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When cash alone is not enough: the transformative power of cash plus programmes

(14 May 2018) Research has shown that cash transfers promote economic empowerment. The direct payment of cash to the poorest households contributes toward improved social outcomes and sustainable livelihoods, while making local economies more dynamic. However, despite the benefits, cash alone is not a silver bullet. For example, evidence suggests that cash alone is not always sufficient to secure the safe transition of adolescents to adulthood. Results from several countries suggest that external conditions, such as the labour market or access to quality services, impact the success of cash transfers. Where adolescents are concerned cash alone has not always been successful in reducing significant risks such as violence, early marriage and sexually transmitted diseases. How then can we use cash transfers to more effectively protect and prepare adolescents for healthy productive adulthoods?A group of Cash Plus livelihood and health training course participants discuss an assignment in Ikama Village in the Rungwe District of Tanzania.The Transfer Project‘Cash plus’ may provide the answer. Leading social protection partner of UNICEF Innocenti, The Transfer Project, has gathered extensive evidence on the effects of social protection programmes on adolescent well-being. They are now engaged in examining the potential for additional key interventions and linkages to services – a ‘cash plus’ component – targeting youth. These initiatives examine whether a package of adolescent-focused interventions can improve future economic opportunities for adolescents and facilitate healthy transition to adulthood. Interventions include life skills training, sexual and reproductive health education, HIV treatment, peer support groups, and mentoring.Cash Plus in Action: Tanzania ResultsThe Transfer Project’s most recent studies from Tanzania help illustrate the scale of the programme and the potential for cash plus to improve adolescent well-being and empowerment. Yet for adolescent boys and girls, transitioning to adulthood means facing significant social, health and economic risks. To mitigate these risks the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), along with UNICEF and other key stakeholders, are implementing an intervention where social protection and economic empowerment interventions are combined with adolescent training in business and livelihood skills, sexual and reproductive health education and support services as a core part of Government cash transfer schemes. “We met close to a hundred adolescent trainees, peer educators and mentors actively involved in the cash plus training in three villages in Rungwe district of southern Tanzania,” said Dale Rutstein, Communication Chief of UNICEF Innocenti, recently returned from a cash plus filmmaking mission. “In the mornings, young people delivered impressively detailed long-term business plans – for dairy production, dress-making and farming – and in the afternoon they practiced how to use male and female condoms. “We met one 19-year-old peer educator who had given birth to a child at age 17 who said if she had had the training at a younger age her life would have been dramatically changed.”Recent cash plus research studiesA recently completed18-month mixed methods study, Tanzania Youth Study of the Productive Social Safety Net, provides evidence on the effects of Tanzania’s cash transfer programme: ‘Productive Social Safety Net,’ or PSSN, on youth well-being and transition to adulthood. Results of this study reveal certain positive effects that cash transfers have on youth education outcomes, participation in economic activities, and material well-being. Importantly, results also highlighted the limitations of cash to positively impact mental and physical well-being, sexual behaviour, or experiences of violence. The findings confirm that cash alone is not always sufficient to reduce the broad, interrelated social and economic risks that vulnerable populations face.Another new study, A Cash Plus Model for Safe Transitions to a healthy and Productive Adulthood, carried out in 2017, and recently presented to the Tanzanian government, establishes baseline findings required for conducting a 24 month impact evaluation of Tanzania’s current ‘cash plus’ programme, exploring how cash combined with training and linkages to other support services enable youth to benefit more efficiently from household participation in cash transfer programmes. The findings reveal insights into young people’s lives and behaviour, particularly around accessing health services, economic activities, and education. What Next?Adolescence is an intense period of physical transformation and brain development, representing a unique window of opportunity. Investments in adolescence are often referred to as having a “triple dividend” with benefits today, in adolescents’ future adult life, and in the next generation of children.An adolescent girl from Makandana Village in the Rungwe District of Tanzania presents her future business plans during the closing ceremony of the Cash Plus livelihood and health training course. The second phase of this study looks to amplify the impact of cash to fully benefit from this window of opportunity. At the end of the two-year cash plus randomized cluster trials, it is envisioned that Tanzania will have robust evidence on the impact of the “plus” component targeted to adolescents, layered on top of the existing social protection scheme. The findings should indicate which aspects of the cash plus programme work well and which need refinement, as well as considerations for scaling up the programme, to give more young people in Tanzania the chance to reach their full productive potential as healthy adults.With a projected 35 million Tanzanians aged between 15 and 34 in the year 2035, investments made today present immense potential for Tanzania’s prosperity. Given its implementation within an existing large scale government social protection programme, cash plus may be a scalable solution to intergenerational poverty, empowering adolescents - both now and in the future - to reach their full potential. You can read the Cash Plus Project Brief here.Access FAO's book, From Evidence to Action: The story of cash transfers and impact evaluation in sub-Saharan Africa, here.  
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The Breastfeeding Paradox

(11 May 2018) This Mother’s Day, UNICEF is calling attention to the importance of breastfeeding, particularly in high-income countries. A UNICEF report released yesterday, Breastfeeding: A Mother’s Gift to Every Child, reveals that worldwide, approximately 7.6 million babies a year are not breastfed.
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Facilitator Feedback: the key to programme success?

