Saturday, October 3, 2009

Panel 5: Snapshots of responses in progress

Panel 5: Snapshots of responses in progress
Chair and opening presentation: Bella Bird, DFID, UK

Bella Bird joined DFID in 1996 as an adviser on poverty and social issues in DFID East Africa. She worked in DFID’s Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania programmes across a range of sectoral projects and policy agendas. Since then she spent several years leading DFID’s programme in Vietnam, and following that was head of DFID’s programme in Nepal. In her current role as Head of the Governance and Social Department she provides leadership to DFID’s policy work on governance issues, with a particular focus on fragile states. She leads policy work on social protection and the poverty impact of the global economic downturn, as well as gender equality, migration, equity and human rights.

Child-sensitive social protection at times of crisis: Addressing the social impacts of the global economic crisis in CEE/CIS. Gordon Alexander and Petra Hoelscher, UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS.

Abstract: The CEE/CIS region is an epicentre of the financial crisis, putting an end to a decade of rapid economic growth and reversing significant achievements of poverty reduction. The crisis is affecting higher and middle income countries- especially those most integrated into the global economy- more than the poorest. Volatile commodity prices, fragile banking systems and downside risks of further economic contraction in major regional economies such as Russia make the prospect of recovery likely to be lengthy and slow. Many countries have turned to the IMF along with the EU for assistance. Conditionalities attached to these loans, though in principle seeking to protect social expenditures, have led to across-the-board cuts in public expenditure. And while being tied to public administration reform they are leading to sharp reductions in social sector staffing in schools and health services, and considering paring back of social entitlements (including maternity and child benefits). Poorer countries are affected by reduced demand for their exports but also by a fall in remittances and the prospect of migrants returning to labour markets that are unable to provide jobs or absorb their skills.

Wage arrears, rising unemployment and return migration threaten the livelihoods of families and are leading to rising poverty. Many countries in the region are trying to maintain spending on employment and social assistance measures and some have temporarily adjusted social protection measures in response to the crisis (e.g. increases in benefit levels, extension of unemployment benefits). However, these do little to mitigate income losses and make a substantial difference in the lives of both the ‘old’ and new poor. In the meantime budgetary pressure on governments is rising so that further cuts in public expenditure, including social spending, may become inevitable.

On-going social protection reforms now have to be continued in a situation of often severe budget constraints, which could either lead to acceleration or slow-down of the reform process. Cash transfer systems are under renewed scrutiny as so far in many countries of the region they have been ineffective in reducing poverty while at the same time not being flexible enough to respond to rising poverty. Currently cash transfers tend to be too low, too narrowly targeted, too little coordinated and require too much administrative capacity. Countries across the CEE/CIS have not managed to effectively reform social protection systems during times of economic growth; the challenges are now even greater to become ready for the economic recovery and to put systems in place that will be effective in reducing child poverty and strengthening social cohesion.

The UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS in collaboration with the University of York is currently mapping and assessing social protection systems across the region as well as government responses to mitigate the social impacts of the economic crisis. The paper will present the state of social protection in CEE/CIS and their effectiveness in reducing child poverty. It will discuss strategies to make cash transfers more sensitive to the needs of poor children and their families and more effective in reducing child poverty.

Gordon Alexander is currently Senior Policy Advisor in UNICEF’s Regional Office for the CEE/CIS and is responsible for UNICEF’s work on economic and social policy in the region. Prior to this assignment, he worked as head of UNAIDS in India (1998-2000), and before that as UNICEF’s Deputy Director for Programmes in India (1993-1998). In the mid1980s, Mr Alexander served as UNICEF Representative in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), following assignments in Vietnam and Afghanistan. He began his career with UNICEF in India as a UN Volunteer in 1973.

Petra Hoelscher is Social Policy Specialist in the UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS. Before joining UNICEF in 2006 she was working as a Research Fellow at the University of Stirling (2004-2006) and the University of Dortmund in Germany (1997-2003). Main areas of work include child poverty (conceptualisation and measurement of child poverty, child poverty reduction), reform of social protection systems, monitoring of child well-being and the situation of particularly vulnerable groups of the population such as Roma children.

