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Rights-Based Approach and Equity Re-Focus of UNICEF. By Dr. Festo P. Kavishe , Deputy Regional Director UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok Presented at the UNICEF Meeting on Socio Economic Policies for Child Rights with Equity, Royal Orchid Sheraton & Towers, Bangkok, Thailand, 13 June 2011.

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rights based approach and equity re focus of unicef

Rights-Based Approach and Equity Re-Focus of UNICEF

By Dr. Festo P. Kavishe,

Deputy Regional Director UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok

Presented at the UNICEF Meeting on Socio Economic Policies for Child Rights with Equity,

Royal Orchid Sheraton & Towers, Bangkok, Thailand, 13 June 2011

  • The Link between Rights-Based Approach (RBA) and Equity: Concepts and Definitions
  • RBA, Equity and UNICEF Re-Focus
    • Equity begins with children
    • The evidence: Narrowing the Gap
    • Equity focused programming
    • Galvanizing strategic Management for Equity
    • Tracking progress on the equity agenda

3. Some Concluding Reflections

rights based approach and equity concepts definitions
Rights-Based Approach and Equity: Concepts, Definitions

Rights-Based approach

Equity-based approach

Defn: Application of an equity-focused approach in the realization of child rights

Scope: All children have an opportunity to survive, develop and reach full potential without discrimination, bias or favoritism. . Focus is on the most marginalized children.

Inequities arise when certain population groups are unfairly or unjustly deprived of basic resources that are available to other groups.

Equity is distinct from equality. Equality requires all to have same resources, while equity requires all to have same opportunity to access same resources.

Concept of equity is universal with social justice as overriding theme

  • Defn: Application of human rights principles in child survival, growth, development and participation.
  • Scope: All children have the right to survive, develop and reach full potential regardless of gender, race, religious beliefs, income, physical attributes, geographical location or other status. Concept of progressive realization of rights.
  • Violations of child rights arise when the basic child rights are not realized as per CRC four principles: non-discrimination; best interest of the child; right to survive, grow and develop; and the right to participate/be heard;
  • Guiding principles: Accountability, Universality, indivisibility, and participation. Justice overriding theme

Equity, Inequity and Equality (ref. Equity begins with children by Jan Vandermoortele, forthcoming chapter in book on Child Poverty by Policy Press 2011)

  • Though sometimes used interchangeably, they are different concepts.
  • Inequity highlights existence of unfair disparities; equity accepts differences that are earned fairly.
  • Inequality does not allow for differences in outcomes whether fairly or unfairly earned. Differences in life chances that stem from factors beyond the control of a person or for which the person cannot be held responsible (e.g. being male or female) are not accepted by the principle of equality, thus the term gender equality as being the correct terminology

Mathematically Speaking, an Equity-based approach is a sub-set of a Rights-based approach, emphasizing Refocus of the RBA



Economic, Social, Cultural & Political context

rights and equity based refocus right in principle right in practice
Rights and equity based refocus: Right in principle; right in practice
  • Conceptual Frameworks
  • Models: - Cause and effect
  • Deduction, consequences


  • Conceptual frameworks
  • Rights, Equity, Reflection, meditation, dialogue




rights and equity based programmes, policies, legislation etc

Observation, experimentation,`

technology, learning by doing


equity approach interpreting the evidence
Equity Approach: Interpreting the evidence

Right in Principle

Right in Practice

High potential for accelerating progress towards meeting the MDGs at both national and sub-national levels.

Cost-effective and has high returns on investment towards MDGs, in terms of lives saved per resource spent.

Major challenge: is to scale up the practice, monitor progress and evaluate results with adequate feedback for widening the triple A processes.