(18 April 2018) A recent UNICEF Innocenti paper, Delivering a Parenting Programme in Rural South Africa: The Local Child and Youth Care Worker Experience, explores the perceptions and experiences of parenting programme facilitators in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The qualitative study builds on previous quantitative research and helps answer the question: How effective is parenting support in reducing violence? Anyone who has ever had a teenager living under their roof understands that raising adolescents can be a challenge. These difficulties become even more pronounced in vulnerable communities, such as the Eastern Cape in South Africa. In 2012, 49% of households in this region had no employed adult, with 80% of children living in income poverty. 33% of children were not living with their biological parents. The area had the highest percentage of assaults in South Africa in 2016. Despite these figures, the Eastern Cape provincial government is committed to change and has invested in community-owned parenting programmes. Child maltreatment is a serious public health problem. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse affects an estimated 95 million children across the world every year. The high prevalence and seriousness of child maltreatment has resulted in a growing interest in parenting programmes. These preventative interventions can improve child and adolescent well-being by increasing positive parenting leading to reduced violence in the home. “SinovuyoTeen Parent Programme” is one such programme.The programme was the result of a collaborative effort between multiple bodies. Child and Youth Care workers of the Isibindi programme were trained by Clowns without Borders to facilitate SinovuyoTeen Parent Programme in 2014. A recent Innocenti study describes the perceptions and experiences of the SinovuyoTeen facilitators. The publication forms part of a suite of papers emanating from an exploration of the effectiveness and scalability of a parenting programme in South Africa. A pre-post study, conducted in 2014, quantifiably revealed the positive impact of SinovuyoTeen in the Eastern Cape, including reducing child abuse and improving positive parenting. This study complements the quantitative results with the narratives of the programme facilitators, without whom the programme could not have been offered.CARE WORKERS: THE KEY TO PROGRAMME SUCCESSThe analysis of focus group discussions revealed four consistent themes:Programme ownership and adaptations:  facilitators provided recommendations, including content adaptions and logistical suggestions.Professional synergies: complementarity existed between traditional child and youth work tasks and SinovuyoTeen activities.Value of trust between child and youth care workers: facilitators had a pre-existing level of trust with the families who benefitted from the programme owing to their child and youth care work in the community.Personal impact on the facilitators as parents: facilitators themselves reported a positive impact on interactions with their own children.These results culminate to highlight the importance of understanding and considering the perceptions and experiences of the facilitators who deliver a parenting programme. Their accounts can contribute to programme improvement, ensuring cultural acceptability and logistical viability, prior to scaling-up the initiative. Additionally, involving facilitators in programme adaptation increases their sense of ownership of the programme, which can in turn affect successful programme delivery.A group of children and adults in a National Association of Childcare Workers (NACCW) safe park in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Complementing previous work, this study revealed insights that were best captured through qualitative methods, especially focus group discussions among facilitators. This is particularly significant when considering the vital, multi-dimensional role facilitators played in testing SinovuyoTeen while continuing their family support work.“The value of our qualitative work was to hear the voices of a range of people involved,” says Heidi Loening-Voysey, UNICEF Innocenti’s Research and Evaluation Specialist (Child Protection). “You can get a sense of how their professional and personal lives have changed as a result of the programme.” Follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter and Facebook to be informed when the full suite of studies is released. You can also view other content related to this topic in the column on the right. Find out more about the World Health Organisation’s Parenting for Lifelong Health programme here. 
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Handbook on adolescent development research published

(13 April 2018) Despite huge gains in child well-being during the MDG era, progress for adolescents – children in the second decade of life – is still lagging behind. The recently published Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy, edited by Jennifer E. Lansford and Prerna Banati, aims to fill critical evidence gaps to speed evolution of better policy-making specifically tuned to this dynamic life stage.Of the 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today, 90% live in low- and middle-income countries. Enrollment in secondary schools is still low for adolescents in many parts of the world, with illiteracy rates approaching 30% in the least developed countries. Further, adolescents not in school are more vulnerable to trafficking, recruitment into armed conflict, and child labor. Many adolescent girls marry and begin bearing children at a young age, contributing to the perpetuation of poverty and health problems. A group of youth use a smartphone to take a selfie outside a Community Management Committee meeting in Assamo neighbourhood in Djibouti. Adolescents also represent a resource to be cultivated through education and training, to move them toward economic independence. This can be accomplished through initiatives to improve their reproductive health, and through positive interpersonal relationships to help them avoid risky behaviors and make positive decisions about their futures.“Several years ago, a similar handbook on early childhood development was transformative in our approach to early childhood. By bringing state of the art research to policymakers and practitioners, we hope this volume will go some way to improving the lives of adolescents globally,” said Prerna Banati, lead researcher on adolescent well-being at UNICEF Innocenti.The new handbook will be invaluable for a wide range of stakeholders working with adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. The volume tackles both the challenges and the promise of adolescence by presenting recent research on social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical development. The volume looks at adolescent development with a distinctive focus on issues that affect adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. It adopts a positive framing, representing young people as opportunities, to accelerate a positive shift in discourses around young people.An Overview: Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and it Impact on Global Policy from UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti According to Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, a leading expert on adolescence, the handbook is “An important and timely resource. It combines up-to-date reviews of research on adolescent development by the world's leading authorities with thoughtful discussions of some of the most pressing concerns that societies face in both developed and developing countries in their efforts to minimize problematic outcomes and maximize positive development during this critical stage of development.”In most contexts, policy and programme responses to adolescents are fragmented and inconsistent. Disconnects between national level policies and local services, as well as lack of continuity with early childhood responses, present a significant challenge to ensuring a coherent approach for this age group. Increasingly, adolescent participation and demands for rights-based approaches are seen, and often unfortunately conflated with violence. This volume adopts the perspective of young people as a valued investment both at individual and societal levels. “An important and timely resource. It combines up-to-date reviews of research on adolescent development by the world's leading authorities with thoughtful discussions of some of the most pressing concerns that societies face in both developed and developing countries..."