Saturday, October 3, 2009

Opening and presentation of UNICEF/ODI report

Opening and Presentation of ODI/UNICEF Report
Richard Morgan, UNICEF; Diane Elson, Essex University (TBC); Caroline Harper, ODI; Isabel Ortiz, UNICEF.

Abstract: This paper is motivated by a concern about the effects of the 2008/9 financial crisis on children and their care-givers, who are often particularly vulnerable when crises strike. As yet it is too early to appreciate these impacts in full hence we focus here on shocks or crisis episodes in the recent past in four geographical regions alongside an assessment of contemporary crisis impacts from available sources. We explore the transmission mechanisms of shocks from the broader macro economy, through meso-level channels (such as unemployment, reduced public services and credit) to impacts at the household level and specifically on children’s rights. Whilst none of our regional cases are directly comparable with the current crisis we find we can still learn a substantial amount from previous crises, the impacts of which were often as significant in the countries affected as those anticipated to result from today’s crisis, both immediately and in the longer term.

Using a general conceptual framework, nuanced to examine the effects of different types of crises, we uncover significant effects at the meso level, including large increases in unemployment characterised by important gender and age dimensions, public service cuts - themselves varying in effect according to strategic policy choices concerning social sector composition and pre-existing social and economic conditions - and reduced access to credit and declining social capital. Children’s rights are compromised as effects are mediated through households coping with reduced consumption capacity, changed gender relations related to a shifting locus of financial responsibility, increased stress levels and resulting increases in domestic tension and violence and reduced mental health, as well as reduced time and capacity for protection, nurture and care. These effects, compounded by governments’ reduced fiscal capacity can have moderate to severe impacts on children, but policy responses can mitigate these effects, in particular strategic uses of aid, social protection sensitive to age and gender, policy choices which protect investments in basic and social services and a new sharper policy focus on issues of nurture, care and protection.

Richard Morgan is the Director of Policy and Practice at UNICEF. He has published widely on on household food security, social welfare policy, rural development and African development issues, as well as on development strategies, human rights approaches to development, public spending reform, gender and development.

Diane Elson is a Professor at Essex University. Her current research and teaching interests are in global social change and the realisation of human rights with a particular focus on gender inequality and economic and social policy. From 1998 to 2000, she was Special Advisor to the Executive Director at UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, where she completed a global report, Progress of the World's Women, 2000. She was a member of the UN Millennium

Project Task Force on Education and Gender Equality. Professor Elson has provided consultancy services to many development agencies including DFID, the Swedish International Development Agency, and the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She has also acted as an advisor to Oxfam and other NGOs. She has published widely on gender, development and human rights.

Caroline Harper
has a PhD in Social Anthropology and is currently associate director of the Chronic Poverty Research Centre and a Research Fellow at ODI. Previously she was director of the Childhood Poverty Policy and Research Centre (CHIP), a collaborative venture between Manchester University and Save the Children and Co-Director of Young Lives, a longitudinal study of childhood poverty. She worked for Save the Children in several roles in the UK and overseas (predominantly in S.E. Asia) focusing on issues of poverty, economic adjustment, participation, research, evaluation and policy processes, and worked for 4 years for the UN in China on anti-poverty programmes.

Isabel Ortiz is Associate Director at UNICEF. She has over 17 years experience working in more than 30 countries in various areas of economic and social development. She was educated in Spain and the UK, where she attained a Master and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. Isabel Ortiz started as a lecturer and a researcher, but soon moved to development work. She has contributed not only to international agencies such as the EC and DFID, but also to civil society organizations, such as Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz's Initiative for Policy Dialogue. In recent years she worked at the Asian Development Bank (1995-2003) and at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations (2005-2009).

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