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UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
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Humanitarian research

Humanitarian research

Building knowledge and evidence on how best to meet children’s needs in emergencies is a pressing challenge. Year-on-year more children are caught up in conflict and displacement. They face recurrent threats of famine and are the most exposed to climate change and environmental degradation. The crises and fragile contexts children face are also more and more protracted and entrenched. Since 2010, UNICEF responds to an average 300 humanitarian situations in nearly 90 countries each year.

The consequences of childhood exposure to shocks and long-running uncertainty remain poorly understood. Acknowledging this gap, Innocenti will be looking into the critical questions that today’s crises pose for children - and how best to respond in ways that strike the right balance between humanitarian and development action.

One component will be exploring key lessons and ‘case studies’ from on-the-ground experience in tackling these challenges – to better institutionalize and analyse this knowledge from experience, and identify critical questions for further research. Innocenti will also expand its well-established work on rigorous impact evaluations of social protection mechanisms in order to better understand cash in emergencies and fragile contexts.  

Innocenti will draw on past experience working on children and armed conflict, and explore linkages with ongoing work that transcends usual humanitarian/development divides, and that require research and responses that combine different lenses and approaches – including child migration, ethical research and children, long-term impacts of food shocks (particularly on adolescents), drivers of violence, and the complex interactions between poverty, demography and climate for children.

Publications

Impact Evaluation in Settings of Fragility and Humanitarian Emergency
Publication Publication

Impact Evaluation in Settings of Fragility and Humanitarian Emergency

Despite the challenges involved in fragile and humanitarian settings, effective interventions demand rigorous impact evaluation and research. Such work in these settings is increasing, both in quality and quantity, and being used for programme implementation and decision-making. This paper seeks to contribute to and catalyse efforts to implement rigorous impact evaluations and other rigorous empirical research in fragile and humanitarian settings. It describes what sets apart this type of research; identifies common challenges, opportunities, best practices, innovations and priorities; and shares some lessons that can improve practice, research implementation and uptake. Finally, it provides some reflections and recommendations on areas of agreement (and disagreement) between researchers and their commissioners and funding counterparts.
2018 Results Report
Publication Publication

2018 Results Report

In 2018, significant gains were made in generating evidence to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children, build organizational capacity to conduct and use quality, ethical research on children, and set a foundation as an important convening centre for expert consultation on next-generation ideas on children. 2018 marks the first year the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti is reporting on the progress of research under the new UNICEF Strategic Plan (2018-2021). This plan is the first to clearly delineate the role of research and evidence as one of the eight priority change strategies for children. This report therefore is an account of the first year of work to generate critical evidence to inform programmes, policies and advocacy for children and young people around the world
Social Protection and Childhood Violence: Expert Roundtable
Publication Publication

Social Protection and Childhood Violence: Expert Roundtable

This Brief summarizes the proceedings of the Know Violence Roundtable examining the evidence on the role of social protection in reducing childhood violence hosted by UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, 12-13 May, 2016.

Journal Articles

‘Children Heard, Half-Heard?’: A Practitioner’s Look for Children in the Responsibility to Protect and Normative Agendas on Protection in Armed Conflict
Journal Article Journal Article

‘Children Heard, Half-Heard?’: A Practitioner’s Look for Children in the Responsibility to Protect and Normative Agendas on Protection in Armed Conflict

When the United Nations (UN) agreed on a definition of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) at the 2005 World Summit, the two paragraphs it endorsed articulated what R2P stands for, giving the concept a focused but narrow remit around protecting populations specifically from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in armed conflict. In its next paragraph, the UN Membership reiterated concerns on the impact of armed conflict on children echoing the landmark 1612 Resolution by the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) adopted a few weeks before. Though side-by-side in the text, CAAC and R2P were not linked. To this day, for international practitioners in emergency responses, the interaction between both remains unclear. While this simultaneous peak moment for R2P and CAAC may have occurred by chance, this article describes how both concepts (as advocacy tools and instruments for practitioners to ‘respond’) emerged out of similar concern for protecting civilians – including children – in conflict. However, the link between both concepts should not be overstated. While R2P and CAAC fit together for the intentions they share, this happened more coincidentally than purposefully. This article argues, taking an international practitioner’s perspective, that both concepts should not be understood as always operating at the same level. CAAC has grown from an advocacy platform to an umbrella of different programmes, responses, tools and frameworks, including the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on Children and Armed Conflict. Even if applied with variable success, these tools and approaches under the CAAC agenda chart some ways practitioners can hope to do more towards protecting children in conflict. But for those same practitioners, delivering on a Responsibility to Protect is a different question – one where their ‘responsibility’ is at best secondary and implicit, because R2P sits squarely as a primary and explicit responsibility of states – who are also the ultimate duty bearers for children’s rights. While the echoes of a child rights agenda can be heard in the conversation around R2P, and while R2P can help frame and drive efforts by child protection practitioners to respond to some of the worst situations children face, R2P is, for the protection agency field officer, an aspirational goal, necessarily out of reach.

