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Universal Child Grants Conference Highlights Power of Evidence-Informed Policies for Children

Bringing together policy makers, practitioners, and researchers, the International Conference on Universal Child Grants, convened by UNICEF, the International Labour Organization, and the Overseas Development Institute, from February 6 to 8, 2019, explored the arguments and evidence emerging from cash transfer schemes and the implications for universal child grants.
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Compendium of UNICEF research across Eastern Europe and Central Asia now available

(8 February 2019) In an effort to strengthen its programmes for children, a new compendium of externally reviewed research and evaluation studies has been published by UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. The compendium of 20 recently completed, quality-assured evaluations aims to provide an overview of important new evidence from across the region.
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Improved Outcomes in Education, Nutrition, Wellbeing for Refugee children in Lebanon

(4 February 2019)  Lebanon hosts a large number of Syrian refugees who fled conflict at home and often struggle to earn enough income to meet their families’ immediate basic needs. Many of these families are unable to support essential costs associated with education, causing their children to miss out on the long-term benefits of schooling in favor of short-term household needs.In response, a child-focused cash transfer program for displaced Syrian children in Lebanon was piloted in the 2016-2017 school year. The program, known as the “No Lost Generation” or “Min Ila” (“from/to” in Arabic), was designed to reduce financial and other obstacles to children’s school attendance, including reliance on child labor, to minimize the impact of negative coping strategies on children. “Initiating an impact evaluation to understand the effectiveness of a programme aimed at refugees is quite unique,” said Jacobus de Hoop, humanitarian policy specialist with UNICEF Innocenti. “There are many challenges to setting up a longitudinal study in this type of environment. UNICEF Lebanon has been a front-runner with this initiative.” Min Ila was initiated by UNICEF, in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme and in coordination with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon.A recently produced final technical report, “Min Ila” Cash Transfer Programme for Displaced Syrian Children in Lebanon, now provides an evaluation of the Min Ila project’s effect on improving children’s health and nutrition; on lowering child engagement in household work; on improving children’s subjective well-being; and on increasing child school attendance. The report documents important positive gains on key indicators among Syrian children living in Lebanon, and was jointly prepared by UNICEF Innocenti and the American Institutes for Research.Syrian refugee children aged 5–14 who lived in Lebanon’s Mount Lebanon and Akkar governorates and were enrolled in a second-shift school received a basic monthly education transfer to cover a portion of the indirect costs of going to school, such as school snacks, transportation, and appropriate clothing and shoes. Findings demonstrate that Min Ila had a positive impact on children’s food consumption, with fewer children aged 10–14 skipping a meal the previous day than children in the comparison group. More children in pilot governorates started the day with breakfast, and fewer children also went to bed hungry. Similarly, positive outcomes were found in reducing the percentage of children aged 10–14 carrying out household chores, with outstanding results in particular for girls. Syrian refugee Yamen, who attends school, walks past lines of laundry at an informal settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. “I only did one year of schooling before the war. The school here is very different from school in Syria."  The non-experimental longitudinal study compares beneficiaries in the Lebanese governorates of Mount Lebanon and Akkar with households that would be eligible for the program but who are not receiving the programme because they live in the non-programme governorates of North Lebanon, South Lebanon and Nabatieh. The study uses a ‘geographic regression discontinuity’ design, in which households that are located near the border separating pilot and comparison governorates are compared with each other.Moreover, the programme improved children’s well-being in pilot governorates as compared with children in non-Min Ila governorates. Children in pilot governorates felt more optimistic about the future, were more trusting of other people, and felt more confident and assertive. Although not statistically significant, some findingsare also suggestive of an impact in reducing depression rates, with a slightly larger impact – here again – for girls than for boys, possibly related to a drop in girls involvement in household work. Finally, aggregate figures from the Lebanon Ministry of Education and Higher Education suggested that formal school enrollment rates of displaced Syrian children increased rapidly across the country over the period of the study. These increases appear to have been stronger in the Governorates in which Min Ila was implemented. Although the study cannot definitively attribute these increases to the program, many of the documented improvements in children’s lives are likely to have contributed to children’s experience in school.
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Child-Related Concerns a Major Driver of Migration, According to a Recent Poll

