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Philanthropists Convene in Florence to Champion Children at UNICEF International Council Meeting

12 November 2018 - 13 November 2018

(14 November 2018) Combining influence, ideas and expertise, UNICEF’s International Council Meeting convened 12 to 13 November at UNICEF Innocenti’s offices in Florence, Italy, bringing together many of UNICEF’s most influential philanthropic partners, with the aim of tackling today’s most pressing issues for children and developing better solutions for every child. The Council is comprised of UNICEF’s most significant major donors, who meet annually to interact with the UNICEF leadership, learn from each other about their work with UNICEF, and guide the Council’s objectives and structure as a global platform for engagement.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore opened the two-day meeting with Council members and distinguished guests, including UNICEF staff and private partners, stressing the importance of looking to the future. “It’s extremely important that we look at new and different ways of doing things,” she said, citing UNICEF Innocenti’s research as a driver, pushing evidence-backed solutions forward.

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, opens UNICEF's 2018 International Council Meeting in Florence, Italy.

 

Fore spoke about how cutting-edge research by UNICEF Innocenti is helping inform better programmes and policies for children globally and urged the Council to support research for children. “Here at Innocenti, UNICEF is leading a unique research initiative called the Transfer Project to explore how cash transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa are helping the poorest children to survive and thrive. This research is now helping governments … reach millions of disadvantaged households with cash assistance,” she said.

Fore also mentioned UNICEF Innocenti’s forward-looking  Global Kids Online project adding, “We’re researching the challenges and opportunities of digital technology for young people. Our work is helping governments in, for example, Ghana and Argentina develop programmes and policies that will help protect children online while opening digital learning opportunities.”

Fore called on the Council and philanthropists to join forces to support key research to do more for today’s children. “Can we do more work together around some big challenges?” she asked. “The philanthropic community led by partners like Gates and Rotary, have made all the difference in the near- eradication of polio – a huge, historic achievement. Can we match this progress in other areas, investing in a long-awaited HIV vaccine, developing a pathway to legal identity, universal birth registration for every child, or finally making progress in internet connectivity in every part of the world, for every school, including in refugee camps?”

UNICEF Innocenti Director, a.i., Priscilla Idele, opened a presentation on why research for children matters more than ever, introducing core research work and opening a discussion on how UNICEF Innocenti research helps assess progress on UNICEF’s commitments to children and finds solutions to close gaps. “These kind of assessments enable us to learn from our successes and failures and to understand what needs to be done differently, but also to hold governments and partners accountable when progress for children falls short of commitments,” she said, adding, “with predictive analysis, we can examine how the past and current trends on societal changes can affect children, for example, knowledge about fertility rates and migration patterns can help us to determine how many schools are needed in the future and where they should be located.” Research is a powerful tool to inform policy and programmes. “Research,” she emphasized, “serves to introduce new ideas, help people identify problems and appropriate solutions in new ways, and provide new frameworks to guide thinking and action.”

UNICEF Innocenti's Priscilla Idele, Yekaterina Chzhen, Jacob de Hoop, and Daniel Kardefelt-Winther present on why research matters now more than ever.

 

Cutting-edge research on child poverty and inequality, cash transfers in humanitarian settings, online risks and rights, and adolescent well-being were presented by UNICEF Innocenti researchers Yekaterina Chzhen, Jacob de Hoop, Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, and Prerna Banati.

UNICEF’s Youth Forum, which included 46 young people from Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Finland and Switzerland, gathered for the first time in Florence in parallel with the International Council Meeting. The Youth Forum explored the challenges and opportunities young people face around the world, and provided an opportunity to challenge assumptions, think differently and create shared visions for a better future.

At the concluding ceremony, the youth presented Executive Director Fore with a series of recommendations about the most urgent issues that UNICEF and the world needs to address, including education for all children, gender discrimination, and child poverty. Their collective goals were represented in a mandala of rights they prepared over two days of work. They included supporting youth and adolescents through global networks, providing quality education for both girls and boys, using technology in classrooms, promoting meaningful participation of youth in all sectors, increasing education on peace building and conflict management, forging partnerships with governments and the private sector, and investing in life skills and livelihood opportunities for young people.

In response, Fore said that UNICEF and the International Council has a long list of homework to follow up on. “We will be working hard on this,” she replied.

Research Projects

Adolescent wellbeing
Research Project Research Project

Adolescent wellbeing

Despite great strides in improving overall child well-being, progress has been slower in key areas of adolescent vulnerability, including exposure to violence, early marriage and school completion, especially among adolescent girls. The Lancet Commission ‘Our Future’ (2016) has examined the rapidly changing social and structural determinants of adolescent well-being and their implications on health promotion and prevention work.  It stresses the importance of adolescence as a critical period of formative growth that affects well-being across the life course. Although evidence is building in some domains of adolescent’s lives, greater understanding of the transition to adulthood and how different underlying factors interact is needed in order to inform the basis for effective programming and policy. The need to incorporate consideration of different structural factors into programme design is gaining support, yet there is still little guidance on systematic evidence-based approaches to employ in practice. The Adolescent Research Programme is advancing global understandings of adolescent well-being in selected countries and themes by defining the drivers of well-being outcomes (‘causes and consequences’) and examining effective policy and programme interventions (‘what works’). Research Priorities 2014 – 2018• Rigorous evidence generation on structural and social determinants of adolescent wellbeing across sectors and throughout the life course.• Understanding formal institutions, systems and policy processes as well as social and cultural norms affecting behaviours and policy implementation.• Analytical focus on age and gender gaps to shed light on the main drivers of adolescent vulnerability.Global Research PartnershipTogether with UK Department of International Development, Italy, SIDA, UNICEF as well as US Department of Labour, the Oak Foundation, and others, the global research partnership is working with multiple national governments and institutions to improve understandings of various dimensions of adolescents’ lives.The programme is linked to the Gender and Adolescence Global Evidence initiative. It leverages UNICEF’s programme technical capacity as well as networks of regional and country offices and implementing partners in low and middle income countries.Drawing on multi –disciplinary research expertise, the UNICEF programme has produced cutting edge research that explores what works to improve outcomes for adolescents.Quality evidence is having impact - informing effective policy and interventions in focus countries and beyond.
Social protection and cash transfers
Research Project Research Project