Adolescents, crisis and risk: Are CCTs adequate policy answers? Valeria Llobet, New School University, USA.

Abstract: The current crisis is expected to affect children and adolescents directly, through less quantity and quality of food, resources available to their families, and opportunities for independence and autonomy. It may affect indirectly through impacting funding of basic social services, reduction of job opportunities for their parents, increasing the stress of raising children in a crisis context. Many adolescents are out of the educational system and confronting serious difficulties to enter to the labour market. The economic crisis adds an additional serious factor to the adversity that poverty in general implies for them.

Nevertheless, the experience of those risk factors may vary showing specific articulations from a meso-social point of view. Adolescents, boys and girls, are in a transitional moment of their life cycle. Many of them, especially among the poor sectors, are entering on their productive and/ or reproductive life. Life-cycle transitions draw upon ideas of adulthood as a point of arrival, but there is the need of consider also the inherent importance of adolescence as a moment and a complex set of experiences that, for instance, start full sexual life and autonomous social groups inclusion. Both processes can trace future life trajectories, closing some opportunities and determining some paths.

Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is one of the policy strategies that have been adopted in most of the countries in Latin America to reduce poverty. Are CCTs useful tools for promoting rights and citizenship among adolescents? Can CCTs help adolescents to overcome the difficult situations that they are facing in Latin America? This is the main question that poses this paper. The discussion will be based on the comparative analysis of characteristics of three CCTs target to adolescents: “Proyecto Adolescente” in Argentinean province of Buenos Aires, “ProJovem” in Brazil, and “Opportunity NYC” in New York City, USA. The analysis will include ethnographic research conducted with adolescent clients of Proyecto Adolescente and assistants to Centros de Actividades Juveniles (CAJ). This analysis will help to expand the knowledge on how they understand citizenship and inclusion in everyday life.

Valeria Llobet is a researcher at the National Council of Scientific Research (CONICET) and professor at the National University of San Martín and the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (FLACSO), in Argentina. She recently completed a short-term research residency at the New School in New York City, focusing on Conditional Cash Transfers for adolescents: Perspectives on Human Rights. Her most recent publications include Social Policies for adolescents and processes of expanding citizenship, in Granda, Jorge (Editor) Pobreza, Exclusión y Derechos Humanos, FLACSO Ecuador, 2008, and Human Rights perspectives and social policies for children and adolescents in Argentina, in Políticas Sociales Latinoamericanas. Perspectivas comparadas, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México y Editorial Porrúa (in Press). She also has participated as a field coordinator for the Argentine National Evaluation of Programa Familias.

The impact of the financial and economic crisis on the family and child in the Republic of Moldova and suggested responses. Sergiu Buruiana, UNICEF Moldova.

Abstract: UNICEF Moldova report will contain specific policy recommendations to Moldovan central and local authorities for actions to be taken in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis, particularly on the most vulnerable population and strengthening the social safety nets during and after the crisis.

The policy recommendations will be based on the data from the Household Budget Survey (HBS), before and after the start of the crisis and the social inclusion model, curried out in I quarter of 2009. The paper will also focus on the situation of the families with children, where one or both parents work abroad, the families where the parents returned back and how the economic situation affected these numerous categories of Moldovan population.

The coping mechanism of the families during the crisis will also be analyzed. The preliminary findings from the HBS revealed that the structure of overall consumption expenses of families with children indicates the reduction of the expenses for food, clothing, footwear, equipment, entertainment. On the other hand, the families with 3 or more children spent more then 50% of total consumption expenses for food. In rural areas, there is a transfer of the houses from the most reach quintile to poorer ones. The causes of this trend will be analyzed with specific focus on how “new poor” cope with poverty. The data from the HBS will be complemented with the surveys from the monitoring system of the crisis at the community level, planned to be launched in August 2009. This will provide further data on impact, and allow for a deeper understanding of coping mechanisms.

