Zach Brown // Guardian
Coalition of charities urges governments to put more emphasis on the rights of the child if they want to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty levels
World leaders need to do more to protect children in developing countries if they want to end extreme poverty, a coalition of charities warns today.
In a report due to be launched at the House of Commons this afternoon, the charities, led by EveryChild, warn that more emphasis needs to be given to children's rights if the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be met by 2015. The goals, signed in 2000 by 192 member states, aim to alleviate extreme poverty in the developing world through quantifiable targets relating to health, education and gender equality.
"We feel that a whole area of children's rights are being neglected at the moment," Emily Delap, EveryChild's global policy advisor and author of the report, told the Guardian. "EveryChild is particularly interested in children outside of parental care who we feel are being pretty much ignored at the moment."
The report, Protect for the Future, estimates that 24 million children globally are living without parental care. It suggests that children staying with relatives other than parents are often living in already resource poor households and may be subject to discrimination, abuse and exploitation, particularly those staying with more distant relatives. Meanwhile, many children in long-term residential care do not receive adequate food, while those living with employers often do not have their basic human needs met.
Delap suggested that the widespread abuse of children's rights to care and protection are partly responsible for the lack of progress being made towards the MDGs. National governments, including the UK's Department for International Development (DfID), also appeared reluctant to view family-based care for children as central to the attainment of the goals.
"At the moment there is very limited investment into children's welfare services in developing countries," Delap added. "In India, for example, only 0.035% of national budget goes into child protection services and we'd like to see greater investment in those services."
The report urges greater monitoring and investment in children's rights and the incorporation of child protection into social, educational and health strategies. "There is a clear downward spiral, with poor progress against some MDGs leading to greater abuses of children's rights," says the report.
It argues that the lack of focus on rights for children in the developing world has wide ranging and long-term implications for the success of poverty reduction. "A lack of adequate care and protection denies children the opportunities to develop and learn, depleting human resource and contributing to poverty in the medium to long-term."
The report goes on to say that "achieving the MDGs will go a long way to keeping families together and reducing vulnerability to violence".
Outlining several policy recommendations specifically aimed at DfID and the European Union, the report calls for the development of equity indicators for children outside of parental care and the incorporation of child protection into humanitarian relief.
"At the moment the MDGs are quite equity-blind," said Delap. "What we would like to see is more monitoring; making sure that it[a government] is not just thinking about general levels of poverty alleviation and access to primary education, but looking at who those levels of poverty alleviation are reaching, and making sure that they are reaching the most vulnerable groups."
Delap added that it was also time to think beyond 2015. "It is time to start thinking a framework to replace these influential commitments," she said."We feel that children's rights to care and protection are conspicuous by their absence [in the MDGs]... and we'd like to see there being particular indicators on things like the number of children outside of parental care, child labour, levels of early marriage; things that are really fundamentally important to children's welfare."
Among the coalition of charities backing the report, scheduled to be launched at All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children, are ChildHope, Consortium for Street Children, The International Children's Trust, International HIV/Aids Alliance, Railway Children, Retrak, Save the Children and War Child. On the Katine Chronicles blog last week, War Child's CEO, Mark Waddington, wrote that child protection should be at the heart of development policy.