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Global press release - innocenti report card 14

(New York/Florence, 15 June 2017) 1 in 5 children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty and an average of 1 in 8 faces food insecurity, according to the latest Report Card issued by the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries is the first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified as most important for child well-being. It ranks countries based on their performance and details the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in achieving global commitments to children. “Report Card 14 is a wake-up-call that even in high-income countries progress does not benefit all children,” said Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti. “Higher incomes do not automatically lead to improved outcomes for all children, and may indeed deepen inequalities. Governments in all countries need to take action to ensure the gaps are reduced and progress is made to reach the SDGs for children.”  Key results on selected SDG indicators for children and adolescents in rich countries include:End poverty: On average 1 in 5 children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty, though there is wide variation, from 1 in 10 in Denmark, Iceland and Norway to 1 in 3 in Israel and Romania. End hunger: An average of 1 in 8 children in high-income countries faces food insecurity, rising to 1 in 5 in the United Kingdom and the United States, and to 1 in 3 in Mexico and Turkey. Ensure healthy lives: Neonatal mortality has dramatically fallen in most countries; and rates of adolescent suicide, teenage births and drunkenness are declining. However, 1 in 4 adolescents reports two or more mental health issues more than once a week.Ensure quality education: Even in the best-performing countries, including Japan and Finland, around one fifth of 15-year-olds do not reach minimum proficiency levels in reading, mathematics and science. Achieve gender equality: On average, 14 per cent of adults surveyed in 17 rich countries believe that boys deserve preference for university education, and in the majority of these countries the belief is higher among males. In ranking 41 countries, the league table reads well for those countries that frequently appear at the top of recent comparisons of human and child development – the Nordic countries, Germany and Switzerland – and less well for lower-income countries in the group, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Chile. However, a closer look reveals room for improvement across the board as all countries rank in the mid- or bottom-third on two or more goals.For some indicators – income inequality, adolescent self-reported mental health and obesity – the trends suggest cause for concern in a majority of rich countries. In 2 out of 3 countries studied, the poorest households with children are now further behind the average than they were in 2008. The rate of obesity among 11–15 year olds and the rate of adolescents reporting two or more mental health problems a week is increasing in the majority of countries. Although many countries have seen broad progress in a number of indicators, there are still wide gaps between them in other areas. National income levels fail to explain all of these differences: for example, Slovenia is far ahead of much wealthier countries on many indicators, while the United States ranks 37 out of 41 in the summary league table. Based on the results presented in Report Card 14, UNICEF calls for high-income countries to take action in five key areas: Put children at the heart of equitable and sustainable progress – Improving the well-being of all children today is essential for achieving both equity and sustainability.Leave no child behind – National averages often conceal extreme inequalities and the severe disadvantage of groups at the bottom of the scale.Improve the collection of comparable data – in particular on violence against children, early childhood development, migration and gender.Use the rankings to help tailor policy responses to national contexts – No country does well on all indicators of well-being for children and all countries face challenges in achieving at least some child-focused SDG targets.Honour the commitment to global sustainable development – The overarching SDG framework engages all countries in a global endeavor.
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14th edition of Report Card to focus on children and the SDGs in rich countries

(12 June 2017) The global launch of Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries,  the 14th edition of Innocenti Report Card series, is held this year in London, UK on 15 June. This new edition focuses on 10 SDGs considered most relevant to child well-being and uses comparable data sources on 25 indicators specifically selected to assess the status of children in high-income contexts. A composite league table summarises 41 European Union and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries’ performance across the full range of indicators.  The global launch of Innocenti Report Card 14 is being conducted in partnership with Unicef UK and is held at the Kohn Centre at the Royal Society at St. James Park in London. The event is organized to provide a high level policy dialogue for researchers, academics, public authorities and civil society advocates. The aim is to uncover new approaches to elevating the sustainable development agenda in high income countries and to highlight the potential of the goals to assist in more equitable and sustainable approaches to child well-being.The keynote presentation at the launch is presented by Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti. Her presentation is followed by an expert panel moderated by Louise Tickle, an award winning British journalist focusing on social affairs. Panel BiographiesJan Vandemoortele, Independent expert. Jan Vandemoortele, PhD in Development Economics, served in various capacities with the United Nations for over 30 years. He is the co-architect of the Millennium Development Goals; a topic on which he published widely. Jan worked both in the field (Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi) and at headquarters (New York) with UNICEF, UNDP and the ILO. His last position was as UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator to Pakistan. He is now independent researcher and lecturer.  Romina Boarini, Senior Advisor to Secretary General and Coordinator of the Inclusive Growth Initiative, OECD. Romina Boarini is the Head Researcher of the Better Life Initiative of OECD. She leads the first OECD Project on Measuring Sustainable Development Goals and is the OECD Focal Point for the Leading for Well-Being Initiative. Romina oversees various projects at the OECD Statistics Directorate, including country reviews on well-being. Award-winning freelance journalist, Louise Tickle will moderate the expert panel at the global launch of Report Card 14. She specialises in education and social affairs investigations.  Richard Morgan, Global Director, Child Poverty, Save the children. Until March 2014, Richard was the Senior Advisor on the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), responsible for promoting children’s rights and equity through engaging in the multi-stakeholder processes leading up to 2015. Richard was the Director and earlier Deputy Director of Policy and Practice at UNICEF Headquarters in New York from 2002-2012.Lily Caprani, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF UK. Lily is an expert in political and communications strategy, public policy and resource mobilisation to achieve change for, and with, the world's most disadvantaged children and young people. Prior to her appointment with UNICEF she directed strategy and policy for The Children’s Society (UK). Early in her career she ran a busy caseload in a not-for-profit community law practice and worked in frontline practitioner roles in mental health and child protection. Additional current appointments: Advisory Board member for Children's Commissioner for England at the Department for Education. Advisory Council member, Safe Passage UK, Trustee, International Broadcasting Trust. 
