213




Indicators     for children's      rights:   progress       report   on a project1


JUDITH ENNEW* and PER MILJETE...
214

Children International and Childwatch International,2 as well as two consul-
tant researchers. The aim was to address...
215

The Committee can bring a great deal of pressure to bear on governments to
comply with international norms in the chi...
216

      of norms of childhood which are integral             to the history     and culture    of
      Europe and Nort...
217

quent meetings of this informal group of agencies through being a practical,
demonstration     project at country lev...
218

      component offering the Committee        the possibility   to assess the progress
      achieved by States parti...
219

    To deal with issues of equity, disparity and discrimination,   and to deal with
    protection  and participatory...
220

   Within the related spheres of children's rights and child welfare, the search
for indicators that can be used for ...
221

-
  showing something, pointing in a particular direction.22 Indicators are sim-
ply tools to aid understanding    an...
222

violated or not met. It is vital to know which children are most likely to die
before their fifth birthday, leave sch...
223

   Of course, this project cannot possibly hope to come up with the final
solutions to the indicators problem, but ra...
224

the Children Alliance, to ensure maximum dissemination       of the experience
gained in the project and the fullest ...
225

update on a number of variables related to child welfare relative to the work
of UNICEF. These have been developed in...
226

information that could support its implementation.         Clearly, much research
has already been conducted or is be...
233

Preliminary   conclusions    from country    case study experiences

The experiences of the country case studies carr...
234

         to systematise ways of further mobilisation     of existing groups and
         developing appropriate mater...
235



          possibility of universal aspects of bio-psychological      child develop-
          ment is being planned...
236

requirement    for appropriate and reliable indicators. Governments      reporting
to the Committee, whether in the S...
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Indicators For Children's Rights