- Laurence Steinberg, Temple University“The bulk of research comes from high income contexts, so we don’t have a good enough evidence base in the settings where most adolescents are living today,” said Banati. “There has been quite a bit of policy attention paid to older adolescents, younger adolescence seems to slip between the policy cracks. There is also substantial incoherence in policy approaches, as evidenced in the volume.”Over the last thirty-five years, specialized journals addressing adolescent issues have been launched, including the Journal of Adolescence, the Journal of Adolescent Research, and the Journal of Research on Adolescents. Despite a growth in scholarly literature, much is still disproportionately focused on adolescent experience in high income Western contexts, with comparatively few empirical studies of young people growing up in non-Western nations published in English language journals devoted to the field of adolescent development. Much scientific evidence developed in the global North, lacks reflection on the diverse experiences of adolescents around the world, including in harsh situations of war, conflict, chronic stress or malnutrition. And surprisingly few of the major scientific findings on adolescence have been translated into effective policy.Adolescence is often described as the developmental period from the onset of puberty until the transition to adulthood, variously defined by one, some or all of the following: marriage, parenthood, completion of formal education, financial independence from parents (approximately ages 10-20).  According to the handbook: “Arguably a social construction, its initial widespread use conferred gender, race and class connotations and implications: ‘the ‘adolescent boy’ was to be managed and contained, while allowed to be ‘wild;’ the adolescent girl was to be trained and domesticated’ (Morrow, 2015). In modern times, adolescence has largely had a bad reputation. Used interchangeably with ‘teenager,’ Western notions tend to describe a period of ‘storm and stress’ (Hall, 1904), involving hormones, drama, unsafe experimentation, and irresponsibility. However, in many parts of the world, arriving at adolescence marks increasing responsibility – with many hurtling towards adulthood by entering the workforce, marriage or parenthood. Adolescents in one country may be protected from economic or domestic responsibilities, in another, such responsibilities may not only be the norm, but considered beneficial for both the adolescent and the family.” A diverse group of over 50 authors from different countries and disciplinary backgrounds have contributed chapters to this volume. This diversity reflects the complexity of adolescence, while allowing the volume to situate adolescents within broader cultural contexts. This makes the volume more relevant for global policy debates and political decision-making regarding when, why, and how some programs and interventions for adolescents should be tailored to better serve the needs of their intended recipients. The diverse contributions collectively relay a powerful underlying narrative seen across the chapters, which describes adolescents as a positive force, to be valued and understood. In challenging historical interpretations of adolescence, the volume has engaged with contemporary issues explicitly, and sometimes implicitly across the chapters, including the topics of migration and human security, technology and inequality. (The Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy is now available for purchase at Oxford University Press - Academic.)
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Can you measure the value of sport?

(6 April 2018) Sport for Development (S4D) is an intervention which can potentially deliver positive impact on children’s well-being. However, with little coordination between S4D organisations and a lack of rigorous evidence proving its value, there is a vacuum of concrete information and lessons learned in the sector. UNICEF Innocenti has initiated a new research project looking to fill this gap by building an evidence base to support improved S4D programming and policy to increase the impact of sport beyond the playing field.Sport is a powerful communal experience, bridging boundaries of language, religion and culture; engaging billions of supporters and participants. Beyond physical well-being, UNICEF has long recognized that sport can have many additional beneficial effects for children. In fact, Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the right of every child to play and recreational activities in a safe and healthy environment.S4D is the use of sport as an instrument to positively impact social and personal development. Various S4D initiatives aim to achieve different objectives. Some initiatives aim to engage youth in sport to keep them away from harm, while others use sport to provide psycho-social support for children traumatized by war, disaster or exploitation. Still others use sport to engage youth and stimulate positive development of values, attitudes, and behavior. Harnessing the power of S4D has many benefits when designing practices and policies, not least its relatively low cost and easy incorporation into existing programmes at all levels. Visit UNICEF global S4D pageHowever, sport remains an untapped tool for making positive change for children on a larger scale. Currently, a myriad of organizations use S4D initiatives to achieve positive child outcomes. The closure of the United Nations Office of Sports for Development and Peace in 2016 left a vacuum in the sector and reduced coordination between key S4D actors. While there are over 550 registered organisations, there is a lack of rigorous evidence on their impact. Action surrounding S4D outpaces the evidence base to support it. Unlocking the potential of S4D – and the investment to support it – requires quality evidence.During a physical training session, a group of Yemeni child practice self-defence techniques at UNICEF safe space for youth at Markazi camp for Yemeni refugees. Djibouti.  UNICEF Innocenti’s new research project on S4D – supported by the Barça Foundation – aims to close this gap by building a reliable and consistent evidence base. Not only will this research help strengthen evidence on the impact of S4D initiatives, it will also facilitate cross-national learning, and may even help to reinvigorate sport as a development intervention. The research looks to understand how S4D initiatives can most effectively transform children’s lives and promote positive outcomes in four specific areas:EducationChild ProtectionParticipationSocial InclusionAdditionally, the research will identify both limitations and best practices in monitoring and evaluating S4D programmes and initiatives. The aim of this exploration is to identify the most effective initiatives, and the reasons for their success. This evidence base can help to harness the power of sport to transform the lives of children.Girls play football during afternoon activities at the Centre de Transit et d'Orientation, a UNICEF-supported reintegration centre for children associated with armed groups, in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo The universal appeal of sport provides an important advantage for S4D based efforts to motivate, inspire and mobilise communities. UNICEF Innocenti’s research aims to provide a more consistent definition of S4D for the many organisations who are already using sport to improve children’s lives, as well as evidence to help governments position sport as a viable development initiative. S4D can help ensure that even the most marginalized children in the world can reach their full potential.UNICEF Innocenti’s research on S4D is led by Dominic Richardson, Senior Education Specialist, and is supported by education expert, Juliana Zapata.   