  • The Scientific and ethical basis is sound;
  • Because scientific models are based on hypothesis, premises or assumptions, a change in them calls for new models.
  • UNICEF’s new tested equity-refocus model for children reflects the universality precepts in the CRC and CEDAW in achieving universal coverage of basic services.
so what does equity mean for unicef
So what does equity mean for UNICEF?
  • Universality – the over-riding principle
  • Freedom from discrimination, bias or favoritism
  • Focus on the most disadvantaged children – poorest, excluded, discriminated
  • Interrupting the perpetuating inter-generational cycles of deprivations
what are these children facing
What are these children facing?
  • Different manifestations of deprivation:
  • High levels of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition, illiteracy, exploitation etc
  • WHY?
  • Services are not reaching them
  • Information is not reaching them
  • Multiple deprivations – compounding one another e.g nutrition/education
  • They are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse …
  • They do not have a voice
  • Limited opportunities …… And so on …
the evidence narrowing the gap
The evidence: Narrowing the Gap
  • An equity-focused approach improves returns on investment, averting many more child and maternal deaths and episodes of stunting than the current path (NB: <5MR, MMR, stunting are measures of national development).
  • Using an equity focused approach, a US $1 million investment in reducing under-five deaths in a low-income, high-mortality country would avert an estimated 60% more deaths than the current approach (more cost-effective than current path).
  • Because national burdens of disease, ill health and malnutrition are concentrated in the most excluded and deprived child populations, providing these children with essential services can accelerate progress towards the health related MDGs and reduce disparities within nations (enhances social cohesion as an externality).
evidence from the east asia and pacific region

Although the EAP region boasts of some of the fastest and historical economic growth rates globally; has been successful in fending of the financial, economic, fuel and food crises and made tremendous progress in the achievement of the MDGs, disparities persist and in many cases have widened.

Evidence from the East Asia and Pacific Region


In Asia Pacific, inequality is increasing and the biggest number of the poor are paradoxically in MIC where progress has been the greatest!


a regional analysis of mdgs progress shows 4 main drivers of inequity in the asia pacific region
A regional analysis of MDGs progress shows 4 main drivers of inequity in the Asia Pacific Region
  • Income Poverty has the strongest association with low achievement of all MDGs, underscoring the importance of poverty as the main underlying driver of inequity.
  • Geographical location is second: in some countries, the association between the poorest region/province (and often rural/urban) and the richest has similar or greater effect on MDG achievement than income (e.g in Cambodia, Mongolia, Nepal and Philippines);
  • Gender differences in achievement of MDGs is comparatively low in young ages (e.g. birth registration& immunization is similar in boys and girls), but increase considerably after childhood with large differences in men and women in the labour force and parliamentary participation.
  • Other drivers: In some countries there are disparities related ethnicity, religion,HIV/AIDS status, disabilities (physical & mental) and in some places caste.

Wealth as first key driver: Disparities in income

Ratio of richest 20% to poorest 20%

<< Smaller Disparities - - Bigger Disparities>>

Source: World Bank, 2010

geography as second major driver 1 most of the poor live in rural and hard to reach areas
Geography as second major driver: (1) most of the poor live in rural and hard to reach areas.



Gender (MDG3) as third driver: Gender disparities apparent when children start joining labour market and in political representation


Disparities in secondary education – in order of importance:- 1. by Wealth (purple) 2. by Province (green) 3. Urban/rural (red) 4. Gender (blue)


MDG 6: Disparities in Knowledge of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission During Pregnancy,

% of Women aged 15-49


MDG 7: Disparities in population with

access to improved sanitation disparities (%)