  1. 1. 213 Indicators for children's rights: progress report on a project1 JUDITH ENNEW* and PER MILJETEIG** * Centre * for Family Research, University of Cambridge; * Childwatch International, Norway ' Introduction In order to ensure effective implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, tools to measure or assess the status of children's rights in countries that are States Parties are needed, so that children can really benefit from the protection given by this Convention. Just as the ratification of an international Convention does not guarantee its implementation, the fact that national laws and policies have been adapted is not sufficient proof that the rights enshrined in a Convention are enjoyed by the people of that country. Some practical indicators to monitor the actual implementation are required, based on reliable statistical or other relevant information. Such indicators must be easy to collect and easy to understand in order to serve their full purpose. Indicators for children's rights would have a wide range of users, including community workers, children's advocates, government administrators, international organizations and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In April 1993, the Swedish and United Kingdom Save the Children orga- nizations (Radda Bamen and SCF UK) gathered a group of experts to brain- storm informally with a representative of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The meeting took place in the London headquarters of Save the Children UK and was attended by representatives of, UNICEF, Defence for ' Many individuals and organisations have contributed and are contributing to the develop- ment of the Childwatch International Indicators for Children's Rights Project described in this article. However, the authors would like to acknowledge a particular debt to Stewart Asquith, Ferran Casas and Angelo Saporiti in the development of many of the ideas underlying the project and Fatou Fall Dia, Nafy Diagne, Abdoul Karim Gueye and Sidy Gueye from the Senegal Country Case Study Team for their contribution to the conceptual structure of the process.
  2. 2. 214 Children International and Childwatch International,2 as well as two consul- tant researchers. The aim was to address various issues concerning indicators that might be used to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In addition, the Save the Children Alliance, like most non govemmen- tal organisations (NGOs) working in developing countries, needs to develop tools to assess its own work for children and is using the Convention as a framework for this task. For the meeting, three independent consultants had prepared reviews of current work in child indicator development, which also studied the first reports from States Parties to the Committee (Sudan, Sweden and Vietnam) and assessed the Committee's consideration of and conclusions on these reports.3 The meeting discussed the status of childhood social indicators in general, as well as indicators for children's rights, together with the question of how to express implementation of the provisions of the Convention in quantifiable terms. It was realised that debates regarding the monitoring of the Convention have arisen because the Convention established rights and conditions that are very difficult to measure, whether in terms of achievement or violation. In general, statistics directly related to childhood are either nonexistent or of limited utility in this context. Moreover, information about children is not centralised but scattered around various agencies, gathered for different reasons according to the logic of the agency rather than the needs of children or the structures of child development. Much information about children is descriptive and subjective, rather than quantitative. Although techniques are available for transforming qualitative, or "soft", data into "hard" statistics, these are not often employed. Problems such as these might lend support to the argument that it is almost impossible to monitor an international human rights instrument such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a truly objective or scientific manner. Thus it is sometimes suggested that the role of the Committee on the Rights of the Child lies in advocacy and lobbying States Parties and not in monitoring. 2Childwatch International was established in 1993to serve as a global network of institutions and individuals involved in child research. It receives its core funding from the Government of Norway and is hosted by the University of Oslo but works through an international group of key institutes to initiate and coordinate research and information projects on children's living conditions and the implementation of children's rights with a particular focus on the need to support capacity enhancement and maintenance in developing countries. Address: PO Box 1132, Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway; Fax: +47-22855028; E-mail childwatch@uio.no. This article refers to the Childwatch International project "Indicators for Children's Rights", which is located at the Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge (UK). 3 Boyden, J., Ennew, J., and Pehrsson, K. (1993), Three Reports on the Development of Indicators for Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Stockholm, Radda Barnen.
  3. 3. 215 The Committee can bring a great deal of pressure to bear on governments to comply with international norms in the children's rights field and to introduce measures for children. A further problem is the lack of precision, and cultural bias evident even with respect to what are seen by commentators from Northern,4 industrial countries as the most fundamental, general principles in the Convention, such as the "best interests of the child".5 It may seem obvious to note that the best interests of the child are embodied in the achievement of all the rights outlined in the Convention. Yet, when it comes to situations where the conditions for enjoying these rights do not prevail, it is clear that there is no consensus on the criteria for achieving children's best interests. Moreover, in many Southern countries the phrase "best interests of the child" is understood to mean something akin to the principle "children first". In the Northern context, "the child" is, in the words of a recent UK enquiry into child abuse, "an object of concern",6 that is protected by legal instruments but also needs protection by, as well as protection from, the legal instruments and agencies that delineate its relationships with the state and its family. In the South, in the context of scarce resources and larger child populations, children (rather than the singular category of "the child") are seen as having a moral, rather than legal, right to be the first to be provided with basic needs such as food, shelter and medical care. The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains many such linguistic and cultural traps and, for this reason, is sometimes viewed at best as being inapplicable outside Northern countries or at worst as an instrument of cultural imperialism. Thus, in an article on childhood and international policies, Jo Boyden claims that under colonial rule and the more recent influence of the United Nations and international legislation on children's rights, the images of childhood favoured in the industrial North have been exported to the South. The view that childhood is a fixed notion "defined by biological and psychological facts" rather than culture or society is explicit in international children's rights legislation. The rights lobby is in the forefront of the global spread 4Throughout this paper the terms "Northern" and "Southern" are used in preference to (for example) "developed" and "developing". This terminology is now commonly accepted in "development" circles as being less normatively biased. "South" is understood to exclude countries such as Australia and Japan. 5 Article 3( 1 )of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration". 6 HMSO(1988), Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987, London.