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Going from 'protection on paper' to ensuring child rights fully apply to all children

(20 March 2018) The unprecedented streams of displaced people fleeing war, instability and natural disaster toward the continent of Europe starting in 2015 has now ebbed to a steady trickle. Tens of thousands of asylum-seeking children – both accompanied as well as unaccompanied or separated from their parents – are now living across the Euro-zone. These children are mostly living in limbo while immigration machinery slowly churns through their cases. As part of UNICEF’s global “Children Uprooted” campaign and its attendant 6-point Agenda for Action, UNICEF Innocenti has recently completed a technical report analysing legal and procedural standards for asylum-seeking children in Nordic countries and the extent to which they are being correctly applied on the ground.Despite a world-leading record of commitment to child rights, Nordic countries are failing to provide the full range of protection and services required for asylum-seeking children. The new report Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children, finds that, despite proper legal and procedural measures being largely in place, implementation lapses expose many asylum-seeking children in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are exposed to significant risks in the asylum-seeking process, as well as critical gaps in protection, healthcare and education service.   The research project led by Bina D’Costa, lead migration research specialist with the UNICEF Office of Research, was commissioned by the UNICEF National Committees in the Nordic region to get an independent research perspective on the services provided to children during the asylum seeking process. It is intended to support dialogue with the respective Governments on what standards and procedural safeguards must be adopted, adapted and/or implemented, to ensure that the rights of asylum-seeking children are fully respected.“The Nordic countries covered in this report all have well-deserved reputations for protecting children’s rights. Nonetheless, our research reveals significant challenges in the care and treatment of asylum-seeking children across the five countries,” said Sarah Cook, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. “This is a powerful reminder that the global community must take seriously the commitment to protect all children’s rights, without regard to their migration or asylum status.”The research embraced a critical, holistic and multifaceted approach using a primary research lens to get data from qualitative research in the countries. Primary data were collected through semi-structured interviews with key respondents in the region. Secondary data were drawn from a review of the literature on refugees and migrants in Europe and in the Nordic states, and from European databases, research and studies. Data obtained from both sources were used to assess national responses to asylum-seeking children by measuring each country’s activities in five child-related domains: general context; asylum procedures; education; health; and child protection, against international best practice standards.Overall Protected on Paper? documents a clear tendency in all five Nordic countries to give precedence to migration law over international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In many instances immigration officers, as opposed to child protection specialists, are tasked to make critical decisions and coordinate urgent care for children. Child protection is not the primary priority of asylum agencies. In addition, in many cases, the child’s legal status substantially determines their access to entitlements. “These children who are seeking asylum in the Nordic countries cannot be allowed to exist in a kind of limbo state,” said Bina D’Costa. “Lack of coordination, poor communication or lack of transparency about where and how children can access essential services should not prevent them from receiving the urgent, time-sensitive care and support that all children deserve.”The new study offers clear directions on how to better integrate children in the protection system with a focus on determining the best interest of the child, a key principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, the study reveals that the lack of clear protocols and formats in all Nordic countries to determine best interests leads to poor quality assessments and gaps in good practice, with the result that there is no consistency across the region in terms of who undertakes best interest determination; at what stage of the asylum process; or the purpose and function of the asylum process.Protected on Paper? highlights the importance of having independent mechanisms for providing oversight of asylum services and facilities, including for guardianship. The representative or guardian is often the unaccompanied child’s primary source of support throughout the asylum process. Therefore, it is urgent to ensure that they are both independent and competent through the development of a common set of standards for their recruitment, training, supervision and support by child protection agencies. However, while children are allowed to complain about their guardian, it is not apparent that they have any real say in their appointment. The report recognizes that in Nordic region asylum-seeking children can generally access basic medical treatment, but the extent of the services available to families varies widely between states and municipalities. Moreover, there is strong evidence that a significant number of children in the post-2015 mixed migration movement have been exposed to physical and psychological trauma.Education systems in all five countries adopt an inclusive and gender sensitive education model and teachers working at all levels are familiar with the concepts and practice of inclusive education. However, Protected on Paper? highlights that asylum-seeking children’s entitlements to education do not seem to be fully enshrined in law in all five countries, often due to differences in perceptions and perspectives when it comes to inclusion of asylum-seeking children. As an example, although all five Nordic States try to facilitate access to Early Childhood Education for asylum-seeking children, their entitlement to it is not necessarily safeguarded but rather negotiated between the receiving municipality and the asylum authorities. In addition, ECE programmes based in reception centres do not always meet the same quality standards as community-based services.Children and youth, some of whom are seeking-asylum, playing sports in Sweden.  Protected on Paper? puts in evidence the lack of basic data at central government level about asylum seeking children held in detention. All five States allow detention of children for return purposes, and the criteria to justify and enable detention are quite broad, and usually relate more to easing authorities’ implementation of asylum decisions than to protecting the child’s best interests. Generally, national law prohibits detention of children under 15, but younger children can be detained with parents, and time limits on their detention also seem somewhat elastic in the Nordic States. In some cases, asylum-seeking children have been forcibly returned with their families, while unaccompanied or separated children deported on reaching eighteen years of age. Selected general recommendations for all Nordic countries:Restate the primacy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, over migration/asylum law, and make an explicit commitment to apply the same rules and standards to asylum-seeking children that apply to all other children, for the entire period they remain in country.Ensure that law, policy and practice stipulate the referral of all asylum-seeking children to child protection authorities immediately upon arrival, and that such a referral becomes an integral element of the registration process. Remove all barriers to asylum-seeking children’s rapid enrolment and full inclusion in mainstream schools and early learning programmes. Ensure that access to equal health care, including mental health care, for all asylum-seeking children serves to integrate asylum seekers into mainstream national health systems, in countries where relevant. For all child protection facilities and services, eliminate any residence requirement for users of services, to ensure that they are accessible to asylum-seeking women and children when needed. Revise guardianship services and establish a code of good practice to ensure that both guardianship and legal representation are available to every asylum-seeking child immediately upon arrival.
