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Dakar Transfer Project Workshop: The State of Evidence on Social Cash Transfers in Africa

(23 May 2017) There is more evidence now than ever before that cash transfers can empower families to improve their lives. In Africa, cash transfers are rapidly expanding as a key social protection tool for reducing chronic poverty and hunger and increasing investment in human capital. After nearly a decade, policymakers, researchers and staff from UN Agencies and NGOs will come together next month in Dakar, Senegal to discuss the evidence, share their experiences and look to new ways forward. The 2017 workshop, “The State of Evidence on Social Cash Transfers in Africa,” will take place from June 7-9, for the first time hosted in Francophone West Africa. The nearly 125 participants from 30 countries across the African region and beyond will gather with the objectives of: Increasing awareness of cross-regional evidenceIdentifying gaps for future researchMaking evidence-based recommendations for governments to improve design, implementation and integration of cash transfer programmes.The workshop comes on the heels of a recently published book highlighting the Transfer Project experience of social protection stakeholders working together to improve cash transfers. The authors reveal that one of the key components of successful cash transfers in Africa has been the transparency of knowledge sharing that occurs in the region – the upcoming workshop reinforces the strong collaboration among policymakers, development partners and researchers as they work together to improve policy, implementation and evaluation. Participants joining this year’s workshop will share the most up-to-date evidence on social, economic and productive impacts, continue to dispel myths, and address current challenges. In addition, it will feature presentations on innovative topics around targeting, fragile settings, mobile payments and local economy impacts, challenging participants to think more creatively about the next generation of programming and evaluation potential. George Okech, FAO Representative, ZambiaThe Dakar meeting happens at a strategic time when social protection initiatives – especially cash transfers – continue to gain steam throughout the world. Giving cash has been shown as an effective strategy in developing contexts and is being scaled-up in humanitarian and fragile settings. Additionally, albeit controversially, governments are experimenting with the idea of providing a universal basic income in industrialized countries as well.By taking the opportunity to debate, discuss and reflect on topics such as “cash plus” and others, stakeholders will advance their knowledge, be more equipped to make evidence-informed decisions and improve the implementation and the scale-up of social protection strategies. The Transfer Project offers just one example of a platform that provides space for honest discussions about the successes and challenges of cash transfers, while pushing the boundaries to explore alternative large-scale options that hold potential for being effective. By providing participants with practical and actionable recommendations, the workshop demonstrates how experts can come together to effectively exchange information and work on research uptake to improve the lives of children and their families and contribute to the realization of global development goals.However, experts will tell you that giving cash is not a “silver bullet” - it is one tool in a social protection package. One of the many topics that will discussed is the latest research on the potential of linking cash to services in the social, health and agricultural sectors, for example. These more comprehensive social protection packages being initiated by governments are known as “cash plus” interventions. As George Okech, FAO Representative in Zambia, describes: "We have realized that there are (anti-poverty) programmes that run parallel. If two different programmes are targeting the same community and they talk to one another, you get more benefits. So, these are things that can be improved; that’s why we need to have some coordination efforts…linking two or three programmes together (can have) a catalytic effect.” As social protection initiatives evolve, researchers will need to investigate how and to what extent cash plus programmes have greater effects than programmes operating separately in the most vulnerable communities. 2016 Transfer Project Workshop Participants, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaStay tuned for more information on the exciting activities in Dakar! Follow the event on social media: #TPDakar17 You can also view highlights from the 2016 workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti Youtube Channel: In English or in French.Since 2008, UNICEF has partnered with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Save the Children UK through the Transfer Project to gather rigorous evidence on national cash transfers throughout the region.
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Give Ghana’s poorest families a fair chance to succeed in life

