Poverty has been defined and measured in many different ways. For the purpose of our studies child poverty is understood both as income poverty, when a child lives in a household with consumption expenditure below a minimum level, and also as different kinds of deprivation measured in non-monetary terms, such as not attending school, poor nutrition status, no access to immunization, or living in overcrowded housing.
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UNICEF uses the term ‘child protection’ to refer to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children, including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage. Violations of the child’s right to protection take place in every country and are massive, under-recognized and under-reported barriers to child survival and development, in addition to being human rights violations. Children subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect are at risk of death, poor physical and mental health, HIV/AIDS infection, educational problems, displacement, homelessness, vagrancy and poor parenting skills later in life. UNICEF IRC contributes with its studies to analyze the situation and to influence policy makers, institutions and other duty bearers to take appropriate actions for a significant change in the lives of the children of the world.
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The general principles and articles of the Convention insist on primary education for all, characterized by non-discrimination and the pursuit of the best interests of the child. Based on almost universal ratification of the Convention and the resulting consensus that every child, regardless of resources and circumstances, has the right to a basic education of high quality, UNICEF is now working to ensure that the education programmes it supports are developed from a rights perspective.
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Child Work and Labour
Child labour and the worst forms of child labour, as defined by International Labour Organization (ILO ) Conventions, damage children’s health, threaten their education and lead to further exploitation and abuse. UNICEF does not oppose work that children may perform at home, on the family farm or for a family business, as long as that work is not a danger to their health and well-being, and if it doesn’t prevent them from going to school and enjoying childhood activities.
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Child participation involves encouraging and enabling children to make their views known on the issues that affect them. Put into practice, participation is adults listening to children — to all their multiple and varied ways of communicating. It ensures their freedom to express themselves and takes their views into account when coming to decisions that affect them. Engaging children in dialogue and exchange allows them to learn constructive ways of influencing the world around them.
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Conflict and Displacement
UNICEF's Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies provide the framework for action in protecting children during emergencies and transition. Such action includes commitments to assess, monitor and report on severe or systematic abuse, violence and exploitation; to assist in the prevention of separation and identification and reunification and care of separated and other vulnerable children; to prevent the recruitment and use of children, negotiate release of those recruited and facilitate their reintegration; to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation of children and women, and provide post rape care; and to support the establishment of safe environments for children and integrate psychosocial support in responses.
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Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) outlines the fundamental rights of children, including the right to be protected from economic exploitation and harmful work, from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and from physical or mental violence, as well as ensuring that children will not be separated from their family against their will. These rights are further refined by two Optional Protocols, one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the other on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
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Countries in Transition
The countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States have experienced momentous change since 1989 - change that has had a direct impact on the lives of ordinary people and their children. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of communism catapulted these countries into a new era of political, economic and social reform. Concerned that children may be overlooked in the upheaval, UNICEF created a monitoring project at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in 1992 to gather and analyse relevant data on the changes that were taking place in social conditions and in the public policies affecting them. The project, now known as the MONEE Project (Monitoring in Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics), uses the most authoritative data available to highlight the human impact of the transition, advocating for measures to protect children from economic and social fallout and ensure that they share in the benefits of economic growth. While the project has a special focus on children, is also aims to documents changes in living standards among all groups.
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The early years of life are crucial. When well nurtured and cared for in their earliest years, children are more likely to survive, to grow in a healthy way, to have less disease and fewer illnesses, and to develop thinking, language, emotional and social skills. UNICEF supports effective and essential actions at each phase of the life cycle of the child, including in pregnancy, early childhood, preschool and school-going years and adolescence. It assists parents, teachers, service providers, policy makers and other duty bearers to provide age-relevant support, care and protection for children in a holistic manner. ECD cuts across each of the MTSP 2006-2009 Focus Areas, giving a focus on developing the full range of a child's needs from the first stages of life.
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Economic development is typically measured in terms of jobs and income, but it also includes improvements in human development, education, health, choice, and environmental sustainability. UNICEF IRC studies are based on the approch to development with a "human face" and help to identify those groups - particularly women and children - who mostly suffer for an unsustainable development of economic wealth of countries or regions for the well-being of their inhabitants.
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UNICEF is fully committed to Millennium Development Goal 3 for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and recognizes that achieving gender equality is not only an important goal in itself, but is essential for the achievement of other goals. As stated in the MTSP 2006-2009, applying a human rights-based approach and promoting gender equality are the "foundation strategies" for UNICEF work.