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PRESS RELEASE: Asylum-seeking children in Nordic countries face significant gaps in protection and access to services

FLORENCE, 20 March 2018 – Despite a world-leading record of commitment to child rights, Nordic countries are failing to provide full protection and services for asylum-seeking children. Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children, produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, reports on legal and procedural standards for migrant and refugee children, and the extent to which they are being applied on the ground in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Protected on Paper? documents a clear tendency in all five Nordic countries to give precedence to migration law over international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report finds that, despite proper legal and procedural measures being largely in place, implementation lapses expose many children to significant risks in the asylum-seeking process, as well as critical gaps in protection, healthcare and education services. “The Nordic countries covered in this report all have well-deserved reputations for protecting children’s rights. Nonetheless, our research reveals significant challenges in the care and treatment of asylum-seeking children across the five countries,” said Sarah Cook Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. “This is a powerful reminder that the global community must take seriously the commitment to protect all children’s rights, without regard to their migration or asylum status.”Lilas Alzaeem came to Norway as a refugee from Syria, Damascus five years ago. She now lives in Oslo and attends the medical faculty at university.Protected on Paper?, commissioned by the five Nordic National Committees for UNICEF, is based on in-depth legal analysis, assessment of the practical application of procedural standards—both gaps and good practices—and interviews with leading migration and child rights experts in the five Nordic countries. It also provides detailed recommendations on how procedural safeguards should be strengthened to comply with international commitments.  In many instances immigration officers, as opposed to child protection specialists, are tasked to make critical decisions and coordinate urgent care for children. As a result, proper assessment of the best interests of the child—a key principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child—is not uniformly adhered to for all asylum-seeking children. Another commonly identified problem is the tendency for national standards and principles to be poorly coordinated, communicated and applied by local service providers.Guardianship is a key safeguarding mechanism for unaccompanied and separated children; however, in some cases there is an inadequate firewall between the administration of guardians and immigration services. Child protection agencies should lead efforts to establish clear procedures for recruitment, training, supervision and support of guardians.“These children who are seeking asylum in the Nordic countries cannot be allowed to exist in a kind of limbo state,” said Bina D’Costa, lead migration research specialist with the UNICEF Office of Research. “Lack of coordination, poor communication or lack of transparency about where and how children can access essential services should not prevent them from receiving the urgent, time-sensitive care and support that all children deserve.” While the Nordic countries all have well-established mechanisms for enabling children to have their opinions taken into consideration on matters that affect them, asylum-seeking children are given only sporadic and inconsistent opportunities to have their voices heard. This has profound child rights implications in age assessment, best interests determination, guardianship and throughout the asylum process.Noor Ullah (left) and Mohammed Ali (right) originally from Afghanistan, now residing as asylum-seekers in Nesode, Norway.Asylum-seeking children can generally access basic medical treatment, but the full extent of health care services available to families varies widely between states and municipalities. As a result, entitlements are not always clear to either patient or practitioner. Under such circumstances, the growing phenomenon of mental health problems among children subjected to long periods of uncertainty about their legal status, is a primary concern.Most Nordic states’ educational systems have coped with the arrival of refugee children since 2015, but legal and administrative barriers often mean that children wait too long before entering mainstream school systems and early learning programmes. There have been reports of asylum-seeking children being detained, for brief periods, even though national law prohibits detention of anyone under 18, in line with CRC. In some cases, asylum-seeking children have been forcibly returned with their families, while unaccompanied or separated children deported on reaching eighteen years of age. Protected on Paper? provides detailed general and country specific policy and procedure recommendations aimed at bringing the countries covered in the report into full compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as called for in UNICEF’s global Agenda for Action, and the 2017 Roadmap for unaccompanied and separated children in Europe developed jointly by UNHCR, UNICEF and IRC.Selected general recommendations for all Nordic countriesRestate the primacy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, over migration/asylum law, and make an explicit commitment to apply the same rules and standards to asylum-seeking children that apply to all other children, for the entire period they remain in country.Ensure that law, policy and practice stipulate the referral of all asylum-seeking children to child protection authorities immediately upon arrival, and that such a referral becomes an integral element of the registration process. Remove all barriers to asylum-seeking children’s rapid enrolment and full inclusion in mainstream schools and early learning programmes. Ensure that access to equal health care, including mental health care, for all asylum-seeking children serves to integrate asylum seekers into mainstream national health systems, in countries where relevant. For all child protection facilities and services, eliminate any residence requirement for users of services, to ensure that they are accessible to asylum-seeking women and children when needed. Revise guardianship services and establish a code of good practice to ensure that both guardianship and legal representation are available to every asylum-seeking child immediately upon arrival. UNICEF’s Agenda for ActionThis report provides important regional evidence in support UNICEF’s global call to protect the nearly 50 million children on the move. The Agenda is based on six priority policy asks which apply to every country:Press for action on the causes that uproot children from their homes: Improve efforts to protect children from conflict and to address the root causes of violence and poverty;Help uprooted children to stay in school and stay healthy: Increase collective efforts to provide uprooted children with access to an education and health services, shelter, nutrition, and water and sanitation.Keep