(3 May 2017) The chief of UNICEF Innocenti’s social and economic policy unit, Jose Cuesta, has presented to some of the world’s leading poverty and social protection experts in Ghana on strengthening social protection programmes in the country. Jose Cuesta presented to officials from the Ghanaian government and World Bank as well as NGOs and UNICEF representatives as part of a joint World Bank and UNICEF Ghana seminar on strengthening social protection programmes in the country last month. The talk was delivered amid a Ghanaian government commitment to prioritise funds for social protection programmes dedicated to assisting the country’s poorest families as part of its 2017 budget.  UNICEF now encourages the Government of Ghana to take the next step of ensuring that delivery of social protection to Ghana’s poor is further supported through coordinated implementation with other essential services and interventions in order to achieve sustainable life-changing impact.One in four Ghanaians live in poverty, making the gap between the rich and poor now bigger than ever. As such social protection programmes - such as Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), School Feeding Programme (GSFP), and Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme - are more important today than ever before.A woman walking away from  a Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) program enumeration and registration venue in GhanaThe LEAP programme provides cash and health insurance to extremely poor households across Ghana to alleviate short-term poverty and encourage long term human capital development. These programmes support vulnerable families to meet basic needs, access schooling and receive healthcare. They are also effective and efficient tools to reduce poverty and promote growth for Ghana. Evidence shows that when social protection is combined with quality education and health, the effects are even stronger. “Poverty reduction in the world is happening very fast but not enough to be ended by 2030 with current global growth unless we speed up the reduction of inequality,” said Jose Cuesta in a keynote titled the relevance of global evidence for poverty and inequality reduction in Ghana.“This is a key lesson that is relevant for Ghana. It is possible to reduce poverty and it is possible to grow, but it’s very difficult to do it inclusively. Promoting inclusive growth and protecting the poor in Ghana will require expanding the budget for LEAP and ensuring it benefits those truly in need and on time.” Peter Ragno, Social Protection Specialist at UNICEF Ghana advocated for continued investment in social protection programmes:  “The formal connections between LEAP and NHIS have provided poor households greater access to health services and improved their overall wellbeing. This success indicates there is a real opportunity to replicate the collaboration, joining LEAP and other sectors.”“For example, ensuring LEAP households are entitled to agriculture outreach services will increase household productivity, promote sustainable and resilient livelihoods, and generate positive impacts in the surrounding communities. Continuous investments in social protection, combined with new linkages to quality social services, will ensure long-term returns for the country as a whole.”For more information on the LEAP programme visit here. Watch the video on the LEAP programme 
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Philippines undertakes national study on child internet use

(25 April 2017) A nationally representative child internet use survey in the Philippines was launched by UNICEF at a workshop for government, industry, law enforcement agencies, and NGOs. The aim of the meeting was to initiate a collaboration for the protection of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation based on a common understanding among key actors on global best practices, tools, resources and industry standards.UNICEF Philippines convened a workshop in Manila to strengthen collaboration among industry, government and non-governmental organizations for the protection of children against online sexual abuse and exploitation. The aim was to build a common understanding among key actors on global best practices, tools, resources and industry standards. A specific objective was also to form a loose coalition on child online protection in the Philippines, to strengthen cooperation and information sharing across sectors. Actors from several government ministries, as well as industry, law enforcement, and NGOs participated.[Read about UNICEF Innocenti’s work on child rights in the digital age]As part of the workshop, Daniel Kardefelt-Winther from UNICEF Innocenti introduced the Global Kids Online research partnership, which will be implemented in the Philippines during 2017 by UNICEF Philippines in collaboration with De La Salle University. The workshop provided an opportunity for government and other stakeholders to engage directly with UNICEF and the research team and discuss what particular questions and topics would be of relevance to government’s policy priorities and how they could be included in the study. This model of working is particularly helpful in achieving strong multi-stakeholder engagement and could facilitate greater uptake of research results. Due to the flexibility of the Global Kids Online research methodology, which explicitly emphasizes the importance of country context and current policy climate, most requests for data by partners can be easily accommodated.In the Philippines country project, particular emphasis will be placed on the challenge of online violence, sexual exploitation and abuse of children, an area where UNICEF Philippines has already conducted high quality research and advocacy. In addition, the project will be one of the first to explore in-depth how children in conflict zones use digital technology and how their online experiences interact with this challenging living environment. It is crucial to understand whether technology can be leveraged to create new opportunities for those who are more vulnerable, but also if children living in conflict zones may be exposed to new forms of online risk. The Philippines will be the first Global Kids Online country to tentatively explore if and how digital technology may change children’s aspirations – relating to their career prospects, education, living environment or marriage. It is hoped that these findings may pave the way for future interventions that can change children’s aspirations in life to be more positive, ambitious, and well-informed.Findings from new Global Kids Online studies will be presented throughout 2017 – stay tuned as we continue to deliver the latest results from our partners in Bulgaria, Montenegro, Philippines, Chile and Ghana. (This article was first published on
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Innocenti hosts global meeting on education research