Social protection and cash transfers

 Social protection has significant positive impacts for poor and vulnerable children and their families. Cash transfers – regular, predictable payments of cash - are an important social protection modality. Research shows that cash transfers promote economic empowerment, while decreasing poverty and food insecurity. Our research goes beyond this to find out if and how cash transfers can be used more effectively to impact other aspects of people’s lives. Innocenti’s work on cash transfers forms part of an inter-agency research and learning initiative called the Transfer Project.A collaboration between UNICEF, FAO, University of North Carolina, and UNICEF country offices, the Transfer Project provides rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale, typically unconditional national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa and countries in the Middle East. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in over a dozen countries, including Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique and Malawi. The Transfer Project disseminates results to national and international stakeholders and holds a bi-annual workshop to promote cross-country learning and capacity building.The Transfer Project is a thought leader on cash transfers in Africa, with over a decade’s research. Findings indicate that cash transfers can: increase household productive capacity and resilience; create household and local economy spill overs; increase school enrollment and attendance;improve mental health and life satisfaction;delay sexual debut and reduce intimate partner violence, among others. However, numerous evidence gaps exist, including on promising ‘cash-plus’ designs, on long-term impacts and if impacts are transferable to fragile and humanitarian settings. While establishing effective social protection in the context of protracted instability and displaced populations is more complex, it is also increasingly viewed as an essential mechanism to bridge the humanitarian-developmental divide. Our project Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings is contributing to investigate what works, and why in those contexts.
Child rights in the digital age
Research Project Research Project

Child rights in the digital age

One in three internet users globally is a child. This proportion is likely to be even higher in the global South. Organizations working to advance children’s rights and promote well-being need to understand how to reduce the risk of harm children face online while maximizing their opportunities for learning, participation and creativity. Crucially, children’s perspectives and experiences need to be considered when drafting policies that govern the use of young people’s digital use, as well as when designing the technology itself. However, there is still insufficient evidence globally to enable policy and practice to act in children’s best interest.To bridge this evidence gap, UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti coordinates and facilitates research on children’s use of digital technologies by developing research methodologies that can be implemented to generate national evidence. UNICEF Innocenti coordinates two multi-country evidence generation programmes, Global Kids Online and Disrupting Harm , which serve to generate evidence of the opportunities and risks that children from around the world may encounter in a digital age. In addition, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti engages with stakeholders  to ensure that children’s perspectives are at centre of discourse and debates around internet governance and children’s internet use. We publish research on national and international internet-related policies affecting children and support UNICEF country offices, regional offices and headquarters in carrying out high-quality research and interventions. We  actively contribute to global discussions around online gaming, excessive internet use, digital technology and mental health, online violence and technology-facilitated sexual exploitation and abuse.COVID-19 & Children OnlineThe importance of children's internet access during COVID-19 An analysis of new data from Global Kids Online and EU Kids Online on: children’s internet access, proportion of children accessing health information online, and extent to which they are able to verify the truth of online informationChildren’s use of digital technology during COVID-19Online surveys across eleven European countries will help understand: what digital engagement looks like during COVID-19; how it has changed; and what support children need to take advantage of the internet during lockdowns. 
Children in high income countries
Research Project Research Project

Children in high income countries

UNICEF has a universal mandate for children in every country. For the past 20 years, the Office for Research has contributed to this mandate through its Innocenti Report Card series. The Report Cards focus on the well-being of children in high-income countries. They have been at the forefront of informing and influencing debates about children’s well-being in these countries. In recent years, the office has also developed other research on children in high-income countries. This has included reports on:Family-friendly policies which ranks countries on their policies on parental leave and childcare services,The financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families which highlights the risks of the pandemic for child well-being and makes a series of recommendations about how to reduce these risks.During 2021, we will be publishing reports on:The accessibility, affordability, and quality of childcareChildren’s participation rightsResearch to inform the European Union Child GuaranteeChildren’s experiences and views of COVID-19 in Italy.
Children and migration: rights, advocacy and resilience
Research Project Research Project

Children and migration: rights, advocacy and resilience

Children cross borders – within and between countries – in varying circumstances and for different reasons, both voluntary and involuntary. Economic, socio-political and environmental factors can influence children and their parents’ decision to migrate. Poverty has also been a key driver of child migration, particularly from rural to urban locations, but it’s becoming clearer that the poorest cannot so easily migrate to another country. Children are also trafficked to provide labour or are forced to move because of political violence or environmental disasters.Although domestic migration of children occurs frequently, it is often incorrectly perceived as an everyday phenomenon. International migration of children is now more visible, and because of conflict-induced migration, it is understood as distinct and traumatic. Mobility pathways deeply impact on a child’s development and we need to gain better understanding of their  migration patterns.While vast amounts of data now exist chronicling the lives of migrants, we have less understanding of the movement of young people. Child-sensitive research in this area is essential and can explain intricate dynamics not captured by more general research. Historically, receiving, transit and origin societies have been more tolerant of the migration of children and youth. Some have an exploitative interest in child migrants and others recognize that the international community must commit to protecting child migrants.Our new programme builds on Innocenti’s existing expertise and UNICEF’s work on the ground with children in the areas of protection, justice, violence prevention and well-being.

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