(30 January 2019)  Young, single males with secondary education or higher have the strongest intention to migrate and to take measures to plan for it, according to a poll on drivers of migration decisions among children and young people.The UNICEF Innocenti Working Paper titled: “Child Related Concerns and Migration Decisions: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll,” reveals new insights on the drivers of migration, with important implications for policymaking. The new evidence supports the hypothesis that child-related concerns are potential drivers of migration and could represent a major new starting point for further analysis on the role of youth, the condition of children’s wellbeing and other child-related factors in decisions to migrate.  On 8 January 2014 in Turkey, (far left) Susan Ahmedi, 13, stands with her mother (second from left), four sisters and two brothers outside the tent shelter they share in Islahiye refugee camp in Gaziantep ProvinceThe study analyses data from the Gallup World Poll, representing 98 per cent of the world’s adult population (over 15 years old). The data focuses on the condition of children in their home country and on the presence of youth within the households. Data was collected from more than 150 countries between the years 2006 and 2016.The study is the first attempt to quantify the extent to which child-related concerns influence migration intentions and plans. The Gallup World Poll data allow researchers to monitor migration trends, as well as to describe and identify common features characterizing potential migrants (age, gender, education, income level and marital status).  Gallup’s Youth Development Index gathered data on child-related concerns through three survey questions: How many children under 15 years of age are now living in your household?Do you believe that children in [country] are treated with respect and dignity?Do most children in [country] have the opportunity to learn and grow every day?Since the Gallup World Poll interviewed individuals aged 15 years and older, researchers were able to analyse migration phenomena of adults and youth directly. The Gallup Poll also identifies households with children under 15, allowing for important analysis on the perception of child living standards, leading to key insights on the extent to which child-related concerns were associated with decisions to migrate.Evidence reveals that child-related concerns, worldwide, can be considered likely drivers of migration, alongside factors related to economics, governance and lack of security. Perceived child well-being has been revealed to affect migration intent more than factors like satisfaction with public services or food deprivation. This means that child-related concerns are a primary consideration in migration plans, more important than factors such as satisfaction with public services, economic conditions and confidence in key institutions. As a result, the following striking findings can be inferred from the analysis:Migration is a child- and youth-related phenomenon, as both migration intent and migration plans peak at an early age (approximately at age 17 and 22 respectively, in global terms);Perceived child well-being significantly affects both migration intent and plans, even after having considered a full range of other influential factors affecting migration decisions;Individuals belonging to households with children aged 15 or below are more affected by child-related variables in their migration intent or plan, than those living in children-free household;The presence of children in the household positively affects migration intent, and negatively affects migration plans. In other words, the presence of children encourages people to search for a better life somewhere else. On the other hand, it represents an obstacle to the realization of migration intent, as children may represent additional costs in the migration process.Mohammad Abdullah-Shariff and his wife, Shirin Aziz-Amah, with their five children, at the Moria reception centre for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece.  Regional variances in income levels also play a critical role. Households in upper-middle-income countries devote greater importance to children’s well-being than households in other income ranges (in both migration intent and plans). In addition, child-related issues in high-income countries lose their importance, but remain statistically significant, in favor of other factors, traditionally considered as drivers of migration and affecting migration intent.  
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The CASH Plus Model: Improving Adolescent Wellbeing with Evidence

(20 December 2018)  In Tanzania a new model of social protection is using research and evidence to improve outcomes for adolescent wellbeing. The results of this programme, called 'Cash Plus', are now documented in a new film produced by UNICEF Innocenti. Told largely through the voices of young people, the 10 minute documentary reveals the crucial role of research and evaluation in improving effectiveness of Tanzania's national Productive Social Safety Net cash transfer social protection programme.The new film is a rare example of a compelling visual narrative on the role of evidence generation in the development process.  "Far too often the complexity of the community development process is lost when internatioanl organizations seek to make short films about their interventions," said Dale Rutstein, Chief of Communication at UNICEF Innocenti. "The role of research and evaluation is the least likely component of the process to be captured in such films." The film examines the gaps discovered in the first phase of Tanzania's Productive Social Saftey cash transfer programme: household incomes and productive activity increased, but risks and challenges for adolescents, especially exposure to HIV, were unaffected. Evaluation evidence led to the development of the Cash Plus approach which linked critical services and sectors for adolescents to the households receiving transfers."The Cash Plus Model: Improving Adolescent Well-being with Evidence" could not have been produced without the generous support of the UNICEF Tanzania Country Office, the Tanzania Social Action Fund and the numerous adolescents and community training facilitators in the Rungwe District of Mbeya Province, Tanzania.
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Q&A: Unpacking Research on Drivers of Violence Against Children