what is rba and equity programming
What is RBA and Equity Programming?
  • It is the systematic application of human rights and equity focused approaches to achieve results for children:-
    • To influence decisions and mobilize resources for advancement of child rights
    • To improve public policy (and Corporate social responsibility) for results for children
    • To promote positive social values and practices that lead to the realization of child rights and reduction of disparities.
    • To define accountability and track changes and results and use lessons derived for improving results for children.
  • Results for children are broadly defined to include the MTSP areas (YCSD, Education & Gender Equity, HIV and AIDS, Child Protection and Social & Economic Policy) and the Core Commitments for children (CCC) in humanitarian situations…. in ways that are eco-friendly
rights and equity based approaches have similar overarching strategies
Rights and equity-based approaches have similar overarching strategies
  • They build on a wide range of strategic partnerships and alliances.
  • The approaches are integratedand inter-sectoral
  • Have participation and empowerment of rights holders: children, parents and families living in poverty as explicit objectives.
  • The voices of children, women and the poor must be heard and respected in all phases of programming (poor as active contributors to solution)
  • Aims for sustained outcomes and clear results. Sustainability depends on policies, priorities, practices and political commitment
an equity focussed strategy needs to address
An equity-focussed strategy needs to address:
  • societal factors i.e. social norms, behaviours, practices that are impeding access to services or fuelling discrimination and deprivations
  • services and systems i.e. services that are not reaching those who are most in need ? This requires analyzing and removing the barriers to access and underlying systems constraints
  • political and ideological issues i.e. the governance, accountability, policy, legislative etc issues that are not favouring equal opportunities for the disadvantaged children and communities.
equity based programming begins with children
Equity-based Programming begins with children
  • In aggregate terms, many countries have their MDGs on track and their economies are doing well “except for the people and especially the children in it”. Some call it the tyranny of the averages; others the fallacy of the mean! This “orthodox economic growth mediated development or as some people call it “predatory growth” produces inequalities with devastating effects on children resulting in intergenerational vicious cycles of poverty!
  • UNICEF believes that the vicious cycle can be turned into a virtuous one by ensuring that policies and strategies that result in economic growth also addresses the multiple deprivations in children.. An “equity-mediated growth” as a key instrument for national development and for enhancing social cohesion.
rba vs equity focused programming
RBA Vs Equity focused programming

Rights-based Programming

Equity-based Programming

Goal is to eliminate unfair and avoidable circumstances that deprive certain groups (children) of their rights.

Strategy: seeks to understand and address root /basic causes of inequity to ensure equal opportunity to access resources and services for survival, growth and development (e.g. education, health, WASH, protection).