families together and give children legal status: Strengthen policies to prevent children from being separated from their families in transit, and faster procedures to reunite children with their families.End detention of refugee and migrant children and create practical alternatives: Unaccompanied and separated children should be placed in foster care or other family/community-based living arrangements. Combat xenophobia and discrimination: Local leaders and organizations must help combat xenophobia and build greater understanding between uprooted children, families and host communities. Protect uprooted children from exploitation and violence: Increase safe and legal channels for children to migrate and to seek refuge by cracking down on trafficking and strengthening child protection systems. Notes for Journalists:Download the full report: www.unicef-irc.org Download press-kit and multi-media materials:  http://uni.cf/2IneDsK About the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti: The Office of Research – Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. It undertakes research on emerging or current issues in order to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF and its partners, shape global debates on child rights and development, and inform the global research and policy agenda for all children, and particularly for the most vulnerable. Please visit: www.unicef-irc.orgFollow us on Twitter and FacebookAbout UNICEF: UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org For more information, please contact: Dale Rutstein, Chief, Communication, UNICEF Florence, + 39 3357582585, drutstein@unicef.orgSarah Crowe, Refugee and Migrant spokesperson, UNICEF Geneva, +41 795438029, scrowe@unicef.org Patrizia Faustini, UNICEF Florence, +39 0552033253, pfaustini@unicef.orgIvar Stokkereit, UNICEF Norway, +47 93424062, ivar.stokkereit@unicef.noJakob Ebeling, UNICEF Denmark, +45 35273842,  jebeling@unicef.dkSusan Knorrenborg, UNICEF Denmark, +45 35273866, sknorrenborg@unicef.dkMinna Suihkonen, UNICEF Finland, +358 405511055, minna.suihkonen@unicef.fiMirella Huttunen, UNICEF Finland, +358409004879, mirella.huttunen@unicef.fiEva Bjarnadottir, UNICEF Iceland, +354 5526300, evab@unicef.isSteinunn Jakobsdóttir, UNICEF Iceland, +354 5786336, steinunn@unicef.is Karin Odquist, UNICEF Sweden, +46 86922557,  karin.odquist@unicef.seChristina Kerpner, UNICEF Sweden, +46 703707445, christina.kerpner@unicef.se
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The Adolescent Brain: A Second Window of Opportunity

(6 March 2018) With 1.2 billion adolescents under its global mandate, it is crucial for UNICEF to identify the right periods or “windows of opportunities” for cost-efficient, scalable interventions to improve adolescent well-being. Over the past decade, a growing body of scientific knowledge has improved understanding of how experience and environment combine with genetics to shape the adolescent brain. Advances in neuroscience reveal that the adolescent brain is still a work in progress, offering a crucial second window of opportunity to influence the development of children in their second decade of life.VISIT OUR ADOLESCENT BRAIN MULTI-MEDIA PAGEIn The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity, a new compendium publication produced by UNICEF Innocenti, eight experts in adolescent neuroscience present emerging findings from their research. Using accessible language, the main aim of the publication is to foster better collaboration between the scientific research community and social service providers to better counteract the effects of trauma and vulnerabilities and lay a better foundation for optimal adolescent development. The compendium builds on the discussions initiated at the 2016 symposium of the same name hosted at UNICEF headquarters, where presenters delivered their findings to review the state of science related to adolescent brain.“Evidence from neuroscience.” said Nikola Balvin, one of the UNICEF Innocenti editors, “was really important to galvanizing support for early childhood development investments, for changes in policies, interventions for young children. With this compendium, we are building on what we know from early childhood development and early investments made during that period, to understand better what is going on in the brain of adolescents”.The commentaries summarize the positive and negative impacts on brain development, including the effects of poverty, violence, stress, technology, but also socio-emotional learning, stress management, nutrition, counselling and positive relationships.Ron Dahl, University of California, Berkeley at the Adolescent Neuroscience Symposium at UNICEF in New York, United States.Ron Dahl and Ahna Suleiman, from the University of California Berkeley, focus on early adolescence and highlight the transition from childhood to puberty as an experience leading not just to physiological changes, but also to structural remodeling and neuronal reconfiguring of the adolescent brain, with particular impact on neural circuits involved in processing emotions, risks, rewards and social relationships. Behavioral and emotional patterns experienced across adolescence can spiral into positive or negative outcomes as a result of complex interactions of social, emotional, psychological, behavioral and neuro-developmental processes.Suparna Choudhury from McGill University, discusses the concept of ‘situated brain’ and reflects on the influence of culture on the development of the adolescent brain, challenging the culture/brain dichotomy as false. On the one hand the human brain is a fundamentally social brain which has evolved to have a biological preparedness to negotiate complex social groups and acquire culture; on the other hand, culture and biology interact to create different experiences of what can be considered ‘biological processes’. [Watch the entire UNICEF Adolescent Brain Neuroscience Symposium here]The development of neuroimaging has advanced the ability to assess dynamic processes in the brain related to behavior. Recent brain imaging research shows that adolescence is characterized by a dual system in which adolescents display an adult level of cognitive reasoning which is often stifled by motivation towards immediate rewards. However, Beatriz Luna from the University of Pittsburgh highlights that outcomes cannot be determined by developmental science only, and that the tendency of adolescents to seek immediate rewards and social advantages should inform practices relevant to education and health for durable and positive outcomesAccess UNICEF Innocenti's well-known series of research methods briefs focusing on adolescents in low- and middle-income countries Neuroscience has often been criticized for missing causal evidence, and providing only correlational evidence. The commentary by Kimberly Noble from the Columbia University tries to debunk this belief by presenting the first ever randomized experiment testing the causal connections between poverty reduction and brain development. A longitudinal study tracking low-income families in the US will assess the causal impact of unconditional cash transfer on cognitive and brain development of children through adolescence and beyond.  