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Ideology or evidence? What does research tell us about common perceptions of cash transfers?

(6 June 2017) A new UNICEF Innocenti Working Paper, Mythbusting? Confronting Six Common Perceptions about Unconditional Cash Transfers in Africa, summarizes evidence on six common assumptions about cash transfer programmes in Africa. The paper uses data from eight in-depth evaluations conducted on large government-run unconditional cash transfer projects in sub-Saharan Africa, under the Transfer Project. The arguments supporting unconditional cash transfer programming for poor households in developing countries are numerous. Evidence shows cash transfers are effective in reducing poverty and also have widespread social and economic benefits – often larger than traditional forms of development assistance. An increasing body of evidence also shows that cash transfers may provide protection during humanitarian crises, as reflected in the high-level commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit, and the Grand Bargain.Despite their widening application, and growing robust evaluation-evidence base, some skeptical policymakers cite anecdotal evidence that cash is wasted or mis-used. Others claim that beneficiaries use cash to purchase alcohol or tobacco, or that cash transfers create dependency or make beneficiaries lazy. Doubts have also been expressed regarding the cost of financing such programmes, along with fears that beneficiary households will decide to increase fertility in an effort to qualify for benefits (particularly in child-grant models).According to the Transfer Project: “These narratives influence public perception of cash transfers and can play an important role in the political and social acceptability of financing, piloting and scaling up such programmes. What does the evidence say about these and other perceptions and claims around cash transfers? Are these anecdotes actually representative of systematic behaviour by programme recipients within large-scale, representative surveys?”Making use of data drawn from eight rigorous evaluations on large-scale government unconditional cash transfer in sub-Saharan Africa, conducted by the Transfer Project, the new working paper summarizes evidence on six common perceptions about cash transfer programmes targeted to poor and vulnerable households. Namely that cash transfers:  Induce higher spending on alcohol or tobacco;Are fully consumed (rather than invested);  Create dependency (reduce participation in productive work); Increase fertility; Lead to negative community-level economic impacts (including price distortion and inflation); and Are fiscally unsustainable. “We present evidence refuting each of these claims. We complement our evidence with summaries of other review papers and prominent literature, which has examined these questions, both in sub-Saharan Africa, and globally. We conclude that these perceptions are myths, and that they present a distorted picture of the potential benefits of these programmes,” say the authors of the new UNICEF Innocenti ‘Mythbusting’ working paper. Since such mis-perceptions often affect policy debates, they can unjustifiably limit the range of policy options low- and middle-income country governments have at their disposal to accelerate poverty reduction. The paper concludes by suggesting areas for future research on topics that are insufficiently studied, and calls for stakeholders to keep in mind the growing evidence base when informing programming and resource allocation, instead of relying on dated studies with little applicability to current programming, as well as on anecdotes, opinion or speculation. Efforts are required by all actors to ensure that ideology does not outweigh evidence. 