Methodology: similar to the RBA

  • Goal is to ensure the rights of all children are realizedin terms of fulfilment, protection, facilitation and respect in both outcome and process.
  • Strategy: seeks to understand the causes (immediate, underlying and basic) of the situation at all levels of society and uses the most efficient and effective mix of: Capacity Development; Service Delivery; Advocacy/Mobilization ……to address with available resources factors affecting rights outcomes at the different levels
  • Methodology: Situation assessment and analysis of cause, capacity gaps, role & obligations, resource (human, financial, organizational), communication & advocacy
rba and equity focused programming are contextual
RBA and Equity focused programming are contextual
  • Programming from an equity perspective is contextual: political, social, economic and cultural
  • Causative factors for inequity are complex and include:-Income disparities, Geographical isolation, attribute and identity based risks (e.g. gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, orphanhood), culture and social “norms”, disasters, weak governance etc.
  • For children deprivations are often multiple and multidimensional, highest risk being income, geographical location (rural/urban, IDPs, migrants, refugees), identity and attributes risks (gender, ethnicity, disability, religion etc).
rba equity programming principles
RBA & Equity programming principles
  • Evidence-based and/or evidence informed:
    • Situation analysis encompasses all rights: social, economic, cultural, political;
    • data is disaggregated to expose disparities and
    • a determination is made of whether policies, laws, practices and programmes are consistent with human rights, reduction of disparities and provide for the “progressive realization” of rights
  • An explicit definition and understanding by partners of their obligations
  • Adaptive: considers dynamism of the environment so approach is context specific
  • Results-Based: needs both good processes and good outcomes supported by strong M&E
what does equity refocus mean for unicef
What does equity refocus mean for UNICEF?
  • It means UNICEF needs to intensify efforts in:-
    • Situation Analysis and Child Poverty and Disparities Studies;
    • Engagement in national policy formulation and implementation;
    • Advocacy for equitable budgetary allocations and adequate social expenditure for MDGs;
    • Integration of policy work across sectoralprogrammes;
    • Support social protection systems;
    • Strengthening participation and empowerment among most deprived children and families from the community to the national level
  • It changes HOW Unicef does its work and not necessary “what” Unicef does. Note that an equity focus is already a key feature of UNICEF’s HRBAP and Mission Statement: ‘In everything we do, the most disadvantaged children and the countries in greatest need have priority”.
galvanizing strategic management for equity
Galvanizing strategic Management for Equity
  • Executive Director’s Leadership in the development of the evidence, GMT, advocating with strategic global partners and RO and CO leadership through, RMTs and CMTs… and the Equity Funds,
  • Advocating the evidence through publications (e.g. Narrowing the Gap, Progress for Children, Q&A, the equity package etc) and strategic Meetings and dialogue with strategic partners;
  • The RO-HQ Joint Work-planning Meeting of 15-17 March 2011 organized by PD, whose key outcomes included: inventory of capacity requirements and gaps within and across regions; improved understanding of equity concepts and processes and agreements on collaboration between RO & HQ;
  • Challenge now is to ensure incorporation into “normal programming process”.
tracking progress on the equity agenda
Tracking progress on the equity agenda
  • Tracking rights and equity pose measurement challenges and results may be longer in coming. The universality, interdependence and indivisibility of rights requires not only measurement of rights fulfilled but of also of exclusion making it critical to have a good analytical approach to monitoring and interpreting change.
  • Participation rights, requires a participatory process of monitoring and evaluation that includes rights holders (children) and duty-bearers (families, communities, civil society and the state)
  • Already a number of developments have taken place:
    • The Equity Tracker.. And now the equity traffic lights
    • Critically the development of Strategic Results Areas (SRAs) around which global M&E of progress can be done.
unicef s global strategic results areas sras
UNICEF’s Global Strategic Results Areas (SRAs)
  • SRA 1: Global Campaigns:
    • eradication of polio by 2013;
    • elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2015;
    • 95% reduction in measles mortality by 2015 on 1990 baseline;
    • Virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV
  • SRA 2: Combating main killers of children:-
    • Pneumonia;
    • Diarrhea
    • Malaria;
    • Neonatal mortality
unicef s global strategic results areas sras continued
UNICEF’s Global Strategic Results Areas (SRAs): continued
  • SRA 3: Reducing prevalence of stunting amongst most deprived children
  • SRA 4: Increasing birth registration
  • SRA 5: Increasing access to quality pre-school education programmes and entry into primary school at prescribed age, among most disadvantaged children;
  • SRA 6: Improving availability of trained teachers and appropriate learning materials for marginalized excluded children
  • SRA 7: Reducing Violence and Harmful Practices.
unicef s global strategic results areas sras1
UNICEF’s Global Strategic Results Areas (SRAs)
  • The 7 SRAs were selected for management of results for regular monitoring of progress and results to allow the organization to know how the refocus on equity is translating into results for the most disadvantaged children;
  • The SRAs are global markers of the equity strategy; selected on the basis of RO/NYHQ consultation for monitoring UNICEF’s refocus on reducing disparities and narrow the gaps in outcomes for poor, marginalized and vulnerable children. They do not denote priorities nor results of the full work of UNICEF work in support of the equity refocus.
monitoring progress
Monitoring Progress

Equity Focused Programming and SRA monitoring model

we want both a good process and good impact
We want both a good process and good impact!



HR &Equity based Program: Good outcome, good process

Where our programs should be!!

Many Basic

Needs Program

Programs emphasizing

process are here

No program should

be here!





some concluding reflections on the equity approach
Some Concluding Reflections on the equity approach
  • It is critical that the Equity approach is applied within UNICEF’s programming process as part of the HRBAP and not as a parallel vertical approach;
  • While UNICEF’s “upstream” shift is important to adjust national policies, strategies, porgrammes, budgets and legal frameworks towards the equity approach, it is critical that this is balanced with sub-national community-centred efforts where most disparities are found and where scaled up interventions would have highest impact..
  • Given UNICEF’s unique role in the equity agenda i.e. developing evidence as well as leading programmatic application.. The evolving nature of the discourse requires that staff must continue to engage and contribute and not only wait for guidelines! (UNICEF has successfully taken similar double role in HRBAP).
  • The development of Strategic Result Areas (SRA) provides an important strategy for demonstrating evidence for effect/impact for feedback and course correction;
  • UNICEF’s Equity refocus, taken to scale has great potential for accelerating progress towards achievement of MDGs and critically help define the global agenda beyond 2015;
  • Sustainable human development must be equitable, so “fairness”, an essential part of human well-being, must be considered a right (social justice); thus the equity approach must be grounded in human rights for it to be sustained.