News & Commentary

How we work
Article Article

How we work

 Research is fundamental to UNICEF’s mission. The struggle to safeguard the rights of all children in all circumstances can only succeed when supported by the most reliable evidence and the latest knowledge.RESEARCH FOR CHILDRENThe Office of Research – Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. Its core mandate is to undertake cutting-edge, policy-relevant research that equips the organization and the wider global community to deliver results for children. To achieve its mandate UNICEF Innocenti must work closely with all parts of its parent organization as well as a wide array of external academic and research institutions. Innocenti’s research seeks to inform policy, guide action and also to challenge assumptions. The credibility and relevance of findings rest as much on the quality of inquiry as on independence. Innocenti’s position, firmly rooted in the global UNICEF network and fully engaged as an independent research body with leading universities and institutes in all regions of the world promotes a dynamic, real-time discourse on the generation of knowledge about children.As the research centre for UNICEF, Innocenti is uniquely positioned to understand and respond to research questions on the ground, and to feed research into policy and practice – through its programmes of cooperation with more 150 low and middle income countries, its links to UNICEF National Committees in 33 high income countries, and as an arm of the world’s leading normative agency that shapes global policies and outcomes for children. RESEARCH GOVERNANCE IN UNICEFUNICEF Innocenti also supports and facilitates research conducted by other parts of its parent organization. It is responsible for developing appropriate guidelines, establishing standards of research ethics and quality, facilitating the wider organization’s research agenda, providing technical assistance and promoting best practice. WHY FLORENCE? OUR HISTORYUNICEF enjoys the unique privilege of locating its global research function at the nearly 600-year-old Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, Italy. Established as a foundling shelter in 1419 by the influential Silk-workers Guild, Innocenti can be viewed as one of the earliest efforts by secular authorities to elevate the concerns of vulnerable children to the level of civic priority. UNICEF’s presence at Innocenti was inaugurated in 1988 by then Executive Director James Grant, with a broad mandate to contribute to an “emerging global ethic for children.” Research quickly became a defining mission with provision of crucial early research support for an expanding mandate in child rights, urban programmes, social policy and protection of children, among others. OUR PROGRAMMEToday UNICEF Innocenti maintains a small team of about 40 researchers, evaluators, knowledge management specialists, communicators, operations and support staff at its centre in Florence. UNICEF Innocenti develops its research agenda in consultation with other parts of UNICEF and with external stakeholders.The agenda is selected to support intensified research efforts coordinated across the wider organization where there is demand for a concerted effort to build evidence, usually in a rapidly expanding intervention area. Priorities are also driven by critical issues facing children which have been either overlooked or which do not fit neatly into discreet sectors. Current research projects:Child poverty, equity and well-being: multi-dimensional deprivation analysis, and the flagship Innocenti Report Card on child well-being in rich countriesSocial protection: the impact of cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan AfricaChild protection: work on the drivers of violence against children, and family and parenting support Children and the internet: investigating child rights in the digital ageAdolescent well-being: analysis of the structural and social determinants of adolescent well-being across sectors and throughout the life-course Education: school settings, learning pathways and life skills Emerging areas of focus include: migration, gender, and the intersection of humanitarian and development work. We also host a global network of longitudinal studies (GLORI). CONVENING AND ENGAGING Using the Florence location and the convening power of UNICEF, the office hosts a range of high level events, expert working groups, senior research fellows, workshops and seminars. Events bring together UNICEF staff, academics, policy makers and practitioners. UNICEF Innocenti works through partnerships with academic and policy research institutions as well as think-tanks and NGOs. Strategic communications and research engagement activities ensure that Innocenti research is widely disseminated and translates into practical impacts and policy influence.