypt. Girls represent around 7 per cent with Nigeria as the main country of origin (48 per cent) followed by Eritrea (14 per cent) and Somalia (6 per cent). About age, girls are slightly younger, between 7 and 14 years old.https://www.osservatorio.it/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Barretta_Forum_Migr_Peace_simn2017.pdf Media Coverage AnalysisThe narrative about migrant children as portrayed in the media was analysed by Paola Barretta and Giuseppe Milazzo, associate researchers at the Osservatorio of Pavia, the main data source on media monitoring for UNHCR Italy. Milazzo’s research shows that news on migrants is mainly associated with crimes and safety (24 per cent) and terrorism (6 per cent), and that despite a drop in news coverage of migration issues since 2015 community fear towards migrants grew reaching 46 per cent of interviewees in a September 2017 poll.According to Milazzo, children are quite invisible in media coverage.of migration issues but are sometimes used as symbols to generate empathy. Only 3 per cent of all news on migration covers child migrants.“Although the frames of the news regarding child migrants are in general positive” concluded Milazzo” there are 4 alarming instances that are becoming recurrent and need further investigation. Those include age, [i.e.] child migrants are not children; school, [i.e]. child migrants are invading our schools; costs, [i.e.] child migrants represent a huge cost; and crime, [i.e.] child migrants are a threat to our personal safety”.Critical role of foster families and guardiansIolanda Genovese, Innocenti research officer – migration programme, drew on her experience  working for Accoglierete, a non-government association of volunteer guardians in Siracusa, and revealed the importance of civil society response to institutional gaps in putting protection and integration policy into practice. She highlighted challenges of a child turning 18 and transitioning from a supported to unsupported status in a day, and how crucial it is to empower and accompany him through adulthood.She underlined how local engagement can lead to attitudinal change in people perceptions about the migration phenomenon, from a mass-media driven negative perception towards a narratives that looks at the human before the “migrant”. The seminar was jointly organised by Dr Bina D’Costa, Migration programme, Dr Emanuela Bianchera, Knowledge Management and Dr. Patrizia Faustini, Communications. For further information go to the Children and Migration research page. 
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Economics of inequality and conflict

(1 December 2017) Students recently gathered for the opening lecture in the University of Florence School of Economics and Management’s new lecture series on development economics, given by Jose Cuesta Chief of social and economic policy at UNICEF Innocenti.Cuesta’s lecture, titled Inequality, Redistribution and Conflict, presented an economic perspective on conflict and inequality, through examination of economic models influencing current events. The presentation zoomed-in on recent examples of civil conflict in Honduras and Zimbabwe, looking at the effect of inequality on the costs of war and how these variables may have affected political stability.Mothers and children near the coast shortly after arriving in Cox's Bazar District, Bangladesh. The three spent seven days on a bank of the Naf River in Myanmar before making the crossing aboard a fishing boat.Research on the link between inequality and conflict is important for UNICEF – a leading humanitarian response agency in countries affected by conflict.  “Understanding how conflict emerges and pervades is critical for our work, both in terms of contextualizing our programming and ensuring it contributes to solutions,” said Cuesta. Equity, for example, is one cross-cutting pillar that is intimately related to conflict, he added.In his lecture, Cuesta presented economic models that attempt to measure the role of inequality as a contributing variable in predicting a conflict. Some models, he emphasized, could be tailored to work for very specific situations, but measuring inequality as well as factoring in the many different cultural contexts that exist for different countries and states, has proven to be a challenge for developing universal economic models for conflict. Inequality, Redistribution and Conflict from UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti Cuesta noted, “a model that can be only used for one country is not a very useful model. The economic model of conflict provides a set of principles that are useful to understand certain dynamics of conflict – but not all... we can come up with variables with more resolution, including those of culture, social norms, perceptions and attitude. That would require more precise instruments of data collection. And then we need to better explain the results our analytics provide.”There are several ways in which poverty or inequality can affect conflict, according to Cuesta. “A researcher cannot pick up the argument that best suits his or her theory. Here, the role of mixed methods is a good alternative,” he said. For example, looking at how conditions of unequal voice and participation can potentially both reduce and accelerate conflict (by either squelching opposition or fueling grievances) is an area where qualitative research could be used to determine the chances a given country has of experiencing civil war. More granular and country specific work is needed, he stressed, in order to create better models.Jose Cuesta, UNICEF Innocenti's Chief of Social and Economic Policy, delivering his lecture titled 'Inequality Redistribution and Conflict' to open a new lecture series on development economics at the University of Florence, School of Economics and Management. [READ about UNICEF Innocenti’s emerging research initiative to analyse the effects of conflict and crisis on adolescent health]Improving our ability to measure inequality is also crucial for better research. “As it is the case to measure poverty, or child wellbeing, in order to measure inequality, we first need more frequent data. Waiting 5 or 10 years to have a chance to measure is completely inadequate,” Cuesta said. “In fact, we know much more of the ultra-poor than the ultra-rich. A possible solution to this problem is to gain more anonymous access to tax records. When this access is allowed, the payoffs are huge,” he added, referencing the World Wealth and Income Database, which has greatly improved the diagnostics of inequality around the world.
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National World Children's Day 2017 celebration held at Istituto degli Innocenti

(21 November 2017) A national celebration of World Children's Day (20 November) for Italy was held at Istituto degli Innocenti under the title Bambini, d(i)ritti verso il futuro, which means roughly "Children Stand Up for Their Rights." The event was attended by Italy's national Minister for Constitutional Reforms and Equal Opportunity, Maria Elena Boschi, together with Tuscan Regiona and Florence officials, senior management of the Istituto degli Innocenti, Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti and school children from several Florence schools.
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