  4. 4. 216 of norms of childhood which are integral to the history and culture of Europe and North America. 7 Not for nothing is Philip Alston's book The best interests of the child subtitled "Reconciling culture and human rights".8 The particular problems raised by Article 3( 1 ) and other articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child9 have led to a challenge to the idea that there can be universal human rights standards. This, as Alston points out, has revealed a need to seek "approaches which involve neither the embrace of an artificial and sterile universalism nor the acceptance of an ultimately self-defeating cultural relativism".lo The London meeting concluded with decisions that effectively set up two related projects. In order to examine the ways in which data are collected, Rad- da Bamen agreed to finance a review of existing studies on children in espe- cially difficult circumstances (CEDC),11 which has led to the development of a project to improve data collection especially at grass-roots project level. 12 Within the perspective of the need for monitoring mechanisms required for States Parties to fulfil their obligation to report on the national situation with respect to children's rights, Childwatch International agreed to develop a project to identify and develop indicators relating to the entire Convention, that could be presented to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and other potential users. The project, which has been in operation since August 1994 and will last until July 1997, aims to address the concerns expressed at this and subse- ? Boyden, J. (1990), "Childhood and the policymakers: a comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood", in James, A. and Prout, A. (eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood, London, New York, Philadelphia, The Falmer Press: 184-215, p. 197. 8 Alston, P. (1994), The Best Interests of the Child: Reconciling Culture and Human Rights, Florence, UNICEF and Oxford, Clarendon Press. 9Like other commentators and researchers those associated with the Childwatch Interna- tional project have found consistent difficulties associated with the interpretation of a number of Articles in Southern contexts, most notably Article 16( 1 ), "No child shall be subjected to unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence ... " and 25 "States Parties recognize the right of a child who has been placed by competent authorities for the purpose of care, protection or treatment of his or her physical or mental health, to a periodic review of the treatment provided to the child and all other circumstances relevant to his or her placement". '°Alston, op. cit., p. 2. '' Boyden, J. and Ennew, J (1993), Survey of Surveys, Report for Radda Barnen, Stockholm, Radda Bamen. '2 Thisproject, known as the Local Research Support Project (LRSP) was piloted in Ethiopia and has now undergone phases of development in South Asia. An account of some aspects of the project is given in Kefyalew, F. (1996), "The reality of child participation: experience of a capacity-building project" in Childhood, 3(2).
  5. 5. 217 quent meetings of this informal group of agencies through being a practical, demonstration project at country level, in preference to a theoretical, "top down" approach. The first step was to analyse further the need for indicators to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and how the various rights can be expressed in practical terms. Through the experiences of a series of country case studies the project is developing a strategy for identification and development of appropriate indicators. By involving national research teams in the case studies as well as in the overall development of the process, this project is contributing to capacity building within child research and child welfare in all the countries in which it is taking place. It is designed to fit into the overall search within the field of human rights to develop indicators for use in monitoring the various international human rights treaties, particularly the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.l3 The need for indicators In the interpretation of its mandate, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has given priority to establishing a dialogue with States Parties on the actual implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and invited an open and constructive discussion of possible problems or obstacles that States Parties encounter. This requires the most accurate possible information on the actual situation of the children in their countries. It also entails substantial guidance from the Committee about the information needed for this dialogue to become a reality. In this context, the Committee has discussed the question of indicators to be used in monitoring the implementation of the Convention. A working group on the issue has been established, stating that, ... the use of appropriate indicators could contribute to a better assessment of how the rights covered by the Convention were guaranteed and imple- mented and to an evaluation of progress achieved over time towards the full realization of those rights. It was stressed that the Convention covered a whole range of civil, political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights and that there was therefore a need for a right-by-right approach in order to determine what kind of indicators would be relevant for each of the rights set out in the Convention. Indicators constituted an important 13 See example papers submitted to the Seminar on Appropriate Indicators to Measure for Achievements in the Progressive Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Geneva, 25-29 January, 1993.