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Cities can often generate and intensify social exclusion – denying the benefits of urban life to the poor, to women, to children, to the disabled and other marginalized groups. At the same time, the rapid rate of urbanization has often resulted in deteriorating urban services, growing urban poverty and a deteriorated urban environment. Promoting good urban governance can be the key to developing and managing human settlements. In introducing and popularizing the concept of good urban governance, The Urban Governance Initiative (TUGI), a regional project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that began in 1998, has adopted the 11 principles of good urban governance as put forward by the UNDP and the UN–Habitat Global Campaign on Good Urban Governance: participation; rule of law; transparency; responsiveness; consensus orientation; equity; effectiveness and efficiency; accountability; strategic vision; subsidiarity; security.
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Article 24 of the CRC accords to the child the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to health care services for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health, and emphasizes the right of the child to have access to such health care services. The Constitution of the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Health is therefore not regarded as merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This definition was reaffirmed and expanded in the Declaration of Alma-Alta, which was adopted in 1978 at the International Conference on Primary Health Care by UNICEF and the WHO. According to this Declaration, good health should enable individuals to develop to the maximum of their physical and mental potential, and to live economically and socially productive lives in harmony with the environment, and therefore requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector.
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UNICEF IRC works to strengthen the capacity of UNICEF and its cooperating institutions to respond to the evolving needs of children and to develop a new global ethic for children. It promotes the effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in both developing and industrialized countries, thereby reaffirming the universality of children’s rights and of UNICEF’s mandate
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The term ‘children in conflict with the law’ refers to anyone under 18 who comes into contact with the justice system as a result of being suspected or accused of committing an offence. Most children in conflict with the law have committed petty crimes or such minor offences as vagrancy, truancy, begging or alcohol use. Some of these are known as ‘status offences’ and are not considered criminal when committed by adults. In addition, some children who engage in criminal behaviour have been used or coerced by adults. Too often, prejudice related to race, ethnicity or social and economic status may bring a child into conflict with the law even when no crime has been committed, or result in harsh treatment by law enforcement officials.
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The Centre, particularly through research on CEE/CIS has analysed household responses to economic shocks and economic transition, including issues such as changing fertility and marriage responses, institutionalising children, and an initial exploration of how the situation of children affected by migration could be assessed and adverse impact mitigated.
IRC research has shown that a number of countries in SEE have seen one-third of their adult populations migrate out of their country of origin on a permanent or temporary basis . For some East Asian countries many thousands of mothers seek overseas temporary employment to mitigate the household poverty situation at home. Specific data on children remains a challenge, including to assess the impact of migration trends on the enjoyment of their rights.
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In recent years issues affecting indigenous peoples have received growing national and international attention and significant progress has been made towards the promotion of their rights. In this process, encouraging as it is, indigenous children have not always received the distinct consideration theydeserve. In some cases, their particular situation has been obscured by other issues of broader concern to indigenous peoples, including land rights and political representation. Such concerns are, of course, fundamental to indigenous communities, but it is nonetheless crucial that they are considered together with targeted action to safeguard the distinct identity of indigenous children and to promote the realization of their human rights.
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National Development Programmes
The 1990 World Summit for Children brought together 71 Heads of State and Government to discuss ways in which to improve the lives of the worldÕs children. The international ‘Plan of Action’ adopted at the summit recognised the importance of grass roots initiatives at the local level. Individual countries have responded to this call for decentralisation in the development and implementation of their ‘National Programmes of Action’. The Children Here represents a part of the research undertaken by UNICEF into different countries’ experience of this process. The aim of this research is an improved understanding of how decentralisation can help countries achieve the Summit’s 29 goals for child protection and development.
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Rights of the Child
UNICEF’s mission is to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided in doing this by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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With regard to the obligation of states to ensure the progressive realization of rights, and to provide resources for children “to the maximum extent possible” (Article 4 of the CRC), the outcome document of the Quito consultation on the human rights-based approach to programming (HRBAP) indicates that UNICEF’s attention should not be limited to social sector spending (including national budgets, allocations within the social expenditure envelope, etc), but should look at the broader picture (e.g. tax policy and tax burden, budget allocations among sectors, public debt, etc).
The aim is to influence the budgeting and policy-making process so that government budgets and policies realize children’s rights; to influence the social content of economic and fiscal policy; to engender social mobilization, consensus, inclusiveness and participation; and to monitor public expenditure and governance.
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Our planet is increasingly urban. Most of that growth is taking place in developing countries and most of it is associated with poverty. About half of the world's poor already live in urban areas and the number of people living in informal urban settlements is expected to double in the next 25 years. By the year 2025, some 60 per cent of children in the developing world will live in cities and half will be poor. At the same time, a worldwide trend of government decentralization is underway, i.e., local governments are assuming more responsibility for providing social services, a function once performed by state governments. The convergence of these two trends means that cities need to equip themselves to serve a growing number of children, families, communities, and to help them find solutions to poverty.
The Child Friendly Cities approach is a means to both ends. It provides a strategy to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the local level of governance.
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