Enhancing Child Rights when Addressing Child Poverty

The strategy for child poverty prevention and protection needs to be multi-pronged, strongly focused on social policies and programmes that fulfil the obligations of the States under international human rights law.From a child rights perspective this means:

– Ensuring a comprehensive legal and institutional framework for rights, even guaranteed at the constitutional level thus defining the roles of rights holders (children) and duty bearers (States, families, parents, private sector). While some States have ratified the Convention, not all have incorporated it in their national legislation, as was done, for example, by Brazil with its constitutional level Estatuto da Crianca (Child Act) that has enabled the federal state to apply the Convention at all states and local levels as well as nationally. Regionally, the EU could commit to mandatory implementation at the Union level.

– Children´s rights should be mainstreamed into broader development policy debates and decisions to ensure coherence, as they remain at the core of overall development policy. A National Plan to combat child poverty which establishes a coherent framework identifying priority actions against the exclusion of children, with specific and measurable objectives, clear indicators, deadlines and sufficient economic and financial support should be created. This plan must be capable of effectively coordinating actions at the national, regional and local levels, actions in different areas (particularly labour and economy, healthcare, housing, social policy and education) that are particularly responsible for children, and must include the necessary participation of girls and boys¨.

– While universal policies to ensure appropriate outcomes and processes need to continue to be guaranteed for all children, priority should be given to children and families most at risk, namely the children living in poverty, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugee children, children from minorities, children deprived of a family environment, and adolescents and young people at risk. When it comes to children in institutions, the Committee has recommended to review legal frameworks to prevent the placement of children in institutions and, to this end, provide families with social and economic assistance for parenting and legal aid, if necessary. It also has recommended that family-type care settings should receive priiority over institutionalized placements.

– Focus on inequality: where data is available, systematic inequalities are shown to play an enormous role in determining life prospects before a child is even born, suggesting that there is a two-way causal relationship between poverty and inequality. Moreover the international human rights framework commits governments to uphold equity. If policy does not address inequalities, the pattern will be reinforced as is shown by malnutrition figures affecting differently the various income groups or the gap in infant mortality rates between indigenous and non-indigenous populations in the same country. Even rich countries like Luxemburg have higher-than-expected poverty rates showing that economic growth alone will not ¨trickle down¨ in the absence of a package of economic and social policies that range from decent employment, higher and equitable (especially for women) salaries, redistributive taxation policies, universal access to quality services as well as targeting those in situations of vulnerability. An example of policy is Chile Crece Contigo (Chile grows with you), a comprehensive protection system for early childhood set up in 2007 that provides integrated financial, educational and health support for children’s development until four years of age. One of its main objectives is to reduce the effects of socioeconomic inequalities by the time children finish primary school. It targets children and families from the two lowest income quintiles.

In summary, preventing poverty from a child rights perspective requires from every State a comprehensive and global approach to make complex policy decisions; a multi-pronged strategy that covers economic, social policies and social protection measures, and a decision to press forward with the Strategy on the Rights of the Child as a comprehensive system that sets standards for country implementation of the CRC protecting gains obtained till now and improving the chances of children to lead meaningful lives.

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Marta Maurás
Vice President – UN Committee on Child Rights [[Quoted from the text of a conference dictated at the European Union Conference on Child Poverty, Copenhagen, march 19th 2012.
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