  6. 6. 218 component offering the Committee the possibility to assess the progress achieved by States parties. 14 The Committee has also stressed that such indicators should meet basic requirements such as validity, objectivity, sensitivity, comparability, accuracy and disaggregation, and referred to ongoing efforts within the UN system to develop "appropriate indicators to measure achievements in the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights".ls The first review of reports from States Parties on their measures to imple- ment the Convention confirmed the need for appropriate indicators. In this review, it became clear both to the Committee and to independent observers 16 that some tools to measure or assess the implementation are desperately need- ed in order to proceed beyond a theoretical discussion. In addition, it seemed obvious that Governments reporting to the Committee had not been in a position to deliver adequate statistical or other quantitative information that would provide more specific illustration of the situation in their countries with respect to the status of children's rights. UNICEF has become increasingly concerned about, and involved in, issues related to the implementation of the Convention, and particularly the way this process relates to other important developments. One UNICEF staff member has pointed out that (a) the complementarily - and relevance for indicators - between the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and of the National Programmes of Action for Children, being developed following the 1990 World Summit for Children; (b) the importance of national capacity-building for monitoring progress on both of these fronts; and (c) the key role of good baseline data and "situation analyses" as part of any strategy for advancing the cause of human rights, including the rights of the child are issues of important for the organisation. Moreover, in the introduction to the report of a recent UNICEF seminar on monitoring children's rights the Director of UNICEF's Programme Division wrote that 14 Committeeon the Rights of the Child, Report from the 2nd Session, 28 September-9 October, 1992 (CRC/C/ 10). 15 bid. '6Boyden, Ennew and Pehrsson, 1993, op. cit. 17 Himes,J.R. (1993), "Reflections on indicators concerning the rights of the child. The development and human rights communities should get their acts together", in Himes, J.R. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Three Essays on the Challenge of Implementation; Innocenti Essay, Florence, UNICEF International Child Development Centre.
  7. 7. 219 To deal with issues of equity, disparity and discrimination, and to deal with protection and participatory rights, what is needed is less a set of universal indicators than a universal technical framework - or set of frameworks - to be adapted in situ.1 g A project to identify indicators to use for monitoring the implementation of the Convention obviously serves the needs of the Committee. Perhaps more importantly, it should also serve States Parties in their own efforts to implement and monitor children's rights. As one of the Committee's members has stated, "the Committee can only serve as a monitor of the monitors"19 because of its limited capacity to focus on each individual country. To encour- age and give guidance to monitoring undertaken by others would therefore be an important aspect of its work. Obviously, the Committee relates pri- marily to governments, but guidance on the use of indicators would be very useful (and, it is to be hoped, welcomed) by NGOs, community groups, chil- dren's advocates, and others who are concerned by the implementation of the Convention, as well as UNICEF and other UN agencies. Furthermore, a common approach to the identification and use of indicators in the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention would be to the benefit of all parties involved. Indicators for children's rights The term indicator is now in general use in a number of fields, without any clear agreement among those using it as to what it actually means. Although economic indicators, such as gross national product (GNP) have tended to dominate in policy and planning processes, social indicators have a long history. Research on this topic can be traced back to the 1920s, although it did not emerges as an important issue in the social sciences until the mid 1960s. This new interest arose partly as a result of the success of economic indicators and partly as a protest against their dominance. The aim was to find ways of measuring quality of life, which is not captured by indicators of market activity. 20 ?8 Gautam,K.C. in Black, M. (1994), Monitoring the Rights of Children: Innocenti Global Seminar, Summary Report, Florence, UNICEF International Child Development Centre. '9 Hammarberg, T., "The work of the Expert Committee on the Rights of the Child", Address at the Consultation on the Role of the United Nations and NGOs in the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF House, New York, 24 March, 1993. 2° ZillII, N., Segal, H. and Brim Jr., O.G. (1983), Development of childhood social indicators, in Zigler, E.F., Kagan, S.L., and Klugman, E. (eds.) (1983), Children, Families and Govern- ment :Perspectives on American Social Policy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 18-19.
  8. 8. 220 Within the related spheres of children's rights and child welfare, the search for indicators that can be used for monitoring purposes has recently taken on a new urgency. Just as the Convention on the Rights of the Child has created the requirement for States Parties to develop systems for monitoring its implementation so international child welfare agencies are now under pressure to be more accountable to donors and find it necessary to monitor the impact of their intervention programmes. In this process, UNICEF has the double necessity to define in specific terms what the organisation could and should do - through its programming and advocacy - to help implement the Convention, and to find appropriate ways to respond to governments' requests for assistance in implementing and monitoring the Convention. Since 1981, UNICEF has been publishing regular reports, entitled The state of the world's children, at first bi-annually and, since 1983, annually, containing a number of informative articles together with tables of statistical indicators that have been developed through collaboration with other United Nations specialised agencies. Although UNICEF has neither the mandate nor the capacity to develop indicators itself, it has been influential in the movement to develop indicators for economic, social and cultural rights, largely because of its insistence on the indicative value of Infant Mortality Rates as opposed to GNP as measures of national development. 