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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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Global Symposium on Contributions of Psychology to Peace

(22 May 2017) The latest and 15th global symposium on the Contributions of Psychology to Peace is being organized jointly by Sapienza University in Rome and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, 22 – 27 May 2017. The symposium, titled: Bridging Across Generations: Turning Research Into Action for Children and Families, brings together 68 international experts, participants and guest speakers to address a broad range of issues. The biennial international symposia series was initiated in 1988 by the International Union of Psychological Science, and continues to be coordinated by the Committee for the Psychological Study of Peace (CPSP).  The current Bridging Across Generations symposium is a multi-faceted gathering that captures research topics and priorities not only of peace psychology, but also of the host country, Italy, and its convening partner, UNICEF, the world’s largest child rights organization. The symposium program will examine pressing research issues for children and families, but also look at how to leverage findings to make the most of them in programming, policy and advocacy and bring about change at all levels for children and their families.Present day Italy is faced with many interrelated challenges, which span across the study of psychological processes, inter-generational changes and international dynamics that are pivotal to contemporary peace research. Individuals, families and institutions are increasingly confronted by the need for constructing new forms of identity and co-existence as Italians, Europeans and Mediterraneans.Finding itself in the middle of the European “refugee crisis”, Italy has also become one of the main landing places for children and families escaping from instability and extremism, arriving from across the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East. Italy is facing new needs and fears, many of which are also present elsewhere in Europe and globally. The challenges are mirrored in the topics of research and intervention of local peace psychologists, who while also examining more traditional peace psychology topics such as dehumanization, victimization and inter-group contact, have a strong focus on studying inter-generational relationships, emerging citizenships, shared knowledge and family narratives, resilience and prosociality in families and children.The vision for this symposium is to turn the focus of psychology and peace research toward children and adolescents, including their parents and caregivers, and build a picture of the challenges and opportunities they face: from the local Italian context to the diverse cultural and socio-political settings in which UNICEF, members of CPSP, and other stakeholders work. In true peace psychology spirit, the aim is also to go beyond exchanging interesting findings to turning research into outputs and actions that have the potential to positively impact on the lives of children, their families and communities.The symposia enable scholars to present their current scholarship in peace psychology.  Additionally, symposia provide a platform for mutual exchange of ideas and experiences in which participants engage in intercultural dialogue aimed at reducing cultural bias and ethnocentrism in research and practice in peace psychology.  The goal is to bring forward voices from cultures and situations that are typically not included in peace discourses and to build an international community that promotes peace-related research and action.CPSP members recognize that academics from well-funded universities in more affluent countries have greater opportunities to attend international gatherings than do those from universities and countries with fewer resources.  Hence, CPSP typically holds conferences and symposia in various locations around the world and often in developing countries, thereby activating and empowering local scholars and practitioners while providing a rich and diverse mix of research and practice.Because of the importance placed on local scholarship and activism, typically symposia have themes that are relevant to local peace and social justice concerns. In addition, symposia include a mix of papers that bear on the traditional topics in peace psychology such as nonviolence, conflict transformation, peace education, social justice, humanitarian efforts, and sustainable development.Previous symposia were hosted in the following cities:1989 Verna, Bulgaria1991 Jena, Germany1993 Ashland, Virginia, USA1995 Cape Town, RSA1997 Melbourne, Australia1999 San Jose, Costa Rica2001 Goteburg, Sweden2003 Manila, Philippines2005 Portland, Oregon, USA2007 Solo/Yogyarkata, Indonesia2009 Belfast, N. Ireland2011 Larnaca, Republic of Cyprus2013 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia2015 Johannesburg & Pretoria, RSASymposium agenda, compendium of research paper abstracts and list of participants available at right.
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Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation

(17 May 2017) The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has reached a record high, increasing nearly five-fold since 2010, UNICEF said today in a new report. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in the combined years of 2015 and 2016, up from 66,000 in 2010 and 2011.‘A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation’ presents a global snapshot of refugee and migrant children, the motivations behind their journeys and the risks they face along the way. The report shows that an increasing number of these children are taking highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of smugglers and traffickers, to reach their destinations, clearly justifying the need for a global protection system to keep them safe from exploitation, abuse and death. “One child moving alone is one too many, and yet today, there are a staggering number of children doing just that – we as adults are failing to protect them,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth. “Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution. It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”[Visit Research Watch: Children on the Move for current evidence and knowledge discussion on migrant and refugee children] The report includes the story of Mary, a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor from Nigeria, who experienced the trauma of being trafficked firsthand during her horrific journey through Libya to Italy. When describing the smuggler turned trafficker who offered to help her, she said, “Everything (he) said, that we would be treated well, and that we would be safe, it was all wrong. It was a lie.” Mary was trapped in Libya for more than three months where she was abused. “He said to me if I didn’t sleep with him he would not bring me to Europe. He raped me.”Additional key findings from the report include:200,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum across around 80 countries in 2015-2016.100,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2015-2016.170,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe in 2015-2016.Unaccompanied and separated children accounted for 92 per cent of all children arriving to Italy by sea in 2016 and the first months of 2017.Children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean have the highest share of children among detected trafficking victims at 64 and 62 per cent respectively.As much as 20 per cent of smugglers have links to human trafficking networks.Ahead of the G7 Summit in Italy, UNICEF is calling on governments to adopt its six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children and ensure their wellbeing. “These children need a real commitment from governments around the world to ensure their safety throughout their journeys,” said Forsyth. “Leaders gathering next week at the G7 should lead this effort by being the first to commit to our six-point agenda for action.”The UNICEF agenda for action includes:Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence; End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives; Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status; Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services; Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants; Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination. UNICEF is also urging the public to stand in solidarity with children uprooted by war, violence and poverty, by supporting the six-point agenda for action. 