With poverty affecting one billion children and adolescents across the globe, disentangling links between socio-economic disparities, experiences and brain development represent a critical priority for future research to maximize the potential of adolescents with policy programming and advocacy.“Because we are interested in holistic approach to adolescent well-being” Nikola Balvin says “neuroscience helps to understand what happens in adolescent brains and how programmes and policies we advocate for can respond to that”.The effects of stress on well-being and mental health of children and adolescents are reviewed in the commentary of Sonia Lupien from the University of Montreal. She describes how the developing brain is particularly sensitive to the effects of stress with a chronic production of stress hormones affecting learning, memory, emotional processing and mental health.Resiliency programmes which help children to cope with biological and environmental stressors can lead to great benefits in physiology and mental health. Elizabeth Ward, chairperson of Violence Prevention Alliance in Jamaica illustrates the benefits of programmes like BALANCE which assist adolescents to un-learn and re-learn behaviors that minimize risk-taking activities.On a related subject, the advantages of mindfulness meditation are highlighted by Yi-Yuan Tang from the Texas Tech University, a low cost and effective intervention which can support building self-control of cognitive, affective and social capacities in adolescentsFinally, Melina Uncapher from the University of California shares her research on action video games and other interaction with technology. A growing body of evidence from neuroscience and behavioral science proves that playing action video games has beneficial effects on the adolescent brain, including improving decision making; speed of processing; ability to overcome attention capture; ability to remember visual information and multi-tasking ability. However, the positive effects of such games must be balanced with their potential negative effects such as aggressive thoughts, and lack of exercise, social engagement and interaction with the natural environment. A healthy “technology diet” is necessary. As research on the impact of technology on developing brains is still recent, much more research is needed to understand how, when, where and in what combinations technology consumption can be beneficial or harmful for adolescent brains.The compendium has been designed to encourage further dialogue to bring neuroscience research to bear on programme interventions and public policies for adolescents. 
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‘Solutions Summit’ Highlights Need for Research to End Violence by 2030

(20 February 2018) Global leaders and researchers gathered in Stockholm last week for the first Agenda 2030 Solutions Summit to End Violence Against Children. The summit brought together governments, UN organisations and non-intergovernmental organisations, civil society, the private sector, academics, and children to design and share bold solutions for preventing and responding to violence against children as part of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 commitments.The two-day event, hosted by the Swedish government, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, and the WeProtect Global Alliance, took place 14-15 February 2018. More than 400 participants from around the world, representing more than 60 countries, were invited to discuss new initiatives, solutions, successes, and shortfalls, as well as to raise awareness to increase commitments to act to end violence against girls and boys. Mary Catherine Maternowska, a former senior research and evaluation specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, who now heads the data, evidence and solutions programme at the Global Partnership to End Violence Secretariat, oversaw the content for the summit in Stockholm, working closely with counterparts in the Swedish Government and the Childfund Alliance to ensure the summit’s goal of building political will, accelerating action, and engaging collaboration.“This was the first summit of this caliber, ever. Less than eight years ago, it was nearly impossible to even mention the words ‘violence against children’ to almost any government in the global North or South.  The field has been changing rapidly with increased data collection and improved rigour around the implementation of violence prevention interventions,” she said. “A variety of stakeholders from the UN, academics, children, CSOs and governments who have dared to confront violence affecting children, have all contributed to the change in the violence prevention landscape. The summit was a clear indicator that there is now a global movement underway,” Maternowska said.Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, speaks at the opening of the Solutions Summit to End Violence Against Children in Stockholm on 14 February 2018 Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, UNICEF Innocenti’s expert on digital technology and child rights, was invited to participate as an expert research practitioner in the summit’s workshop on online violence against children, which included high-level roundtable discussions on the WeProtect Global Alliance’s agenda, including what steps to take moving forward to protect children from online violence.Kardefelt-Winther stressed the importance of evidence and the need for better and more data collection to combat violence against children online. “For online violence against children, it can be difficult to find enough high-quality comparative data, or even to understand what constitutes violence against children online” Kardefelt-Winther said. He noted that participants at the summit expressed a need to define more clearly what constitutes online violence against children. “We need to separate the narratives and make it very clear what we mean by online violence against children. WeProtect has made a promising start by creating a new threat assessment that categorizes the risks of online violence against children by age group – for example, as children grow older, they are exposed to different types of risks of online violence, which may require different prevention or response strategies” he added.UNICEF Innocenti’s evidence-generation project on children’s online experiences, Global Kids Online, has collected data on several indicators of violence against children, such as cyber bullying and sexual exploitation/online grooming. “We generate baseline evidence that will help us get a first indication of the extent of some forms of violence against children online, but more focused research will be needed to truly understand the depth and breadth of this issue,” Kardefelt-Winther said. “Global Kids Online is working to strengthen the evidence base, not only by expanding the scope to include more countries, but also in how we study online violence,” he added.  