21 The result of this pressure to find appropriate indicators has been an often confusing flurry of activities in many spheres. There is, for example a tendency in some fields for any statistical method to be confused with indicator work, as well as for indicators to become ersatz programme goals, and an all-too- frequent assumption that only Northern experts in quantitative methods can develop complex, expensive systems of indicators (often little more than lists of variables) that are then imposed on Southern cultural contexts. The Childwatch International Indicators for Children's Rights project takes a more pragmatic, bottom-up and cost-effective approach, based on the assumption that the best people to monitor conditions of life, with respect to either welfare or rights, are the people who live them. The project takes its point of departure from the UNRISD definition that "an indicator indicates" Turk, op. cit., p. 3 states that "When using indicators during the monitoring process, the Committee [on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] has had access to a variety of sources. Clear preference has thus far been given to indicators used by UNICEF in their report, The State of the World's Children 1989 ... " In the UNICEF report for the following year it is stated that "Perhaps the greatest advantage of per capital GNP is simply the fact that it is there" (UNICEF 1989) The State of the World's Children, 1990, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Infant mortality rate is stated by UNICEF to be "the single most important indicator of the state of a nation's children. That is why [UNICEF] lists the nations of the world not in ascending order of their per capital GNP but in descending order of their under-five mortality rates" (UNICEF, 1994, The State of the World's Children, 1995, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 81 ).
  9. 9. 221 - showing something, pointing in a particular direction.22 Indicators are sim- ply tools to aid understanding and not the answer to all questions. They are measurements or descriptions that, if recorded regularly, monitor changes over time. Monitoring systems can show changes in underlying, general con- ditions and situations, or they can be more precisely targeted to show the impact on particular populations, of either external events (war, recession, political change) or activities (programme or project interventions). Both kinds of monitoring are relevant for children's rights. The collection of childhood indicators began in the 1970s, with a strong emphasis on health and education, the former based largely on the first five years of life and maternal health factors. Indicators of childhood conditions outside school and health-care systems, particularly for the years of middle childhood, are poorly developed, which has implications for monitoring the so-called protection rights of the Convention, such as those given in Articles 32 (against economic exploitation) and 34 (against sexual exploitation). A vast amount of statistical data that could be collected about children's lives - time budgets, economic activities, domestic duties, leisure activities - simply do not exist. Children are studied with respect to the institutions of childhood, such as schools and families, but not with respect to the system of production or the labour market, even in studies of child labour, which tend to focus on case studies of groups of child workers or specific industries. Existing government statistics show both first and second order biases, either children are not evident as a special category in statistics or a discriminative selection is imposed on the data. Although information about children is collected and recorded it is neither presented nor tabulated as such in official publications. Ultimately, children are not transferred from the level of observation to the level of analysis. Nevertheless, children can be made the unit of observation and childhood the unit of analysis if existing raw data from routine govern- ment collecting systems are subjected to recomputation.23 This approach provides the means for calculating the important disaggre- gations that show discrimination against children simply because they are children. But monitoring the Convention on the Rights of the Child also requires knowing which specific groups of children are having their rights 22 Quoted in Turk, op. cit., pp. 4-5. 23The children-centred statistics approach taken by the Childwatch project was pioneered by the European Centre's project "Childhood as a social phenomenon" (1987-1992). See for example: Qvortrup, J. (1991), Childhood as a Social Phenomenon: An Introduction to a Series of National Reports, Eurosocial Reports 36, Vienna, European Centre; Jensen, A-M., and Saporiti, A. (1992), Do Children Count? Childhood as a Social Phenomenon, a Statistical Compendium,Eurosocial Reports 37, Vienna, European Centre; Saporiti, A. ( 1994),A method- ology for making children count, in Qvortrup, J., Bardy, A., Sgritta, G. and Wintersberger, H., Childhood Matters, Vienna, European Centre, London, Avebury.
  10. 10. 222 violated or not met. It is vital to know which children are most likely to die before their fifth birthday, leave school and go to work, be unable to access health care, be subject to abuse or exploitation, and so forth. This demands disaggregation according to social factors affecting children's lives, such as gender, geographical location, ethnicity, religion, caste and socio-economic group. Many of these disaggregations are possible through recomputing exist- ing data or adding new questions to the schedules of existing routine data col- lection mechanisms. Others are not, although the information could be made available if governments and others responsible for collecting information about children were made aware of the necessity and integrated this approach into monitoring systems that focus on regular reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. It would benefit States Parties, welfare organisations and, above all, children, if reports to the Committee were only one aspect of a routine monitoring system, rather than a once-in-every-five-years effort to gather (largely inadequate) data, that are generally not children-centred, from disparate sources. As seen above, at one time, the Committee asked for an article-by-article review of the Convention in order to develop indicators for each of the articles, and this was also the first approach taken by UNICEF. However, it soon became apparent that a single indicator would be insufficient to capture the full range of rights provided by some of the more complex articles, such as Article 23 on children with disabilities and Article 40 on juvenile justice. At the same time, some indicators might serve to monitor more than one article. Infant mortality rates, for instance, would be appropriate for monitoring both Article 6, on the right to life and Article 24 on health. The feasibility of a right-by-right approach was analyzed through the first Country Case Study carried out by the project in Senegal, and suggestions made about ways in which articles could be clustered or regrouped.24 This approach is being followed in each country case study, through a process of critical readings of the Convention and key national texts on children. The result is a series of culturally-relevant regroupments of articles, that serve as protocols for gathering and examining existing national data on children. This is the first step in developing structured systems of indicators for monitoring children's rights, which promise to be more satisfactory than either lists of variables masquerading as indicators or complex systems developed in the North that are inflexible with respect to local cultures both of data production and of childhoods. 24 diva, Diagne, N., Gueye, A.K. and Gueye, S. (1996), Indicateurs Relatifs aux Droits F.F., de l'Enfant: Etude de Cas du Senegal, Dakar, 1996, Childwatch International and Plan International.
