Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Measuring progress on child well-being in Africa: tracking government commitment

Children make up a significant proportion of Africa’s population, constituting approximately 48% of the overall population. As the future of the region, the assurance of their well-being is vital to the continent’s sustainable development and to the achievement of poverty alleviation, peaceful societies and economic growth. Increasingly governments in the region are acknowledging the importance of child well-being and some instruments are used across the continent to measure progress in this area.

The indicators of the MDGs have been applied throughout the continent, enabling the tracking of progress in some fundamental areas of child well-being. Their ongoing application has revealed positive advancements in some areas over the last decade. In Angola, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Niger and South Africa immunisation coverage increased from 40 to 75% between 2005-2008. Under five mortality rates reduced by one third between 1990-2009, especially in countries recovering from conflict and infant mortality rates reduced by between 40-70 points in Botswana, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Swaziland and Liberia.

Nevertheless, progress made is not enough to ensure the continent meets the MDG targets by 2015, and there is some discrepancy in overall outcomes. For example, whilst increasing primary school enrolment rates have not been matched by a proportionate rise in school completion rates and whilst gender parity has improved at secondary and tertiary education levels, in some countries the trend is now adversely biased towards boys.

In the context of a post 2015 agenda, it has been stated that the consolidation of progress made and the assurance of its sustainability is a priority and one that requires commitment from governments. The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is a leading organisation in this area and has produced two key indexes, the ‘Child Friendliness Index’ and the’ Performance Index for Budgeting for Children’ which measure and compare governments’ commitment to the advancement of child rights and well-being throughout the continent.

The Child Friendliness Index is a composite index which quantitatively scores and ranks the performance of governments in regard to the realisation of child rights and child well-being. Emanating from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the term child-friendliness is based on three central pillars of child rights and child well-being: protection, provision and participation, and summarises governments’ obligations to ‘respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights’.

These three pillars are translated into three areas of government responsibility and action: the legal and policy frameworks implemented, government budgetary commitments and the efforts made to assure the participation of children in the making of decisions that affect their well-being. Due to the complexity of these three pillars, the measurement of child-friendliness takes a multidimensional approach.

The Performance Index for Budgeting for Children is also composite index which uses national budgets as an indication of true government commitment to the improvement of child rights and well-being and analyses spending on health, education, early childhood development and social protection in 52 African countries up until 2008.

Results have been published in the 2008 and 2011 reports titled The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2008: How child-friendly are African governments? and, The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2011: Budgeting for Children.

The African Child Policy Forum (2011), The African Report on Child Well-Being – Budgeting for Children, Available at: http://www.africanchildforum.org/africanreport/attachements/article/47/AfricanReport2011_english.pdf

The African Child Policy Forum (2008), The African Report on Child Well-Being – How Friendly are African Governments?, Available at: http://www.africanchildforum.org/site/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=96&limit=10&limitstart=10

Hannah Chadwick
Wikichild Consultant

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