(21 April 2017) An international meeting on the use of evidence in education policy and programming has brought together leading researchers, academics and experts from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID), UNESCO and other education donors and organizations at UNICEF Innocenti this month. The Building Evidence in Education, or BE2,working group meeting, hosted in Florence 5-7 April, aimed to promote better use of evidence in education programming, increased quality of education research and enhanced donor research collaboration. The BE2 donor working group is led by a Steering Committee composed of USAID, DFID, World Bank and a rotating UN agency, currently UNESCO’s International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP).A major focus of the meeting was lessons learned on ‘results based financing’ – funding strategies that pay on the delivery of one or more outcomes with financial or other incentives based on verification that a result has been achieved. Participants addressed the question of whether the intended alignment of governance, financing rules, incentives, and management practices has led to improved accountability.The three-day meeting also featured a policy round-table discussion on how to achieve impact through research in international development settings, held at the European University Institute (EUI).   Also presenting at the BE2 meeting were representatives from the UK government funded RISE programme – a multi-country research effort that addresses what works to improve education systems to deliver better learning for all at scale in developing countries. The new eight year joint program has expanded understanding of improving education beyond traditional ‘inputs’ such as infrastructure, teachers and textbooks. “It was a real benefit for us to reflect on how research is applied in policy and programming in education and other sectors,” said UNICEF Innocenti senior education specialist Dominic Richardson.“It was a valuable opportunity for us to keep up to date on issues in education policy and programming and the work of key agencies. The value of donors and funders getting together to improve the quality of education research can’t be overstated – it’s the bedrock of decision making and improving education policies globally. This meeting is recognition of that.“We’re seeking collaboration and we will continue to work with others actors across education research. We seek to collaborate on the ambitions of BE2 to improve the quality and quantity of evidence to inform education systems.”Sitting on the panel on achieving impact through research in international development settings was UNICEF Innocenti director Sarah Cook, who stressed the idea that knowledge generation through research should stimulate debate and even be provocative in some instances. Building Evidence in Education - BE2 - Working Group Meeting, UNICEF Innocenti, 5-7 April 2017, Florence, Italy.“We live in a world where we have so much data. We need to challenge the discourse about how data drives us and really get back to the question and problem of how data is collected and the quality of that data. We need a cautious interpretation of our data to open up spaces for conversations that are scientifically rooted and not just advocacy messages.”Professor Luís Miguel Poiares Maduro of EUI in Florence, a former Portuguese government minister, said government agencies often worked in ‘silos’ and added that it was important for researchers to reach out to the public, not only policy makers, when trying to translate research into policy outcomes.    “If we want more evidence base in public policies, you need to convince not only policy makers, you need to convince citizens also. You need to start to engage them,” he said adding that policy makers were often resistant to change.     The panel also provided an opportunity for Prof. Pauline Rose of the University of Cambridge to present The Impact Initiative, a project that aims the increase the impact and uptake from two research programmes jointly funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and DFID. 
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Responses to the global recession: How have children been affected?

by Yekaterina Chzhen
(2017-04-13) It has been 10 years since the first tremors were felt in the American sub-prime mortgage market which later rocked the entire planet through a global recession. 

Seven briefs for seven adolescent research challenges

by John Santelli
(2017-04-07) On behalf of the Lancet Commission and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, I am very pleased to announce the birth of a new series of seven briefs  ...