  11. 11. 223 Of course, this project cannot possibly hope to come up with the final solutions to the indicators problem, but rather to recommend possible strate- gies and explore some potential solutions. The overall goal of identifying and developing indicators for use in monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child can only be reached through a long-term process, in which the Childwatch project serves as one of the initial phases, concentrating on establishing baseline indicators, developing in-country capacities and proposing possible ways forward for developing monitoring indicators and processes. Experience in the first Country Case Study showed that the project can act as a catalyst, both nationally and regionally in these respects. Thus a prime function of the project becomes to initiate this process and to set the agenda in collaboration with the main protagonists in this field. The project's relationships with other bodies The Childwatch International Indicators for Children's Rights project cannot be effective if it rests at the level of a set of exploratory country case studies, even if it is designed to be a demonstration project. Both in the case study countries themselves and in its overall approach the project makes every attempt to integrate its activities into national and international efforts to develop monitoring systems for children's rights. This entails the collabora- tion of four key types of institution, governmental, intergovernmental, non governmental and academic. All these bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, were represented at the Consultation on the report from the pilot study in Senegal that was held parallel to the European Confer- ence on Monitoring Children's Rights in the University of Gent in December 1994. 25 The project seeks to integrate relevant contributions from a variety of sources in the project and to engage in close cooperation with institutions and organizations that are involved in activities relevant to the identification and development of child rights indicators as well as their use. Through the net- works of Childwatch International and its associated "key institutions", con- nections are being made with research institutions with relevant competence, to seek their contributions. This includes cooperation with relevant regional organisations, such as the Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the regional networks of non-governmental organ- isations, such as Defence for Children International and members of the Save 25Childwatch International ( 1995), Indicators for Children's Rights Project: Consultation, Gent 12-14 December, 1994, Oslo, Childwatch International.
  12. 12. 224 the Children Alliance, to ensure maximum dissemination of the experience gained in the project and the fullest possible impact of the capacity-building elements. Governments An essential component of the project is obtaining the secondment of a staff member of the government statistics office as a team member for the data collection period of each country case study. The case studies are not intended to be alternatives to the official national reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as have been produced by NGO consortia in some cases, but rather as supplementary supports, aspects of which can be integrated into future monitoring systems. The structure of each case study depends on local conditions but, in Vietnam, the project has been working closely with the Committee for the Care and Protection of Children (CCPC), which has ministerial status, and, in Nicaragua, it works directly with the Comision Nacional para la Promoci6n y Defensa de los Derechos del Nino y la Nino (Commission for the Promotion and Defence of Children's Rights). ' UNICEF and other United Nations specialized agencies Close cooperation and coordination with UNICEF is a natural outcome: firstly, for its role in developing a monitoring strategy for National Programmes for Children; secondly, for its general work with indicators in relation to its own work; thirdly for its programme to study aspects of the implementation of the Convention under the auspices of its International Child Development Centre in Florence; and finally for its technical assistance to the Committee on the Rights of the Child as mandated by Article 45 of the Convention. UNICEF has been given the role of focal point within the United Nations system for follow up to the 1990 World Summit for Children, which not only set goals directly related to the Convention, to be reached by the year 2000 but also called for a monitoring system to be set up in all countries to "record the progress being made towards the goals". This adds a new dimension to UNICEF's long-standing commitment to the development of child-related indicators. UNICEF's insistence on the indicative value of Infant Mortality Rates, as opposed to per capita GNP, has been to the forefront of the devel- opment of social, as opposed to economic indicators.26 As stated earlier, the yearly publication of a State of the world's children presents the latest 26 Turk,D. (1993), Social and economic indicators and their role in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights: Excerpts from the study on Realization of Econom- ic, Social and Cultural Rights carried out by Danilo Turk, Special Rapporteur of the Sub- Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities during the period
  13. 13. 225 update on a number of variables related to child welfare relative to the work of UNICEF. These have been developed in collaboration with other United Nations agencies, principally FAO, UNESCO and WHO, although The state of the world's children also uses indicators from (inter alia) UNDP, World Bank, UNSO, World Fertility Survey and OECD. As James Himes, the Direc- tor of UNICEF's International Child Development Centre in Florence, has pointed out, many of these indicators are relevant to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and should be taken into consideration in any effort to identify indicators for monitoring the Convention. 27 With its new, annual Progress of the Nations report, UNICEF has taken another step by ranking nations in terms of their progress in various aspects of child wel- fare. Perhaps the most interesting of these in terms of children's rights is a table that shows progressive achievements related to Gross National Product, which shows some nations overachieving and others underachieving with respect to the World Summit goals for the 1990s when the wealth of the nation is taken into account. 