(22 October 2018) The report Research that Drives Change: Conceptualizing and Conducting Nationally Led Violence Prevention Research, is the result of a four-year-long multi-country study of the drivers of violence affecting children in Italy, Viet Nam, Peru and Zimbabwe. Led by UNICEF Innocenti with its academic partner, the University of Edinburgh, the study was conducted by national research teams comprised of government, practitioners, and academic researchers in each of the four countries. We interview former UNICEF Innocenti researcher Dr. Mary Catherine Maternowska, who conceived of the research project, about the study’s origins and most interesting and significant findings.
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Sinovuyo Teen Parenting Programme Breaks Ground in Providing Evidence and Insights in Preventing Violence Against Children

(26 November 2018) In support of local and global efforts to prevent violence against children, UNICEF South Africa and the UNICEF Innocenti partnered with the Department of Social Policy and Intervention Centre of University of Oxford to incubate and test a programme for parents/main caregivers of adolescents.  This was done over a period of four years in the Eastern Cape province, which has the highest percentage of assaults in the country, 50 per cent of the children live in households with no employed adult and 33 per cent live with neither of their biological parents.READ THE REPORT: Relevance, Implementation and Impact of the Sinovuyo Teen Parenting Programme in South AfricaResearch timeline & methodology:  In 2012 an initial draft programme was discussed with 50 local and international experts who shared advice and programme input. In 2013, community workers   were trained and tasked to deliver the programme to 30 parent-teen dyads (n=60 participants).In 2014, a pre-post test of the revised 2013 programme was conducted with  115 parent-teen dyads (n = 230 participants). In 2015–2016, a pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted in 40 townships and traditional semi-rural villages with 552 parent-teen dyads (270 intervention and 282 control; i.e. n = 1104 participants). The pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial looked at the extent to which the intended intervention outcomes were achieved. A qualitative study complemented the trial by looking at the effects of service delivery, policy and socio-economic factors that affected programme effectiveness.The Sinovuyo Teen Parent programme is part of the ‘Parenting for Lifelong Health’ initiative, which aims to develop and test evidence-informed parenting programmes that are non-commercial and relevant to lower and middle income countries.   It is a 14-week parenting programme for at-risk families with 10–18 year-old adolescents, typically delivered to a group of dyads (main caregiver and an adolescent from each household) within a social learning approach. Content can be additionally provided via home visits for those families who miss group workshop sessions. The research undertaken by  UNICEF Innocenti and Oxford University examined the impact, relevance and scalability of Sinovuyo Teen Parenting Programme.  The aim of these studies was not only to increase the evidence base of what works in lower income contexts, but also to gain insight to the lived experiences of the programme facilitators and the beneficiaries, to learn from programme implementers and government partners on the relevance and applicability of the programme and to ultimately recommend a programme for policy implementation in the South African context. ‘Delivering a parent support programme in rural South Africa: The local child and youth care provider experience’ describes how the facilitators benefited from the training and experience of delivering the programme professionally and personally as well as their recommendations for improvements to Sinovuyo Teen.‘It empowers to attend” captures the voices of  progrmame beneficiaries and  provides a nuanced picture of what changed in the interaction between caregivers and their adolescents and  how these changes took place in addition to what they did not enjoy about Sinovuyo Teen. ‘Policy and service delivery implications for the implementation and scale up of a parent support programme’  provides insight to  the views expressed by programme implementers, government and non-government stakeholders on how the Sinovuyo Teen programme was delivered, to whom and by whom within the broader service delivery context. “Theme” picture used on Sinovuyo manuals  ‘Relevance, implementation and impact of Sinovuyo Teen Parenting programme in South Africa’ summarizes the findings of the impact of the study,  the perceptions  and experiences of participants and programme implementers and the discussion on key policy and service delivery implications that need to be considered in taking the programme to scale in  South Africa and beyond.The research toolkit  for the randomised controlled trial and the qualitative studies includes the   research protocols, ethics application and approval documents and research instruments that were used   by the UNICEF- Innocenti and Oxford University research team in testing  the effectiveness and implementation of the programme in  2014 and  in  2015–2016.  These tools are merely examples of what can be used for similar purposes. Consideration would need to be given to relevant adaptations in different contexts.The qualitative research on Sinovuyo Teen was informed by an in depth evidence focused literature review on parenting, family care and adolescence in east and southern Africa.   
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Philanthropists Convene in Florence to Champion Children at UNICEF International Council Meeting