This data will form the ground for the recommendations on possible government responses. The government instituted a 20% cut in the state budget from April 2009 in response to declining revenues, thus making even more crucial steps to address the issue of efficiency and effectiveness of public resources, particularly in social sector. The paper will analyze the necessity to roll out the newly-introduced means-tested social aid program. It will document the benefits for both the state budget and for the most deprived families of consolidation, elimination or merger the existing social assistance programmes into the new targeted scheme. Other possible responses will also be explored to strengthen access to appropriate social services, both at national and local level, to respond to the needs of children and families in the face of the economic crisis.

The impact of the child related social protection programmes (i.e. monthly care allowances, nominal compensations from families with many children or with children with disabilities etc) in the context of the crisis will be shown in the light of the governmental activities to protect the poor during the crisis and optimise the state allocations.

Sergiu Buruiana is Chief of Social Policy Unit, UNICEF Moldova. Prior to his current position, he was a National Programme Officer in charge of social sector, cooperation with NGOs at Swiss Cooperation Office (SDC) in Moldova. From 1994 to 2003, he was deputy head of external cooperation division, Ministry of Economy of Moldova. Previously, he worked as First Secretary in the Asia, Africa and Latin America division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Moldova. He has also been an interpreter at the Consulate of URSS, Russia in Pointe Noire, Congo.

The impact of the global food, fuel and financial crises and policy responses: A child-sensitive approach. Suwanee Khamman, National Economic and Social Development Board, Thailand.

Abstract: The global economic crisis is having a significant impact on Thailand. The Thai economy is heavily dependent on external trade and tourism both of which have fallen dramatically (exports by 23.5% in the first half of 2009, and arrivals by 22%). Firms are reacting by reducing working hours, cutting pay and laying-off workers. The country’s notable progress in reducing income poverty has been disrupted. This severe blow to Thailand from the global economic downturn echoes the shock to the national economy created by the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

In the aftermath of the 1997 crisis, Thailand began a number of long-term policy reforms aimed at expanding social security by establishing unemployment benefit, protecting mother and child health, building human capital and mitigating the risk of families falling into poverty. Among the key reforms were the setting up of a low-cost health insurance programme (the “30 baht” scheme) and increasing the period of free compulsory education. At that time, Thailand was hailed as a regional model in showing how a lower-middle country could begin to build a social protection system even in the face of severe economic challenge.

Thailand’s response to the current crisis draws on experience from 1997. Two phases of a government stimulus package aim to protect poor and vulnerable groups, enhance food and energy security, improve infrastructure in the education and public health care systems, as well as create jobs and generate incomes through public investment initiatives.

The paper for the ODI-UNICEF conference will examine how the policy responses to the 1997 and current economic crises are laying foundations for a social protection system in Thailand that is child-sensitive. It will show how free basic health care and education systems strengthen the resilience of families and their capacity to protect children from the impact of the global crisis. The paper will highlight some of the threats the global economic crisis presents to the protection systems already in place. It will also identify gaps that remain towards a comprehensive child-friendly social security system. Finally, the paper will suggest that Thailand can once again be in the forefront of social development by exploring innovative child-focussed social protection interventions.

Suwanee Khamman is Deputy Secretary General at the National Economic and Social Development Board in Bangkok. She serves as an advisor in policy and planning initiatives, drafting government policy and coordinating the MDG report. She has contributed to a number of papers, including The Assessment of Basic Social Service Financing in Thailand: 20/20 Initiative (1998), Social Sector Reform for Protecting the Poor (1999), The Youth Unemployment in Thailand (2000), A Study on the Socio-Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS on Children and Youth Policy Response (2001), A Study in Child Well-Being and Equity in Thailand (2008).

1 comment:

  1. I living in Argentina, couse I rented short term offices in Buenos Aires. Im very interested in this subjet. I wanna participate of this, helping, or doing anything you want!! How can I contact you from Buenos Aires??