In addition to the importance of evidence to help end violence against children, Kardefelt-Winther noted, “It’s equally important to generate political will and strong commitments to end violence against children – the summit was critical in gathering the global community around this issue and in highlighting the evidence gap – now we should prioritize getting more and better data to inform our multi-stakeholder response and to generate better solutions.”Tia Palermo, social policy specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, was also invited to participate in a side event of the summit, led by the Economist Intelligence Unit – the research arm of The Economist magazine, in discussing indicators on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, including the following four dimensions: prevalence of sexual violence, risk factors for sexual violence, laws and policies, and enforcement of those laws and policies. Echoing other calls for more evidence at the summit, there are several limitations of existing data on the topic according to Palermo. “On prevalence, the data that does exist is not very comparable across countries: there isn’t enough data across ages ranges or disaggregated by gender,” she said. “There is much less known about risk factors just for sexual violence, and more for violence in general,” she added, noting that addressing evidence gaps by country and analyzing country responses to violence against children would be a good first step in addressing the issues. “There is a need to collect more data on violence against children in order to better understand the problems that exist.”  Prevalence of violence by gender and age group from UNICEF Innocenti's research presentation: Disclosure, reporting and help-seeking among child survivors of violence.Maternowska also stressed the importance of research in identifying solutions and actions from the summit. “Having spent the last four years focusing on The Multi Country Study on the Drivers Violence Affecting Children, I am absolutely convinced that human-centered, data driven and applied research is the best way to approach improved violence prevention,” she said. “Violence prevention requires the best that science has to offer from both the hard and measurable evidence of surveys, but also from the messier realm of qualitative research that seeks to explain the social lives that underpin children’s lives.  The violence prevention work at UNICEF Innocenti is testimony to so many dedicated governments and UNICEF’s potential for evidence generation that matters.  Research very much underpins the fact that we were able to have a Solutions Summit—evidence is critical,” she added.  “As the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children continues to build political will and now accelerate action towards the SDGS—notably 16.2 and related targets—research will continue to play a critical role in setting standards, piloting new innovative efforts and helping scale up what works.” 
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Global Kids Online evidence spurs policy change in Argentina

(28 January 2018) UNICEF Argentina, with the support of the Ipsos MORI agency, carried out a Global Kids Online study which was completed in mid 2016. Findings demonstrated that children become internet users at a young age and many of them experience some form of negative experience online. The survey of 1,106 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years showed that 3 in 4 experience something upsetting, with the most common negative incidents being related to receiving unpleasant and disturbing messages. Data showed the most common reaction to upsetting content was to block the source, and when looking for help, the preferred person to seek support from is a peer, rather than an adult (Ravalli and Paoloni, 2016). Even though children access the internet most often at their home, 68 per cent say that their families know little about their internet activities. Half of the children do not follow the recommendations that their parents or caregivers make and one in ten do not receive any recommendations (Ravalli and Paoloni, 2016).A group of children and theatre performers in a "Digital Co-Existence" event in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The project aims to raise public awareness on digital citizenship, based on evidence collected with support of the Global Kids Online research partnership.   Based on the findings, UNICEF Argentina developed a digital citizenship and literacy campaign addressing policy-making, educational opportunities, awareness rising, and multi-stakeholder engagement. The office integrated several creative approaches to increase the success of their activities, including using media campaigns with public figures and children’s theatre performances.According to María José Ravalli, UNICEF Argentina's communication and advocacy specialist, efforts have concentrated on early engagement with stakeholders and ongoing dialogue. At the start of the data gathering and advocacy project UNICEF Argentina initiated a dialogue with key stakeholders from government bodies, the private sector, media, academia and civil society to discuss how best to use the evidence to inform policy and practice related to digital citizenship. Once the data was gathered a series of dialogues on digital citizenship were organized to deepen analysis of the results and to expand its impact on policy and practice. With the release of the results, UNICEF Argentina hosted several roundtable discussions around ICTs and the private sector. This approach generated recommendations and identifedg key challenges for protecting and promoting the rights of children and adolescents in relation to their digital citizenship.Based on evidence generated in the study, UNICEF was invited to provide input into the government's new Convergent Communications Law which is intended to reform regulation of telecommunications, cable, television and audiovisual services. The Commission working on drafting the proposal issued a document stating the law's key principles which included the promotion of digital and media literacy. Also using evidence from the study UNICEF Argentina launched a Digital Coexistence Program with the General Director of Culture and Education, the Provincial Agency for Children and Adolescents of the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Justice of Buenos Aires. The program aims at the development of digital citizenship among children and their families, within educational services, in child protection and justice services, among youth leaders and the media. As part of the program, a guide and specials materials with information for adults were designed with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of accompanying children in their digital consumption. Workshops were held with educators and practitioners.Children using the internet to support their school studies in Argentina. As part of the Digital Coexistence Program a curriculum is being designed for teachers and protection officers, parents and children in Buenos Aires, the largest province the country. The programme involves leading government agencies and ministries. The Digital Coexistence campaign team has worked with a range of public figures, consultants, and media partners to reach a wide audience. A  range of formats presented survey evidence and lessons learned in a dynamic and attractive way, using humour, theatre performances, public campaigns and concerts. A participatory children's theatre event involved 10-year-old school children. In addition a ‘Let’s talk about everything’ web platform and chat helpline were established with the National Youth Secretariat.(The story originally appeared on 14 January 2018 www.globakidsonline.net) 
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