(14 November 2018) Combining influence, ideas and expertise, UNICEF’s International Council Meeting convened 12 to 13 November at UNICEF Innocenti’s offices in Florence, Italy, bringing together many of UNICEF’s most influential philanthropic partners, with the aim of tackling today’s most pressing issues for children and developing better solutions for every child. The Council is comprised of UNICEF’s most significant major donors, who meet annually to interact with the UNICEF leadership, learn from each other about their work with UNICEF, and guide the Council’s objectives and structure as a global platform for engagement.UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore opened the two-day meeting with Council members and distinguished guests, including UNICEF staff and private partners, stressing the importance of looking to the future. “It’s extremely important that we look at new and different ways of doing things,” she said, citing UNICEF Innocenti’s research as a driver, pushing evidence-backed solutions forward. UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, opens UNICEF's 2018 International Council Meeting in Florence, Italy. Fore spoke about how cutting-edge research by UNICEF Innocenti is helping inform better programmes and policies for children globally and urged the Council to support research for children. “Here at Innocenti, UNICEF is leading a unique research initiative called the Transfer Project to explore how cash transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa are helping the poorest children to survive and thrive. This research is now helping governments … reach millions of disadvantaged households with cash assistance,” she said.Fore also mentioned UNICEF Innocenti’s forward-looking  Global Kids Online project adding, “We’re researching the challenges and opportunities of digital technology for young people. Our work is helping governments in, for example, Ghana and Argentina develop programmes and policies that will help protect children online while opening digital learning opportunities.” Fore called on the Council and philanthropists to join forces to support key research to do more for today’s children. “Can we do more work together around some big challenges?” she asked. “The philanthropic community led by partners like Gates and Rotary, have made all the difference in the near- eradication of polio – a huge, historic achievement. Can we match this progress in other areas, investing in a long-awaited HIV vaccine, developing a pathway to legal identity, universal birth registration for every child, or finally making progress in internet connectivity in every part of the world, for every school, including in refugee camps?”UNICEF Innocenti Director, a.i., Priscilla Idele, opened a presentation on why research for children matters more than ever, introducing core research work and opening a discussion on how UNICEF Innocenti research helps assess progress on UNICEF’s commitments to children and finds solutions to close gaps. “These kind of assessments enable us to learn from our successes and failures and to understand what needs to be done differently, but also to hold governments and partners accountable when progress for children falls short of commitments,” she said, adding, “with predictive analysis, we can examine how the past and current trends on societal changes can affect children, for example, knowledge about fertility rates and migration patterns can help us to determine how many schools are needed in the future and where they should be located.” Research is a powerful tool to inform policy and programmes. “Research,” she emphasized, “serves to introduce new ideas, help people identify problems and appropriate solutions in new ways, and provide new frameworks to guide thinking and action.”UNICEF Innocenti's Priscilla Idele, Yekaterina Chzhen, Jacob de Hoop, and Daniel Kardefelt-Winther present on why research matters now more than ever. Cutting-edge research on child poverty and inequality, cash transfers in humanitarian settings, online risks and rights, and adolescent well-being were presented by UNICEF Innocenti researchers Yekaterina Chzhen, Jacob de Hoop, Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, and Prerna Banati. UNICEF’s Youth Forum, which included 46 young people from Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Finland and Switzerland, gathered for the first time in Florence in parallel with the International Council Meeting. The Youth Forum explored the challenges and opportunities young people face around the world, and provided an opportunity to challenge assumptions, think differently and create shared visions for a better future.At the concluding ceremony, the youth presented Executive Director Fore with a series of recommendations about the most urgent issues that UNICEF and the world needs to address, including education for all children, gender discrimination, and child poverty. Their collective goals were represented in a mandala of rights they prepared over two days of work. They included supporting youth and adolescents through global networks, providing quality education for both girls and boys, using technology in classrooms, promoting meaningful participation of youth in all sectors, increasing education on peace building and conflict management, forging partnerships with governments and the private sector, and investing in life skills and livelihood opportunities for young people.In response, Fore said that UNICEF and the International Council has a long list of homework to follow up on. “We will be working hard on this,” she replied.
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Florence GOES BLUE to Mark World Children’s Day