28 These initiatives, however, only represent the most visible outcomes of a large and ongoing process within UNICEF to identify and develop child related statistics and indicators for children's welfare. The pilot study in Sengal, and the country case studies in Vietnam and Thailand benefit from UNICEF funding and collaboration and elsewhere the project is seeking further close coordination with the existing efforts of UNICEF to develop indicators relevant to its mandate, as well as child related activities of other UN agencies and of non-governmental organizations. Many other UN agencies have data that are relevant for the monitoring of the Convention, particularly WHO (health), UNESCO (education and cultural activities) and ILO (child labour), but also UNHCR, UNPF and UNDP. In addition, the UN Centre for Human Rights process to identify indicators on economic, social and cultural rights is significant for the study of child rights indicators. The international research community Currently there is no such thing as a united research community dealing with children's issues. Childwatch International represents an initiative to identify key institutions and organizations in order to initiate closer cooperation. One specific aim is to encourage more research that addresses issues raised by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to identify already-existing 1989-1992, Seminar on Appropriate Indicators to Measure Achievments in the Progres- sive Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Geneva 25-29 January, 1993 (HR/Geneva/1993/SEM/CRP 1, p. 20). 27 Himes, op. cit., p. 20. 21UNICEF ( 1993), The Progress of Nations, New York, UNICEF, pp. 50-52.
  14. 14. 226 information that could support its implementation. Clearly, much research has already been conducted or is being undertaken that is of relevance for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and could create important data resources. The project is located at one "key institution", the Centre for Family Research in the University of Cambridge Social and Political Sciences Faculty. Among other "key institutions" that have focussed particularly on the issue of child rights indicators, the Children's Rights Centre at the University of Gent, Belgium, is playing a role in the actual conduct of the project, particularly with respect to the proposed Belgian Country Case Study, which is planned to be not only part of the Childwatch Project but also integral to a national, regular monitoring system. Non governmental organisations (NGOS) Non-governmental organizations can also play a major part in upgrading research and information on children's rights globally. Development agen- cies are particularly well placed to assist with the establishment of culturally appropriate, child-specific social indicators because of their need for pro- gramme monitoring. Many are well-versed in participatory methods of moni- toring and evaluation (for example, Plan International, the International Save the Children Alliance and ActionAid29). The international NGOs often represent "professional" expertise in the field of the rights of the child and other child related areas. Because they work at community level, they could potentially develop systematic monitoring systems as sentinel sites in collaboration with national NGOs, government institutions and research centres or groups. NGOs often have good contacts with the population and can thus produce analyses of specific problems as well as local situational analyses, which provide baseline data. It goes without saying that NGOs with capacity for, and tradition of, con- ducting research have a role to play both in developing and developed coun- tries, in the implementation process and in establishing the foundations for the monitoring process. 29See for example: Edwards, M. and Gosling, D. ( 1995),ToolKits for Monitoring and Eval- uation, London Save the Children; Johnson, V, Hill, J. and Ivan-Smith, E. (1995), Listening to Smaller Voices, London, ActionAid. Plan International has also been a major supporter and founder of the Childwatch International Indicators for Children's Rights Project and is supporting local follow-up activities that resulted from the country case study in Senegal.
  15. 15. 233 Preliminary conclusions from country case study experiences The experiences of the country case studies carried out so far have confirmed the importance of taking a "bottom up" approach. Not only is each country case study part of a process of developing monitoring systems for children's rights, but the global experience also is a process of learning about the ways in which universal instruments of human rights might be reconciled with cultural sensitivity. Among other lessons, the project has learned that: (i) It is not desirable at this point to seek a universal set of indicators but rather, as stated above, a process and a framework that can be used to develop indicators for children's rights that are culturally and nationally appropriate. (ii) It is important to work internationally, through sharing country case study experiences, towards the establishment of data collection meth- ods that are children-centred. Current data sets depend more on the needs of agencies than the needs of children. Nevertheless, the regular data collecting methods of both governments and non-governmental organisations often provide raw data that can be re-calculated to pro- duce children-centred information. Moreover, there is potential for regular data collection to be modified in the future, at little cost, to improve information on the progressive achievement of children's rights. (iii) Children's rights indicators require not only children-centred data, but also high degrees of disaggregation, for both baseline and monitoring indicators. This could often be achieved through recalculation of existing data. (iv) An enormous amount of information about children, both qualita- tive and quantitative, already exists. Much of this is good quality, but varies with respect to accessibility, analysis and sheer physical condition. There are no centralised agencies for assembling and rec- onciling this data, although there is considerable willingness on the part of most agencies to do this. One aim of country case studies is to establish modelling procedures by which existing data sets can be reconciled in order to provide meaningful information, especially with respect to issues in which indicators are particularly necessary, such as economic exploitation. (v) The project appears to be welcome in a variety of national and regional settings. Country case studies can act as catalysts for stimu- lating new levels of debate, cooperation and capacity building. The link with the increasing development of national and regional fora for child research is clear. One of the next stages of the project is