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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 www.globalkidsonline.net)
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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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Global recession and austerity hit children in high-income countries

(13 April 2017) Nearly ten years after the first financial shock waves rippled through the world economy, generating a global recession, the track record of high income countries in protecting children from its worst effects, is mixed. A new book, Children of Austerity: Impact of the Great Recession on child poverty in rich countries, published by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, in collaboration with sixteen international research institutions, provides a detailed account of the effects of the crisis, and government policy responses to it, on children in high income countries.“Across the rich countries of the world large numbers of children were severely affected by the global economic crisis, with child poverty – anchored to pre-crisis levels – increasing in many countries,” said UNICEF Innocenti’s Yekaterina Chzhen, co-editor of the volume and lead author of the comparative chapter. “This is the first international study of the effects of the crisis and government responses, with explicit emphasis on children in rich countries.”The country case studies focus on Belgium, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. In-depth analysis of the wide-ranging experiences provides valuable lessons about protecting children during economic crises, since the selected countries cover the whole spectrum in terms of their circumstances prior to the crisis, the severity of the crisis’ impact within their borders, and their national policy responses.[Download Innocenti Report Card 12: Children of the Recession]The majority of the 41 industrialized countries experienced peak-to-trough falls in GDP of between 2 and 9 per cent between 2006-8 and 2009-14. Eight countries, including Ireland, Italy, and Greece, saw double digit reductions.  While the study uses a range of poverty measures, the headline results refer to ‘anchored’ child poverty – the share of children under 18 living in households with incomes after taxes and transfers below 60 per cent of the national median in the pre-crisis years (i.e. 2007/8), adjusted for inflation.Key findingsThe recent economic crisis and subsequent austerity hit children particularly hard -  Between 2008 and 2014, child poverty increased in two-thirds of European countries; with increases of over 15 percentage points in Cyprus, Iceland and Greece and of 7-9 percentage points in Hungary, Italy, Ireland and Spain.Spending on families and children in Europe fell when it was most needed – Not a single European country increased the share of spending on family benefits and two-thirds reduced per capita spending, while spending on pension benefits increased across the board between 2010 and 2013. Cuts in spending on health, education and other public services hurt families with children – Income poverty statistics mask other forms of hardship. The rates of ‘unmet medical need’ rose significantly among the poorest households in Greece and significant cuts in health and education spending affected children in Spain.The crisis and austerity highlighted stark regional disparities – ‘Anchored’ child poverty increased to 20 per cent in northern Italy and to 50 per cent in southern Italy between 2008 and 2014; in the UK, Northern Ireland’s child poverty rate increased from 23 per cent to 27 per cent, while decreasing 2-4 points in Scotland, England and Wales.Child poverty in the United States did not increase as much as expected - While unemployment nearly doubled, there was only a marginal increase in ‘anchored’ child poverty in the US. An expansion in the generosity and coverage of the social safety net during the crisis cushioned its impact on families with children.“Protecting family income during downturns is central to addressing child poverty, but not adequate on its own. Children are also severely affected when there are cuts in spending on schools and health facilities, and when parents cannot access essential services such as childcare,” said Chzhen. “The book’s message is that to protect children in good times and in bad, governments should prioritize a combination of universal income support that is social insurance-based and means-tested, with health and education spending, directed towards those in greatest need.”According to Children of Austerity experience before and during the worst period of the crisis shows how politically challenging maintaining a well-directed, adequately resourced social support structure for families with children, can be. While not a panacea, adequate child-focused payments are a potentially powerful element in the overall social safety net for both working and non-working families. Such payments must be part of a coherent anti-poverty strategy that includes not only social protection but also employment, education and childcare policies.The opinions expressed in ‘Children of Austerity’ are those of the authors and editors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of UNICEF, nor of any particular Division or Office. Edited by Bea Cantillon (University of Antwerp), Yekaterina Chzhen (UNICEF Innocenti), Sudhanshu Handa (University of North Carolina), and Brian Nolan (University of Oxford). It includes contributions from 22 authors. For more details about the volume, see the Oxford University Press book webpage. 
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