(20 November 2018) The City of Florence joined the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti and the Istituto degli Innocenti in lighting the Loggia dei Lanzi and the historic Innocenti facade in blue, the colour that has come to signify children worldwide. By illuminating their monuments in blue, they committed to uphold the rights of childhood and remind the public of their common history of protection, care, support and research for children all over the world on the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The short lighting ceremony was opened by Sara Funaro, Councillor Welfare and Health, Municipality of Florence; Priscilla Idele, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti; and Giovanni Palumbo, Director General of the Istituto degli Innocenti.“We are happy and proud to participate in the World Children’s Day by illuminating the Loggia dei Lanzi and the facade of the Istituto degli Innocenti. The Istituto is world-renowned a jewel of architecture and art but above all a symbol of what Florence always was and is: a city with a big heart, at the service of those most in need," said Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence. "It was here, according to a centuries-old tradition, abandoned babies and children found the care, warmth and hospitality they did not always receive in their own homes. Even to this day the Instituto carries out important work for children and the UNICEF initiative could not find a more appropriate and worthy site than this."World Children’s Day is commemorated each year on 20 November, the date the CRC was adopted in 1989. The CRC is the most ratified UN convention and has been signed by 196 countries.  Italy was not only one of the early signatories of the convention, but also committed resources to help implement the CRC by the ongoing support for UNICEF’s Office of Research in Florence.  “Today Florence joins more than 100 countries where key landmarks will #GoBlue for World Children’s Day to symbolically call for greater attention to children’s rights and a brighter future for all children.  We are especially proud to be part of the huge global initiative from the city where humanism, philanthropy and the care of children began more than 600 years ago and flourishes to this day,” said UNICEF Innocenti Director, a.i., Priscilla Idele.Next year, UNICEF Innocenti will simultaneously celebrate the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the CRC, as well as the 30th anniversary of UNICEF’s Office of Research-Innocenti hosted in Florence, Italy, which will also coincide with the 600th anniversary of the Istituto degli Innocenti, established in 1419. “We are honored to be part of the #GoBlue worldwide initiative launched by UNICEF and to ‘paint’ the façade of the Istituto degli Innocenti to commemorate the anniversary of the UN General Assembly's approval of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Adolescence. The principles of this convention have guided the work and activities of our Institute here over the past 600 years caring for the rights of children and young people,” said Maria Grazia Giuffrida, President of the Istituto degli Innocenti.“Each 20th November 20 is a special day for the Istituto degli Innocenti, a day when we celebrate the commitment to a better future for all children starting with inclusive education, the right to play, to live in peaceful, to food, to feel safe. The Istituto degli Innocenti will be always close to where there are children in need. We support this beautiful initiative of UNICEF today as part of our 30-year long collaboration with the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, hosted by the Institute."The UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti is the dedicated research centre for UNICEF. Thanks to the continuing support from the Government of Italy, it exercises a leadership role on research, with a mandate to develop a research agenda that focuses on knowledge gaps relevant to the strategic goals of UNICEF and its key partners.Washed in blue light, the Loggiato of Innocenti and the City of Florence will remind the thousands of visitors and residents that pass through its ancient cobble stones each day, of its rich heritage of philanthropy and of its shared commitment to tackling today’s most pressing challenges for children through rigorous research, advancing knowledge and proposing best policies and practices that work for every child, everywhere.On this World Children’s Day UNICEF Office of Research, the Istituto degli Innocenti and the City of Florence join UNICEF offices around the world in raising awareness for the millions of children who are unschooled, unprotected and uprooted. UNICEF invites the public to go online and sign its global petition asking for leaders to commit to fulfilling the rights of every child now and for future generations, and to Go Blue for every child by doing or wearing something blue on 20 November. There will be a brief lighting ceremony with the representatives of the institutions tomorrow at 17:00 in front of the Loggiato degli Innocenti on the Piazza Santissima Annunziata in Florence WATCH: The story of UNICEF Innocenti: Past & Present: A Renaissance of Research for Children
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Report Card 15 An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries

(30 October 2018) For the first time ever, UNICEF Innocenti broadcast the launch of its Report Card 15: An Unfair Start – Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries – *live* on YoutTube from its offices in Florence, Italy on 30 October 2018. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, delivered a video address to kick off the launch event, emphasizing that, even after 200 years of public education, we still have a long way to go to close the gaps.
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