  16. 16. 234 to systematise ways of further mobilisation of existing groups and developing appropriate materials for training, in collaboration with UNICEF and NGOs in particular. (vi) Although there is still a considerable way to go in establishing the framework for baseline indicators, certain fruitful lines for future development of monitoring indicators have appeared. Among these are the use of existing data collection points, such as schools, clinics and NGO community projects, as sentinel sites that can produce regu- lar information on children's rights, on a quarterly basis for example, as part of their normal functioning. Childwatch International is pur- suing this possibility with a number of different agencies, including the possible development of models for processing data on a national basis. (v) Country case study teams require extra support and capacity-building in a number of areas: (a) Recomputation of statistical information so that the child is the unit of observation and childhood the unit of analysis; (b) Collection and critical analysis of information produced by aca- demics and NGOs, particularly unpublished and "grey" material; (c) Conceptual work within the scope of articles devoted to protec- tion ("children in especially difficult circumstances" CEDC); (d) Creative use of information on CEDC gathered using small sam- ples, in order to produce estimates at a national levels. (vi) Nevertheless, recruitment of teams members at relatively early stages of their careers can bring certain benefits: (a) Greater commitment to the global project and national follow- up process, with the result that a human resource base is being developed; (b) Possibly because there is less to "unlearn" than might be the case with more experienced researchers, creative thinking in the protocol development phase, can result in new lines of enquiry. (vii) Western assumptions about children and the family have an undue influence on current indicators and data collection procedures. Local cultural norms relating to childhood should be taken into considera- tion in the development of children's rights indicators, and compared to the global conceptions of childhood incorporated in the Conven- tion on the Rights of the Child. A framework through which this can take place will be developed through comparison between coun- try case studies. However, it is still necessary to seek a core set of universal indicators. With this in mind, a process of examining the
  17. 17. 235 possibility of universal aspects of bio-psychological child develop- ment is being planned under the aegis of the Centre for Family Research in the University of Cambridge, organised through work- shop series in the main geographical regions of the world. (viii) A major obstacle to developing universal indicators, and to coordinat- ing indicator work between national agencies, lies in the different age groupings used for collection and, more often, presentation of data. A particular problem is the almost universal custom followed by census agencies of presenting the age structure of the population in five year tranches. With respect to child statistics this makes very little sense, as is acknowledged in recent tendencies to break down the 0-5 year age group into two subgroups of 0-12 months and 13 months to 5 years. It should also be important to break down the 1 0-- 1 5year age groups into something that reflects pubertal changes and to be able to distinguish 16-18 year olds within the 16-19 group. In view of the Convention's definition of a child as under 18 years of age, this latter would appear to be an obligatory baseline for mechanisms for reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, but this does not appear to have been taken into account by any government to date. (ix) In order to monitor effectively, it is necessary to develop a far better understanding of the various articles of the Convention and how they are to be interpreted. This is a challenge for the academic and research communities and must take place through equal dialogue between the many different cultures of South and North. (x) The project needs to take particular note of the ways in which "results" of the country case studies can match the specific require- ments of governments in the process of reporting to the Committee and of presenting reports in ways that are appropriate to the time con- straints under which the Committee operates, while still providing meaningful information about children's rights. These considerations have led to the search for a method of producing country case study "digests". In the Vietnam Case Study, for example, "child rights den- sity maps" are being prepared. Final comments Almost as soon as it began its work, the Committee on the Rights of the Child announced the need for indicators that would act as tools for monitoring purposes. A review of the first reports from States Parties confirmed this
  18. 18. 236 requirement for appropriate and reliable indicators. Governments reporting to the Committee, whether in the South or in the North, are not currently in a position to deliver statistical or other information that can provide an adequate illustration of the child rights situation in their countries. The initial reports to the Committee are mostly filled with descriptions of the general situation of children's rights, with reference to national legislation and public policies. This does not mean that the reports have no value for they have been very important in raising awareness of the Convention and children's rights. The first round of reports has established a positive climate of dialogue. The next round will be a critical test of how far countries have come in establishing regular monitoring procedures. Much depends on the advice they receive and the efforts of various government agencies to collect and compile data. There are reasons to believe that an enormous quantity of information about children, both qualitative and quantitative, already exists in most countries. 30 Much of it is of good quality, although most could be improved or made more children-centred, and it exists in varying degrees of accessibility, analysis and physical condition. Many government agencies collect data or have data collected for them, but these efforts are not coordinated and the data are collected for various purposes, using a variety of methods and referring to a number of different baselines. The Childwatch project on indicators for children's rights is based on the assumption that there is more information around than might at first be thought. Finding it takes patience and persistence, together with creativity in recomputing and reconciling data from diverse sources. Of course there will be gaps and data that cannot be used, or cannot be used immediately. But it must be a sound rule to explore already-existing data thoroughly before new and costly data collection procedures are initiated. One aim of the project is to establish modelling procedures by which existing data sets can be recon- ciled. Another is to produce a structured set of indicators, relevant to cultural epistemologies, from which meaningful indices of children's rights might eventually be developed. Such processes can only be the result of the joint efforts of all relevant agencies. The Childwatch project seeks to be a catalyst for some of the activities within this larger process by showing that, where data is concerned, as in so many other spheres, resources and "know how" for improving children's rights already exist. All that is needed are political commitment and the concerted efforts and mutual respect of all involved. 30 Ennew,J. (1995), Sources of Information for Country Case Studies, Oslo, Childwatch International (English, French and Spanish).

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